How To Roast A Duck

Certain foods are meant to be cooked at home: roast chicken, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs. Other foods are meant to be eaten out: steak tartare, sushi, a flaming baked Alaska. Sure we can make those latter foods at home, but often times they’re not worth the hassle or the danger (raw steak at home? setting cake on fire? I’ll let a pro handle that, thank you).

Duck, I’d wager, is something most of us eat out. We expect the skin to be crispy and for there to be some kind of glaze. It’s a fancier food unless we get it in a Chinese restaurant and then it becomes a mysterious food: how do they make this duck taste so good? And why, when I try to make duck at home, does it either bomb dramatically or make me sick or both?

The answer, dear Watson, is that most of us don’t own Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. And that’s a shame because right there on page 145 is a recipe for roast duck that is pretty excellent. I know this because I made this duck last week and it required very little work (just some salting and scoring, then some glazing) and yielded a crispy, succulent specimen that rivaled the fanciest fancy duck dish and anything you might get in Chinatown. Well, ok, maybe not the latter (nothing beats a crispy Chinatown duck, I’m pretty sure they deep fry them) but this comes mighty close.

And all you really need is a duck. I got my duck right across the street at Key Food in the meat section. They carry D’Artagnan products and I’m very happy for that. Here’s the duck I bought:


It cost $22 which is approximately what you’d pay for a single duck entree at a fancy restaurant: here, your duck will feed two.

Here’s how you make it. Preheat your oven to 300. Unwrap the duck, throw out the innards, wash it and dry it very, very well (I use lots of paper towels, sorry environment!)

Put the duck on a cutting board and “with a very sharp knife,” says Martha, “score the skin over the breast in a cross hatch pattern. Cut diagonally into the skin, making sure not to cut into the flesh. Prick the skin with the tip of the knife all over, especially in the fattiest areas (this will ensure the best rendering for crisp skin).”


(Isn’t that scoring masterful? he asks sarcastically.)

Now season with lots of salt and pepper, inside and out, tie the legs together with twine, fold the wings under and place on a rack in a roasting pan.


That’s basically all the work you’ll need to do for the next four hours. Place in the oven for one hour. This is what it will look like one hour later.


“Prick the skin over the breast and the fatty deposits around the thigh area with a sharp knife, then turn it over, so breast side is down, and roast 1 hour more.”


“Turn duck over again and prick skin in any spots that aren’t rendering as quickly as the others, then roast another hour.”


“Prick the skin, turn breast side down, and roast until almost all of the fat has rendered from under skin and duck is cooked through, about 1 hour more. (Total roasting time should be about 4 hours.)”

Now here’s the thing, that last hour dried out my duck breast so you may not need that whole last hour. But isn’t this a beaut?


In that last hour, you have time to make your glaze. All you do is combine these three ingredients in a pot:


That’s 1/4 cup mild flavored honey, 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses, 2 Tbs fresh orange juice.

You combine them in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until thick and syrupy, about five minutes. It’s so easy even an idiot can do it. Oh wait…


This idiot turned around to watch the bonus round on “Wheel of Fortune” and the glaze boiled over. Idiot! But, there was enough glaze in the bottom of the pan to glaze the duck and it tatsed fine. Phew.

So here’s the final step: increase the oven temp to 400, turn the duck breast side up, and roast ten minutes (this crisps the skin). Then brush with some of the glaze and continue to roast for 5 minutes but watch watch watch it b/c that glaze can easily burn! When the duck is shimmering and beautiful you are done. You have roasted a duck.


Remove the duck to a cutting board and let it rest a few minutes.


(Note the bowl of duck fat on the upper right: I poured that out of the roasting pan and now I can use that to fry potatoes or anything else; chefs love duck fat, don’t throw it out.)

As for chopping up the duck, it’s pretty easy. Cut off the wings. According to Martha, cut out the backbone and then chop off the thigh/leg sections and the breast sections but you can figure this all out pretty easily. In fact, you can just bring the whole carcass to the table and pick at it, that might be fun. But here’s what it looks like chopped up:


I served it with rice and some Mirin which was a weird choice, but we had it around. It would’ve been nice with a sweet dunking sauce like a plum sauce or whatever it is they serve at Chinese restaurants. But all in all, this was a ducky triumph. Thank you, Martha Stewart, for showing us the light: soon roast duck will enter the canon of food we love to cook at home.

17 thoughts on “How To Roast A Duck”

  1. Made this over Christmas and my family was very impressed! Thank you for the clear instructions and the pictures. Very helpful web site for starting gourmets!

  2. I made this tonight….the technique yielded a moist, delicious duck! The only thing I changed was the glaze. I didn’t have the molasses. So, I used some homemade blood orange marmalade.

  3. Other sites say internal temp of 165 deg F. – safer gauge than time and looks. I was wondering when to best put a glaze on, and this looks good. Also wondering if it was so much slashing and pricking dried out the breast.

  4. Among the myriad of crispy duck recipes I settled on this one because it was under 10 hours! It…was…perfect. There were eyes rolling back and “Ohmygod”s from my kids. I think the glaze can be any combination of salty/sweet. I used my own home made teriyaki sauce (soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic):

    1/4 teriyaki sauce
    1 tbsp. molasses
    1 tbsp. honey
    2 tbsp. orange juice

    In answer to “Albin” below, no, the slashing and pricking don’t dry the meat out. Duck is SO fatty that breaking into the skin and fat let it flow across the skin, marinates it. Only too high heat and/or too long cooking time (after the fat has been rendered and nothing is left to marinate the bird) will make it dry. After we nearly picked it clean, I put it back in the oven to crisp the back meat (glazed afterwards). Thank you!

  5. I used a bundt cake pan and stood the duck up in the middle of the cake pan’s spout. This let the duck fat run off the duck as it is roasting and the skin will still get crispy after not sitting in its own grease. Works really good just like a beer can chicken. Use this pan also for chicken and small turkeys.

  6. The innards could be used for making duck soup. As for making that sweet glaze, that’s very optional. A well-roasted crispy duck doesn’t need anything except enthusiastic eaters. The recipe for crispy roasted duck I use comes from the Joy of Cooking, and calls for a long roasting period at 250F, then roasting for a much shorter period at 350F (the 2 roasting periods are calculated based on the recipe instructions and according to the duck’s weight).

  7. Am roasting my first duck right now and it looks amazing! I added halved small Yukon Gold potatoes to the pan, basted them with the duck fat and they’re browning up nicely. Thanks for this great intro on how to roast duck! Hubby and I will be feasting tonight! (And I’m keeping the fat for later!)

  8. Kristi McGowan McLenaghan

    I had turkey bucks and the store was out of turkeys on the last day I could use the turkey bucks. They let me buy a duck with my turkey bucks. So now I might try this. I am a true amateur and have never cooked Duck. Wish me luck. One question though. How many pounds was your duck???

  9. I made my first duck today for New Year’s Eve using this recipe and it turned out perfectly. For those wondering, we had a 5.59 lb duck and it took 3.5 hours, was cooked “well” which is how my family likes meat (I would have preferred it to be a little less done) but wasn’t at all dried out.

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