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Cook A Tender Whole Duck With Crispy Skin (And Homemade Honey Garlic Sauce)

January 3, 2011

The first time I cooked a duck, I’ll be honest, it was terrible.  I cooked it the same way I cooked a chicken or a turkey, in the oven with some broth.  The duck came out fatty and tough.  Turns out you have to take a few extra steps to ensure the duck comes out tender and crispy skinned.  Once you know the trick, you’ll be able to remove a good portion of the fat from the bird at the same time.  All you have to do is “render” (definition: give back or surrender, melt the impurities from) the fat from the bird before roasting it.  You should take this extra step whether you are cooking a whole duck or just a piece such as a duck breast (leave the skin on even if you are used to removing the skin off a chicken breast for instance, as the fat on the skin is what will make your meat tender and tasty).

The most incredible product of cooking duck is the rendered fat.  Rendered duck fat can be bought from specialty gourmet shops for steep prices and people are willing to pay these ridiculous amounts because the fat adds spectacular flavour to absolutely anything, but is also healthier than many alternative fats out there.  Rendered duck fat is considered a good type of fat comparable health-wise to olive oil, high in monounsaturated fat (the type that reduces your total cholesterol), linoleic acid, and omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids.

I managed to render about 2 cups of pure golden duck fat from the 5 pound duck seen below.  To give you some ideas, you can use the duck (or bacon!) fat instead of oil or butter to add flavour to popcorn, oven roasted potatoes or vegetables (carrots and green beans are delicious from experience), pan-fried onions to add to soup or chili, homemade biscuits or cornbread, grilled cheese sandwiches, jambalaya, plain chicken, the possibilities are endless.  I even fried my perogies in duck fat the other day.  I read somewhere that duck fat fries are legendary!  Really, you can’t go wrong exchanging any butter or oil in any recipe for duck (or bacon!) fat, just don’t forget about maintaining variety and moderation.  Once you start, you may not be able to stop!


Whole duck, the one below is about 5 1/2 pounds or 2.5 kilograms – you can use the same process to cook one piece such as duck breast, but each step will likely take about 15 minutes instead of an hour or an hour and a half

Chicken broth



Carrots and an onion (not necessary for the duck but I wanted to eat a whole meal and they turned out tasty!)

For the Honey Garlic Sauce if using:

1/4 cup of honey

3 tbsp chicken broth

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

Dash of hot sauce

Start by making the Honey Garlic Sauce so the flavours can rest together and blend well.  Gather the ingredients: honey, chicken stock, soy sauce, garlic, hot sauce.

Mix and set aside.

Rinse the whole duck thoroughly inside and out.  You will notice that there is a lot of fatty tissue by the neck.  This fat isn’t connected to any meat and won’t really transfer any goodness to the final bird, so you can remove it if you wish.  (You can save it and render the fat from it separately if you become addicted after this process.)

Score lines through the skin and fat of the breast, but not through the meat.  Sprinkle salt all over the bird.

Lay your duck in a COLD frying pan, breast side DOWN.  Turn the heat on very low.  At this point, you just want to pull the fat out of the duck, not actually cook the duck.  We will cooking the duck in the oven after we have rendered the fat.

As the fat melts away, remove it from the pan with a large spoon so your duck doesn’t start frying away and cooking in the hot fat.  You might not want to use a metal spoon for this!  I didn’t, but my big black plastic spoon didn’t really show very well in the photos, so I switched it up so you could see what I meant better.  You can spoon this golden fat into a cup for use later like I mentioned at the beginning of my post.

I wanted to get as much fat off the bird as possible, so this process took me about an hour until I didn’t see any more liquid forming in the pan.

Next you are going to want to cook the duck in the oven but you don’t want to shock it by putting it in a cold dish, so pour some chicken broth into a pan big enough to fit your entire duck and put it in the oven at 375 degrees to preheat.

If you were only cooking duck breast and happened to have an oven proof cast iron frying pan, I would suggest using this as you could take it directly from stove top to oven without this extra preheating step.

This is the duck after I’ve removed the bulk of the fat by rendering it in a frying pan.  You can see I managed to render about a cup of beautiful golden duck fat for use later so far!  More of this delicious juice will be created while the duck is in the oven.

Remove your duck from the frying pan into your now hot oven dish.  Slice a lemon, squeeze the juice over top of the duck and stuff inside the neck cavity.

If desired, lay carrots and onions or any other vegetables around the duck in the dish.  Back for about 1.5 hours (for a duck approximately 5 pounds).

When the duck comes out of the oven, it will be tender and ready to eat, but it would still be lovelier if we made the skin nice and crispy!

Remove the vegetables (they are fully cooked and ready to go), remove the juice (for use later or making gravy) and turn the duck over in the same dish so that it is now breast side up.

With the duck breast side up, you can crisp it up as is or pour on some nice flavouring such as Honey Garlic Sauce.

Broil for 5 or 10 minutes and tada!  Crispy skinned, tender whole duck.

I went a little overboard on the broil and slightly burned the one section of the leg, but that didn’t stop me from sitting down and immediately pulling off the whole skin to eat while it was still hot and delicious!  I ate so quickly, I forgot to take a picture of a nice piece to feature as a thumbnail, oops!

What sauce do you enjoy on your duck?  Jump up.


From → Mains

  1. Genie permalink

    Thank you so much!! I must have looked at 20 recipes and was not impressed, yours was easy to follow and came out amazing!! The only thing I did different was put my duck on top of potatoes, onions and carrots and it made them delicious. I will definitely make this over and over!

    • I am thrilled you liked the duck! It took me too long to figure out how to make the skin crispy and now it is my favorite part every time. I am guilty of peeling it off and eating the whole (!) thing immediately, often saving the actual meat for another meal the next day. I can’t wait for my first cast iron pan. Cheers!

  2. Trev Marmo Brian Hall permalink

    This looks like a rippa of a recipe, I’m gonna give this a go tonight and I will give my verdict tomorrow. Gday fello duck lovers, may your ducks be plump and your cooking first class. Trev hall south Australia.

  3. Trev Marmo Brian Hall permalink

    To cook more smile more
    What temp did ya cook the bird at after ya put the marinated on . From Trev big fan.

    • Thank you! I am happy the duck is getting some attention, smiles, most people come here for the chicken. Duck definitely takes more time & effort, but it’s so worth it! For the majority of the roasting, the first hour and a half or so, use 375 degrees F. Then the last 5 or so minutes, after your bird is liberally sauced up, use the Broil setting on your oven to get it all crispy! May your ducks be endless!

  4. This website certainly has all of the information I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  5. John permalink

    Awesome, thanks for the recipe

  6. I must’ve looked at over a hundred poultry recipes in the past three days, once my daughter came home from the store with a frozen duck and a request to make it crispy…and different! This sounds like just the ticket. I like Genie’s idea about adding the potatoes…yum. I’m already getting hungry. I had to laugh, picturing you gobbling up the skin right out of the oven.That’s my fantasy! I think my family would revolt.

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