5 Ingredients or Fewer

Slow Roast Duck

January 25, 2011
8 Ratings
  • Serves 6 to 8
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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • jakestavis
  • maryvelasquez
  • Sunnycovechef
  • James L Wolford
    James L Wolford
  • Antigoni Sander McCloud
    Antigoni Sander McCloud

42 Reviews

Lynne H. November 26, 2020
We loved this too - our first duck! However the skin wasn't crispy despite my drying it as completely as I could. But still....delicious. And we tossed in mushrooms at the last minute which were divine. Served with sautéed spinach and pureed parsnips.
jakestavis February 16, 2018
Hi all -- I bought a whole duck today and am planning to use the legs/thighs for confit. Do you think I could use this recipe/technique for the remaining parts of the bird? Presumably roasting for a shorter time...
maryvelasquez January 25, 2016
Thank you, Merrill, for a great and easy recipe. I now feel like an accomplished duck roaster.
THE E. December 27, 2015
This is a phenomenal duck recipe. I have made it several times, and I usually add lots of tarragon to the salt and pepper. The aroma and flavor are heavenly. If you make this, it is important not to place the duck on a rack or drain the fat during the first 3 hours. The duck should be submerged in slowly simmering fat, A 9 X 13 X 2 pan will work better than a larger shallow pan. I remove the duck to drain then cut in pieces and, place skin up on another pan to crisp in the top of a hot oven. Monitor carefully while browning.
witloof September 26, 2015
I am thinking of setting aside my vegetarianism for Thanksgiving and roasting a duck for a dinner a deux, and this recipe looks perfect. Thanks! I knew Food52 would come through.
Sunnycovechef August 9, 2015
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?
marymary March 12, 2017
I'm finally making this for the second time. It's almost time to flip the duck and there's only a few tbs of fat in the pan. I did use a smaller duck this time around, however, I'm thinking I didn't pierce it enough on the breast side, since that's where all the fat is. The first time, it seems like I had close to a pint of fat! Awesome, easy recipe, though. I took another member's advice and added Tarragon. Smells so good!
marymary December 22, 2014
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?
James L. November 22, 2014
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.
Dustin October 7, 2014
Couldn't ask for an easier, basic duck. Made tonight. First time I ever cooked this bird. Great intro!
Antigoni S. September 20, 2014
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?
Megan L. November 23, 2017
Gravy!! Make stock from the wing tips, which are basically inedible, and the giblets/neck.
PaulaE May 13, 2014
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!
Slem May 13, 2014
PaulaE May 13, 2014
You are quite welcome. We all have to help each other in the kitchen, right? Let us know how it turns out.
Slem May 13, 2014
Please answer a dumb question: In step 3, do you mean an additional 3 hours' cooking time?
PaulaE May 13, 2014
I've made this several times. She means after 3 hours total. Otherwise you'd have cinders!
Janey January 10, 2018
Do i cover it?
Lynne H. November 24, 2022
So glad you clarified this- I thought it needed 5 hours + as I read the recipe too quickly I guess!
Amy S. September 3, 2013
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!
Melissia D. August 4, 2013
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!
Merrill S. August 4, 2013
You're welcome - so glad you like it!
Bill F. December 29, 2012
I cooked this on Christmas day. Good but should have crispier skin.
PaulaE November 24, 2012
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.
lisina June 27, 2012
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!
Chantrelle January 24, 2012
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!
Summer O. October 18, 2011
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.