I often buy a whole duck from my local farmers market. Not just because duck meat is so versatile but because the wonderful by-product of roasting a duck is as much as 250ml of duck fat. This fat then sits in my fridge in a glass container and is gradually used for cooking roast potatoes and vegetables.
Now back to the duck itself. After trying several recipes for roasting whole duck I’m sharing my favourite here. It’s not my own recipe – it’s from one of my most used cookbooks called Slow Food by Jared Ingersoll. Jared, originally from New Zealand, is one of Sydney’s well known chefs and was owner of the much loved Danks Street Depot. His philosophy is to put produce first and let the seasons dictate what goes on your plate.
One whole duck that’s around 2kg
- If you’re a Sydneysider I’d recommend buying your duck from Redgate Farm who you’ll find at Northside Produce Market (North Sydney) and The Sydney Morning Herald Growers’ Market (Pyrmont).
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon green peppercorns
- 4 juniper berries
- 1 allspice berry
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or mineral salt
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- Finely grated zest of one lemon
- Finely grated zest of one lime
Note that although the recipe calls for 3 types of peppercorns I didn’t have any green ones so increased the quantity of pink peppercorns. So work with what you have to hand.
Steps to prepare
1. Make the spice mix
Grab your mortar and pestle and pound the peppercorns, berries and bay leaf until you have a rough powder. Then add the salt and thyme and continue pounding. Finally add the zest and pound until all of the ingredients are mixed together nicely. I prepare the spice mix a day in advance because duck benefits from marinating with salt before cooking.
2. Prepare the duck
To ‘open’ the duck to heat and flavour fold the neck flap under the carcass, then fold the wings under to expose the breast, and finally give the legs a gentle tug. To help the spice mix infuse lightly score the skin of the breast and leg, without cutting into the meat. Then give the duck a good coating with the spice mix (even add some mix to the cavity). Put the duck in a roasting tray – and be sure to have it on rack so the delicious duck fat drips through. Marinate uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours (or less if you don’t have that much time before cooking).
Leaving the duck uncovered allows the skin to dry out – and this makes for crispy skin when it’s cooked. The same happens when you leave pork shoulder (skin on) uncovered in the fridge before cooking – it helps create the kind of crispy crackling that you’ll fight for a piece of.
3. Cook the duck
Take the duck out of the fridge around 30 minutes before cooking and preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Then cook the duck for at least 90 minutes. It’s cooked when clear juices run out when you insert a knife into the leg. Remove the duck from the oven and allow it to rest, breast side down, for 20 minutes before serving.
As Jared Ingersoll points out one of the beauties of roasting whole duck is that it’s much more forgiving than chicken. The high fat content reduces the risk of overcooking. So don’t worry too much about precision with your timings.
- In his recipe Jared highlights that you can throw some potatoes into the oven under and around the duck half way through the cooking time. Keep basting them with the duck juices. The result will be mouthwatering roast potatoes that you’ll probably remember long after the taste of the duck has faded. But if, like me, you’re keen to come away with a nice big jar of duck fat then simply reserve and refrigerate the duck fat after cooking. It will keep nicely in the fridge in a glass jar.
- I have served this recipe in the middle of the table as a whole roast. But you can also shred the meat and serve it through pasta – it goes especially well with pappardelle.
- Jared Ingersoll services his duck with pickled and spiced cherries. Trust me these are amazing – I still remember feasting on them with roast pork at his former restaurant Danks Street Depot during a Christmas meal several years ago. But if you’re after his pickled and spiced cherries recipe you’ll have to buy his cookbook!
- Great producers of free range ducks in Australia are Milawa Free Range Poultry and Great Ocean Ducks (Victoria), Redgate Farm (New South Wales) and Burrawong Gaian (supply to Hudson Meats stores in Sydney and Melbourne).
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