How to Roast a Duck, Duck, Goose Fat

This is going to be about roasting ducks, but if you want my thoughts about goose preparation, they can be found here.  I am good at roasting duck.  I have done it about once a year for about 12 years, so I feel like I have it sorted out.  It used to feel a bit daunting, but then one year I made duck confit from scratch and roasting a duck has seemed simple since then.  Roasting duck really isn’t difficult and your efforts are rewarded in three ways.   Not only do you get delicious duck meat, but you can also make stock from the bones, and you end up with about a cup of  delicious duck fat.  That’s enough duck fat to fry potato pancakes in for the rest of the winter!  Or you could make Squash and Red Wine Panade (known by my friends as Duck Fat Soup) and still have a bit leftover to make Braised Red Cabbage with Apples.  Sometimes I fry my eggs in it!

I learned how to roast a duck from Sheila Lukins’ USA cookbook.  Sheila Lukins was also one of the authors of the Silver Palate Cookbooks.  Many of my favourite meat recipes come from one of her cookbooks!  If you are interested in learning how to cook meat you might invest in one of her books.


  • 1 duck (5 to 5 and 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 orange halved
  • 1 granny smith apple cored and quartered
  • 1 large bunch of thyme
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse the duck in cold water and pat it dry.
  3. Remove the excess fat from around the neck and inside the cavity (I usually skip this).  Reserve any giblets for making stock.
  4. You may need to use a pair of tweezers to remove a few stray feathers.
  5. Gently prick the skin all over with a fork without piercing the flesh.  Sometimes I forget to do this and the skin turns out less crispy, but the meat is even more moist and tender… its good either way.
  6. Rub the duck all over, inside and out with the halved orange.  I usually give it a little squeeze.
  7. Sprinkle the duck inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff it with the apple and the orange halves.
  8. Place the duck, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.  If you don’t have a rack use some carrots.  My husband’s cousin made a carrot rack for a pork roast at Christmas and it was both clever and delicious.  Wrack or carrots, the duck must be  lifted up or it will sit in its grease as it cooks and get soggy.  It is helpful if you have a real roasting pan with high sides (as opposed to the Pyrex baking dish that I used for years).  The duck will render a surprising amount of fat and you do not want it to over flow in your oven.  If you don’t have a roasting pan, be prepared to scoop some fat out of the pan every time you open the oven to baste.
  9. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.  Sometimes I skip this and it isn’t the end of the world.  The meat just cooks more evenly if the legs are tied.
  10. Bake the duck for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to  350 degrees.  Continue baking for another 1 and 1/2 hours to 2 hours, basting every half hour to make sure that the skin gets crisp.
  11. To test for doneness, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a knife.  If the juice runs out clear it is done.  A meat thermometer should read 180  when placed in the thickest part of the thigh).
  12. Remove the finished duck to a platter and let it rest 15 minutes before carving.
  13. Strain the juices and the fat from the bottom of the pan and discard any brown bits.  When it cools the fat will rise to the top.  Add the juices to your bone stock and reserve the fat to use for future cooking!

There is one more thing…Your duck will still have thick layers of un-rendered fat just under its crispy skin.  I like to put all of these slabs of fat in a metal vegetable steamer in a large pot and bake them at 325 degrees until all of the bits make delicious crispy duck cracklin.  There will be another half cup of duck fat rendered in to the bottom of the pan which can be added to the first batch.  If you are a friend of mine who has eaten my  roasted duck and are wondering why you have never been fed this delicious duck cracklin, it’s because…. I eat it all myself….except for the little bits that I feed my kitty.  I’m sorry.

Me and my giant, duck fat fed cat, Hazel (he’s a boy).

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Mona Banek says:

    I think the first secret to succes with duck is finding a beautiful duck like that. They are not common in our markets. I’ll have to talk to some of my Clearwater farming friends.

  2. Maybe one day I will get interested in meat cooking techniques. Maybe one day when I am living out in the bush and getting skinny from lack of vegetable oil, butter and cheese. Yea, on some level it seems like it should be fascinating, but I’m not fascinated by it. Who knows. Your duck fat soup is spectacular though.


  3. Mona!

    Actually, the finest breed of heritage ducks are raised in Long Island New York (just outside the city). So duck is one of the best true local foods that we can get here. I bet that you can get wild duck where you are. I would love to figure out how to cook wild duck. You probably have to treat it more like a goose….


    Ha! I feel the same way about sprouting! I stopped eating meat sometime in highschool and didn’t eat it again until after college. The meat that you could get back then at the grocery store did not taste as good as the meat that I was used to eating from my grandparents’ farms. I am really glad that I learned how to cook vegetarian food first, because vegetarian cooks tend to be more clever with herbs and seasoning.

    I added meat back into my diet when I started having health problems. I kept on having to eliminate foods, and I didn’t like having such a limited palate. Also, I was chronically anemic and everyone told me that I had to eat meat. I now know that I have celiac’s disease and it was gluten that was preventing my body from absorbing nutrients including iron… at the time meat seemed like a good idea. In any case, meat does seem to agree with my system and many, many foods do not. For example, I can eat as much meat as I like without it upsetting my stomach, but I have to be careful not to eat cream or cheese every day.

    I learned to cook meat myself because, at that point that I started eating it again, good organic meat was starting to become available at the store, but restaurants (at least the ones I could afford) still served lousy meat. Also, meat (good meat) is expensive and I wanted to learn how to get the most out of the meat that I bought (stock, rendered fat). Now restaurants are sourcing excellent meat, but it is still way more economical to cook it at home.

    My next goal for meat cookery is to learn how to cook all of the parts of pig. If I had a deep freeze I would buy an entire pig (already butchered) and work it out. I would also like to learn how to cook more wild meat. I may have to wait until Chris and I move to the country.


  4. Katherine says:

    Love the socks, Erin!!

    1. Why thank you. I put them on so that I would match my kitty beter. I also put on the rhinestone bracelet to match his collar. I was already wearing the dress. Ya. I could totally do crazy cat lady.


  5. thePatternedPlate says:

    Funny, I was wondering about duck today. I live in Doha and meat, well, is fairly limited, quality wise. I have seen frozen duck, brought in from the States at the supermarkets and thought I might give that a go, especially considering that chicken is a no-go here. So, here is this post in the nick of time! Will be referencing when I roast my duck 🙂

    By the way, I love LOVE that separator….how jammy are you!

  6. You sent me that AMAZING list of excellent resources for all things kitchen a while back. Really the only recommendation I can offer in return it the on-line shop that sells those separators (Wilderness of Wish). I love the stuff there.

    I’ll be curious to hear how the frozen duck turns out! I have never roasted a frozen duck. I did used to get frozen ducks (they are cheaper) and use them in thai style green curry and it was wonderful. You still get a bunch of (curried) duck fat in the deal. VERY good for frying potato fritters.

    1. thePatternedPlate says:

      Oh Erin, what have you done!??? Am pining! Love the spoons, the wooden ones, they are completely the kind of kitchenware I love. Earthy, organic in feel and natural. mer…must organise a trip to the States purely for shopping reasons!

      I’ll let you know how the duck and I get along 🙂 Might be a while before I make it as there’s a ton of meat and seafood in the freezer that needs to be used first.

      I cannot imagine it would be as good as a proper heritage, organic bird but when needs must. And this is a delicious must!

  7. Erin!
    A support gig that I have had for years (& may never quit because I have so much fun), is the weekend farmer’s market. I get to meet all kinds of people, educate about food, pick chef’s brains when they come to buy & advise people on how to cook what I’m selling. Usually I’ll wax poetic about all the exciting possibilities with the item at hand. This weekend, we had ducks. My advise was, “You should check out ‘Big Sis Little Dish’. You’ll get some great duck ideas!”

    1. Thanks Rebecca! I have more duck ideas coming soon!

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