Slow Roast Duck

By • January 25, 2011 32 Comments

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Author Notes: This Christmas, my family and I went to Washington, DC to visit my sister, Abs, her husband and their two children -- the second of whom was not yet a month old. We decided to do Christmas dinner potluck-style, with my mother and me bringing the veggies, and my sister handling the main event and dessert. She bought a ham and two ducks, which my mother then proceeded to show us how to crisp perfectly on Christmas afternoon.

I had never slow roasted a duck before, and I'll admit I was a little worried about the meat drying out. But my mother insisted that her method -- taught to her by her own mother years ago -- was foolproof. We watched as she pierced the fat of the duck with a carving fork at least thirty times, both front and back, salted the bird all over, and put it in the oven at 250 degrees. As the hours went by, she would periodically remove the duck, pierce it all over again, and then return it to the oven. Once it started to look browned and slightly crisp, she carved it into pieces, turned up the heat a little and stuck the pieces back in the oven on a cookie sheet. They emerged mahogany and almost impossibly crisp and crackling.
Merrill Stubbs

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 duck, about 5 pounds
  • Kosher salt
  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Remove the giblets from the cavity of the duck and rinse the bird inside and out with cold water. Dry the duck thoroughly with paper towels, including inside the cavity. Salt the cavity well.
  2. Using a sharp carving fork, pierce the skin of the duck, working at an angle so you don’t cut into the meat, all over. (You want to pierce it at least thirty or forty times, all over the entire bird.) Salt the skin liberally, and place the duck, breast side down, in a roasting pan. Tuck the wings behind the neck and put it in the oven.
  3. Cook the duck, removing it every half hour or so and re-piercing the skin so that the fat can escape. After 2 hours, flip the duck onto its back, piercing the fat over the breast well. After about 3 hours, the duck should start to look crisp and lightly browned. At this point, turn the heat up 350 degrees F and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or so, until dark brown and very crisp. (Alternatively, you can cut the duck into pieces, arrange the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and return them to the oven to crisp that way.) Let the duck cool for 5 to 10 minutes before carving and serving.

More Great Recipes: Chicken|Entrees

Topics: Holiday Entertaining

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Comments (32) Questions (11)


21 days ago Sunnycovechef

Merrill, I love the way the duck is cooked in its own fat , like duck confit. The meat is tender and tastes fantastic . My skin did not crisp, even though I turned up the heat to 400 Fahrenheit. I wonder if I didn't pierce the skin enough?


8 months ago marymary

My first duck! I made this last night and it is AWESOME! I had to re-read a couple of times, because I thought cook time was 5 hours, too. I poured off most of the fat twice during roasting. The last 30 minutes, I upped the heat and added potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, jalapeno and pepper, tossed with some fat. Took out the duck, upped heat to 425 (convection) and added asparagus and mushrooms, lightly tossed in fat. I will most definitely make this again and again. So simple and so good. I froze two small containers of fat for future use. Guess what I'm having for lunch?


9 months ago James L Wolford

I fill the cavity with chopped oranges, then slice some oranges and onions and nest the bird in them. When you reach the browning stage, warm some orange marmalade jelly, a little orange juice and orange liquer. Brush on breast.


11 months ago Dustin

Couldn't ask for an easier, basic duck. Made tonight. First time I ever cooked this bird. Great intro!


11 months ago Antigoni Sander McCloud

Can anyone recommend a good video on carving a duck? Also, any good tips on what to do with the giblets and other inside pieces that were found inside the duck cavity?


over 1 year ago PaulaE

Instead of the fork for pricking the skin, I've started using a very sharp knife, going in at a very shallow angle to make sure I'm nicking the skin and not into the flesh. I find this is faster and more precise than using a fork. Maybe my forks aren't very sharp!


over 1 year ago Slem



over 1 year ago PaulaE

You are quite welcome. We all have to help each other in the kitchen, right? Let us know how it turns out.


over 1 year ago Slem

Please answer a dumb question: In step 3, do you mean an additional 3 hours' cooking time?


over 1 year ago PaulaE

I've made this several times. She means after 3 hours total. Otherwise you'd have cinders!


almost 2 years ago Amy Shier Bowen

This recipe turned out really well. I ended up with 2 smallish ramekins of poured-off duck fat. Roasted some potatoes in some of that while the duck finished. I put my duck in a rack because I was afraid of the breast sticking. Next time I think I will do it right in the pan though--I don't think it would have stuck. The tip on salting the cavity well was a good one. My husband and I ate fully half of a 5 lb duck. Duck tacos tomorrow!


about 2 years ago Melissia Daggett

I cooked this once before and it was perfect! Only problem... I have 3 guys in my house so I didn't get much! Today, I am cooking it again and cooking 2 ducks this time! Thanks for a great recipe!


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

You're welcome - so glad you like it!


over 2 years ago Bill Fergusson

I cooked this on Christmas day. Good but should have crispier skin.


almost 3 years ago PaulaE

Where can I find this slant-rimmed baking sheet? I saw Julia Child using one just like it on a 1962 episode of The French Chef (I bought a DVD set!). It looks fabulous, so easy to drain away accumulated fat.


about 3 years ago lisina

Merrill, do you want the duck to fit tight in the roasting pan so the fat creeps up around it, or is it better to choose one that will allow it a bit of space? Thanks!


over 3 years ago Chantrelle

I have decided that duck is the next thing I'm going to master. I'll try this recipe first, it seems like a good starting point to get used to the fat, etc. Hopefully trying it tonight!


almost 4 years ago Summer of Eggplant

I made this last night, it was great. Thank you. I did pour off the fat about every other time I removed the bird from the oven.


almost 4 years ago davegorf

What do you think about this. As one of many sort of small tapas dishes for a couples snack/drinks/poker game if you cut the duck into pieces BEFORE cooking....1. would you have to poke it with a fork at all since there would be a whole side of flesh/skin/fat exposed to heat and a place to let the fat escape; 2. would the cooking time change?


over 4 years ago DianneV

do your pour off the fat periodically


over 4 years ago JoshATL

Question: how do you cut up the duck after it's been cooking for 3 hours? Isn't it super difficult because it's so hot?


over 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

All you need is a sharp knife and a carving (or other sharp) fork to hold the duck in place!


over 4 years ago thebreukelenlife

This duck is incredible. Thank you for sharing such an easy, delicious recipe! I only screwed up one way and that's that I don't have a proper roasting pan. I see now why this is important :) At least I know for next time.


over 4 years ago Pattiji

It's 9 pm, and I just pulled my duck out of the oven. It's beautiful, crispy and smells yummy. I actually butterflied it so I didn't have to flip it at all - super easy. It did get a bit smoky in the house during the last 30 minutes when I raised the heat.

Now the discussion is: what/how to use/deal with the fat and drippings?


over 3 years ago mig_nyc

cook potatoes in them.


over 1 year ago PaulaE

I save duck fat in small glass Snapware containers and freeze them. I take one out now and then and let it defrost in the refrigerator, and think of ways to use it over the next couple of weeks. I often use a little duck fat instead of butter or oil when pan-frying veggies or meats. A little goes a long way and the flavor is incredible.