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How to Deal With Ducks: Roasting and Carving


Opinions differ on how ducks should be roasted. One school of thinking insists the breast meat should be served rare, the legs thoroughly cooked. This method requires carving the breast meat while still pink, then returning the legs of the bird to the oven to continue roasting or finishing them under a broiler.

Even when ducks are cooked in one continuous step, roasting directions vary for different varieties. Some instruct you to place the bird breast-side-down and cook it at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then you're supposed to turn the bird breast-side-up and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees for the remainder of roasting. Others recommend a temperature of 325 or 350 degrees for the entire roasting period.

If no directions are printed on the package, thaw frozen ducks (in their original packaging material) on a tray in the refrigerator. When time is short, thaw the birds in a pan of cold water, changing the water frequently.

Remove the thawed bird from the package and take the neck and giblets out of the body cavity. Rinse the duck inside and out with cold water and remove any pinfeathers that may have been missed when the bird was processed. Pat the duck dry with paper towels.

The oil sac at the base of the duck's tail may be cut away, if desired. Sprinkle the neck and body cavities with salt and skewer the neck skin to the back of the bird. Pierce the skin lightly all over with a fork so excess fat will drain more easily.

Although ducks may be stuffed, dressing is often cooked separately to prevent it from absorbing the fat released from the bird during roasting. The cavity may be rubbed with lemon juice; a cored and peeled apple, carrot, onion, celery or potato can be placed inside to enhance flavor. (These vegetables should be discarded before serving.)

Place the prepared duck on a rack in a roasting pan. At 350 degrees, roast unstuffed duck 20 minutes per pound. Add 20 to 30 minutes to the total roasting time if the bird is stuffed. During the first hour or so of roasting, siphon off the fat in the bottom of the pan.

Once roasted, the duck should be allowed to stand 20 minutes for the juices to set (Step 1). Pierce the bird through the breast with a carving fork to hold it steady and cut the skin between the legs and body. The legs may then be pressed downward.

Make a horizontal cut just above the wing joint (Step 2) through the breast meat to the bone. Remove the wish bone, then cut the meat from the breast in thin slices parallel to the rib cage (Step 3).

To remove the legs, tip the bird sideways. Force each leg outward to break the joint located under the body, then sever it with the carving knife (Step 4). If the legs are still rare, return to the oven or broil, turning frequently, until thoroughly cooked.

Ducks up to five pounds may also be halved or quartered, either before or after roasting. Place the bird breast-side-down on a cutting board and, using scissors or a boning knife, cut from the neck down each side of the backbone (Step 5). Lift the backbone out and discard.

Turn the bird breast-side-up and bend the carcass backward until the breastbone pops up (Step 6). Pull it out and discard.

Spread the duck flat and cut down the center (Step 7) into halves. To quarter, cut each half into two between the thigh and breast (Step 8). One quarter should include the leg and thigh, the other the breast and wing.

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