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All About Duck

Cooking duck has never been simpler. It offers an excellent quality to price ratio, and has a long life if stored properly. It’s easy to cook and lends itself to a variety of cooking methods, including roasting, grilling, pan-frying, sautéing and braising. It’s also a breeze to cook on the barbecue.

Duck pairs amazingly well with fruits such as cherries, raspberries, figs, apples, oranges and blueberries. Bay leaf, rosemary, sage and thyme also work well with duck meat.

The different types of duck

Your Metro usually carries three types of duck:

  • Barbary duck: the leanest of domestic ducks, containing 50% more breast meat. Because it is lean and small-boned, this duck is very meaty and ideal to breed for foie gras.
  • Peking duck: the most commonly found duck on the market because it’s tasty, grows rapidly and produces a large amount of eggs.
  • Mulard duck: a force-fed duck that is a crossbreed of the male Barbary and the female Peking.

Cooking methods

Roasted duck

Roasting duck is an excellent method because it allows you to reduce the fat content. Prick the skin with a fork before cooking and roast it on a spit or rack.

  • Remove any excess fat at the rump.
  • Tie the bird firmly with thread at the base of the neck.
  • Bring 2 litres (8 cups) of water to a boil in a large casserole. Immerse the duck in the boiling water. This step will cause the skin to tighten and the pores to close. At this point, the skin may become slightly crisp.
  • Once the duck is dry, rub the skin with a lemon.
  • Remove the thread and stuff the cavity.
  • Tuck any excess skin back inside.
  • Truss the duck a second time.
  • In order to let the duck fat drip out, prick the skin—but not the meat—in several places.
  • During cooking, the meat will absorb the aromas of the grease, and the skin will become crisp and golden.
  • Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan in the oven.
  • Calculate 20 to 25 minutes cooking time per 450 grams (1 pound) at 160°C (320°F) or 30 minutes per 450 grams (1 pound) at 180°C (350°F).
  • Baste the duck every 15 minutes until the skin turns brown.
  • Wrap the bird loosely in aluminum foil to allow the steam to escape and let stand for about 15 minutes. This allows the fibres in the flesh to relax and lets the juices circulate into the meat, ensuring more uniform cooking.
  • The skin of the roast duck can also be glazed to make it golden and crisp. Baste with a dark syrupy mixture of 15 ml (1 tbsp) molasses combined with 60 ml (1/4 cup) boiling water.

Roasted magret

  • Using a knife, score the skin of two breast filets to form crisscross lines.
  • Season the inside of the breasts with salt and pepper.
  • Prepare the stuffing and spread a thin layer on the interior side of one magret.
  • Place the other magret on top, flesh side down, over the stuffing.
  • Tie the two pieces together loosely to form a roast.
  • Place in an oven-safe dish at 160°C (320°F) for 20 minutes for pink flesh, turning once during cooking. Add an extra 5 minutes per side for medium well.
  • Once cooked, wrap the meat loosely in aluminum foil, allowing the steam to escape, and let stand for about 5 minutes. The fibres in the flesh will relax, and the juice will flow back into meat for uniform cooking.

Barbecued Grilled Duck

To reduce the fat in a magret or a duck breast before grilling, make small incisions in the skin (not the meat) and immerse in boiling water for two to three minutes. Then prick the skin a few times with a fork before placing on the barbecue.

To grill an entire duck on the barbecue:

Pre-heat grill to medium.

Place the duck on the grill, breast side up, and lower the lid.

Cook for 1½ to 2 hours.

Check for doneness by inserting a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.

The duck is ready once the internal temperature has reached 82ºC (180ºF).

Grilled Duck Kebabs

Make skewers using cubes of marinated duck, orange slices and onions. Leave 10 to 12 minutes on the upper shelf of the grill and turn frequently. The kebabs are ready when the internal temperature has reached 77ºC (170ºF).

Pan-fried Duck

Since duck skin is quite fatty, the breast filets (magrets) can be pan-fried without adding butter or oil. To do this, score the skin using a sharp knife and place the magrets skin-side down over moderate heat until the fat begins to seep into the pan.

Cook over moderate heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn once and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

If cooking only marinated breast or breast filet (magret), sauté over high heat for 2 minutes on each side or over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.

Season after cooking.

Once cooked, wrap the meat loosely in aluminum foil, allowing the steam to escape, and let stand for about 5 minutes. The fibres in the meat will relax, and the juices will flow back into the flesh for uniform cooking.

Stir-fried or Sautéed Duck

Sautéing is a great way to prepare duck because the meat cooks quickly, retains its tenderness and releases wonderful oriental aromas. Because duck skin is fatty, it can be stir-fried or pan-fried without butter or oil. Instead, give the meat flavour with seasonings and marinades.

Cut the duck into thin, even slices to ensure uniform cooking.

Cook the slices over high heat, turning just as the meat begins to brown and then turning frequently until all sides are a uniform colour.

Reduce the heat and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes until done. Juices should be clear.

Braised Duck

Very large ducks usually have tougher meat, which is best braised.

  • Season the interior with salt and pepper.
  • Truss the thighs and wings.
  • Brown on all sides in butter over high heat for 10 minutes to sear the meat.
  • Add chicken broth, reduce the heat, cover and cook for one hour, turning the meat midway through the cooking time.

Tips and advice

  • When buying whole duck, choose one that weighs around 1½ kilos (3 pounds), which will give you 4 to 5 portions. Ducks smaller than this may have more bones than meat.
  • Look for a duck with supple, slightly waxy, dry skin. A good duck should have a plump breast and its fat should be white or slightly grey, depending on the type.
  • Your Metro butcher carries a variety of cuts of duck, from whole duck and duck breast to wings.
  • Magret refers to the breast of a force-fed duck. Dried and smoked magret is usually ready to serve and makes a great appetizer.
  • Breast refers to the breast of a non-force-fed duck.
  • Preserved leg, or confit, refers to meat cooked in its own fat. It’s ideal for stews (cassoulet) or a quick salad.
  • Foie gras refers to the liver of a duck that was grain-fed for at least 12 days. To learn more about foie gras, visit our All About Liver story.
  • Duck fat tolerates high heat very well and is delicious to use for pan-frying potatoes, grilling meats, sautéing vegetables or preparing sauce bases. Duck fat is very high in monounsaturated fats, the same good fats found in olive oil, and contains less saturated fat than butter. Store in the refrigerator. When filtered, it can be re-used.
  • A well-seasoned stuffing heightens the flavour of duck and makes for a very pleasant presentation. Plan to make or use about 375 ml (1½ cups) of stuffing for a medium-sized duck.
  • Refrigerate the stuffing before placing it in the bird to avoid any risk of contamination. Stuffing will expand as it cooks, so don’t pack too tightly. Once the bird has been stuffed, place it on its back and close the opening using either an embroidery needle and thread or wooden skewers to keep the stuffing in place.
  • Stuffed or not, duck will look more attractive if it is well trussed beforehand to ensure it will keep its shape during cooking and facilitate carving.
  • Because there is little meat on the breast, it is easiest to cut it in quarters to serve rather than to try slicing it.

How to know when cooked duck is done

The tender red meat of duck is extremely savoury and should not be overcooked. For maximum flavour, duck should be served slightly pink.

Nutritional value

Duck is rich in iron and vitamin B complex, a source of Omega-6 and very high in protein. Because it’s high in fat, you may want to choose a cooking method that will allow the fat to drip away easily or remove the skin altogether. The fat content will vary depending on the farm-raising method and the species of duck.

Try some of our succulent duck recipes


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