Duck may not be the first meal you think of when cooking a family dinner but there’s no denying the delectable taste and tender texture of a perfectly cooked roast duck. The reason most people don’t go ahead and start adding duck to their special occasions is that they feel it’s hard to make. With this recipe, people from any background and any skill level can make a roast duck that would be picture worthy for any family get-together.
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A roast duck is a perfect dish to bust out when there is a special occasion occurring or when the holidays are coming around. Despite its great taste, it doesn’t require much effort either! Whether its Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or someone’s birthday, a duck is the way you can let people know you care. Even though there is a wonderfully delicious honey-balsamic glaze in the recipe below your duck will not be sweet at all. Instead, you’ll get the full earthy flavors a duck has to offer with a beautiful crisp outside and a tender and juicy middle. In fact, you’ll stuff your duck with some garlic and lemon to make sure the flavor penetrates all the way to the middle.
The instructions below will give you a step-by-step guide on every step you need to take in order to have a delicious duck on your dinner table. You’ll get your oven cooking to 350F and leave it inside for a total of 3 hours to get a picture-worthy duck ready to serve. The best part about cooking duck is all the duck fat you’ll be left with that you can save and use when you’re cooking vegetables, potatoes, or even for biscuits you make at a later time.
Now, cooking a duck on its own will be enough to impress even the pickiest of eaters but combining it with some other colorful ingredients will blow everyone away. Adding in some roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, pecans, and cranberries is exactly how you’ll create a stunning dish that will be remembered for years to come. Or, if you want to keep it simple, some mashed potatoes, vegetables, and stuffing would do the trick as well!
Preparing a duck for roasting
Frozen ducks will take some time to thaw out so you’ll want to stick them in the fridge for a couple of days before using them. Start by removing the giblets from the inside and then rinse off your duck from the inside out with some cold water. Pat your pekin duck completely dry with a paper towel when you’re done.
Start scoring the duck skin starting at the breast side and do so in a diamond shape. Try not to cut the meat at all, you only want to cut the skin.
When you are done you should have a duck that is breast side up that is scored in a diamond shape only on the skin. No meat should be cut yet.
Now, poke your duck with a knife on all the fatty parts to make sure the fat releases while cooking. The legs don’t need any poking since the skin is very thin in these parts.
Next, season your duck and don’t be shy. You want to pour kosher salt inside the cavity and all around the outside to make sure the flavor seeps into the meat on all sides.
When you are done put 5 cloves of whole garlic and a few lemon slices inside the cavity of the duck. You won’t end up eating these but they give great flavor.
You’ll notice the duck has skin that flaps on both ends and you’ll want to tuck this inward to trap the garlic and lemon inside.
Next, tie up your duck legs together using butcher’s string or you can just use aluminum foil.
Using a roasting pan place a roasting rack on the bottom. Then, place the duck with the breast side up on the rack so the bottom of the duck isn’t touching the pan.
Roasting your duck in the oven
The oven needs to be preheated to 350F and you’ll cook your duck for a total of 3 hours at this temperature. The cooking is not passive as you’ll divide the cooking time into four chunks including one hour for breast side up, 40 minutes for breast side down, 40 minutes for breast side up with the balsamic-lemon mixture, and 40 minutes for breast side up with the balsamic-honey mixture.
- First, cook your duck for the first hour at 350F with the breast side up. Then, remove your duck from the oven.
- Completely flip your duck upside down so the breast is now at the bottom of the rack. Cook for 40 minutes at 350F.
- Take out a small bowl and toss in your balsamic vinegar with your lemon juice and mix it together. Turn the duck breast side up once more and brush the mixture onto all sides of the duck, especially the breast. Cook again for 40 minutes at 350F while brushing your mixture onto the duck every 10 minutes.
- Take another small bowl and this time combine your honey with 3 tablespoons of the balsamic-lemon vinegar leftover you just made and mix thoroughly. Brush the breast with this mixture and let the duck roast again for 40 minutes. Make sure you are brushing the breast of the duck every 10 minutes with this new mixture. If you feel it is needed, go ahead and broil the duck for 10-15 minutes to get a beautiful char on the outside.
At this point, you’ll notice the duck will have a wonderful browning on the breast and the skin should now be crispy to the touch. You should have cooked your duck for a total of about 3 hours.
Go ahead and untie the legs of the duck now and get it ready for serving. Again, presentation is everything with a beautifully cooked duck. You can use the brussels sprouts, butternut squash, pecans, and cranberries to liven up your duck and make it colorful for serving.
The mere sight of the roasted duck will make mouths water and people get to the edge of their seats at the table. It will be so good people will have a hard time not immediately going for seconds and stripping every meat off the bone.
Thanksgiving side dishes
When the holiday season comes around there are some specific side dishes that go better with duck than others.
- Garlic and Bacon Green Beans – green beans are always a great side dish when it’s holiday time and adding garlic and bacon to them takes the flavor up a notch.
- Creamy and Crunchy Salad with Bacon, Pecans, and Peas – You might not have had this combination before but it’s one of the best sides you can have with duck. The creamy part of the salad is a mixture of mayonnaise, honey, and sour cream with bacon, pecans, and peas mixed in for crunch.
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Gorgonzola Cheese, and Apples – This savory side dish is perfect for the fall and winter seasons.
Roast Duck Recipe
- 6 lb. whole Peking duck
- 5 chopped garlic cloves
- Himalayan salt
- 1 lemon sliced
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 freshly squeezed lemon
- ¼ cup honey
- A frozen duck will take time to thaw so stick it in the fridge for a couple of days before you're ready to cook. Once defrosted, remove the duck from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking so it reached room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 350F and cook your duck for a total of 3 hours in the oven. You will divide the time into 4 different chunks while you glaze your duck and flip it to different sides.
Prepare the duck
- Start by removing the giblets from the inside and then rinse off your duck from the inside out with some cold water. Pat your duck completely dry with paper towels when you're done.
- Start scoring the duck skin starting at the breast side and do so in a diamond shape. Try not to cut the meat at all, you only want to cut the skin. When you are done you should have a duck that is breast side up that is scored in a diamond shape only on the skin. No meat should be cut yet. Now, poke your duck with a knife on all the fatty parts to make sure the fat released while cooking. The legs don't need any poking since the skin is very thin in these parts. Next, season your duck and don't be shy. You want to pour salt inside the cavity and all around the outside to make sure the flavor seeps into the meat on all sides.
- When you are done put 5 garlic cloves and lemon slices inside the cavity of the duck. You won't end up eating these but they give great flavor. You'll notice the duck has skin that flaps on both end and you'll want to tuck this inward to trap the garlic and lemon inside. Finally, tie up the duck legs with some butcher's twine.
Roast the duck for 3 hours
- Take a roasting pan and add a roasting rack to the duck does not sit on the bottom of the pan. Then, place duck breast side up on the rack and start roasting for 1 hour at 350F.
- When the hour is up, turn the duck upside down and roast it again for 40 minutes at 350F.
- Remove your duck from the roasting pan and place it on a platter. Make sure the lemons and garlic do not fall out the ends. Pour all of the duck fat sauce into a bowl or container that can withstand heat.
- Turn the duck back to the breast side up on the roasting rack. Take a small bowl and mix 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and the juice of one lemon together. Brush this mixture onto the duck making sure to cover the breast completely. Cook again for an additional 40 minutes making sure to brush the duck every 10 minutes with your mixture.
- In another bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of honey and about 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar lemon mixture that is left over. Brush the duck breast meat and let the duck roast again for another 40 minutes. Brush the breast of the duck every 10 minutes with the new mixture. If needed, broil the duck for an additional 10-15 minutes making sure the duck doesn't char too much.
- Once cooked, take your duck out of the oven and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Next, carefully remove the lemon and garlic from the duck cavity. Now, you're ready to carve up the duck and serve it to your guests!
- Total cooking time: The total time you should cook your duck is 3 hours at 350F. This will include 4 distinct chunks of time where you will cool for 1 hour breast side up, 40 minutes breast side down, 40 minutes breast side up with balsamic lemon mixture being brushed on every 10 minutes, and another 40 minutes breast side up with honey-balsamic mixture brushed on every 10 minutes.