A roast duck makes the perfect celebratory meal. It looks dramatic when placed on the table, it is large enough to share with friends and family, and it’s hard to go wrong with it. Nothing beats a roast duck with crispy skin, tender, juicy meat and vegetables roasted to perfect crispiness in its rich fat.
I’ve roasted a lot of ducks in the past few years. Roast duck happens to be my husband’s favourite dish of all, so whenever I feel like spoiling him a bit on a special occasion like his birthday, I pop a duck in the oven, and he feels perfectly happy. I’ve also experimented with a variety of flavourings for roast ducks and I definitely have a few winners.
I’ve tried using oranges, orange marmalade, spice and herb rubs, and for this recipe, red currant jam. I find that they all have their merits; I recommend using this recipe as a guideline and customising it as much as you like. The only thing to keep in mind is that the cooking method and timing should stay the same. As for flavourings, I find that sweet, fruity, citrusy flavourings compliment the duck’s naturally strong flavour.
Before I roasted my first duck, I was intimidated by the prospect. Back in Egypt, my mother used to boil the duck till it became flavourless. It was no small feat; ducks are usually very flavourful, yet she managed it. Then she would pan-fry its various limbs till somewhat browned. The skin never got truly crispy all the way through, it had a thin layer of crispness on top but was rubbery underneath. The meat itself was quite spongy too. All in all, it was a disaster. I’d never tried a properly roasted duck before and could hear my mother’s voice in my head “The duck won’t cook unless you boil it for hours!” I decided to ignore that voice and follow the various recipes I found online. I’m very happy I did!
In this recipe, I used a Danish red currant jam I found at a Scandinavian Mid Summer festival in the Vancouver area. The jam served as the perfect glaze for the duck, adding sweetness and a little tartness. I also roasted potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes under the duck. The duck’s fat cooked the vegetables to perfection. They had a glorious crispy exterior and were tender on the inside. Duck fat is truly luxurious. A year ago I bought a large roasting pan with a rack in it, and it makes it easier to roast vegetables underneath a duck. However, if you don’t have one, you can use any large oven-proof pan as long as it fits the entire duck and the veggies.
- One young, medium sized roasting duck (1.5-2 kg)
- Five or six large cloves of garlic
- Two tablespoons dried sage or rosemary (the herb you use will definitely change the flavour, but they both taste great)
- One tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (you can use regular peppercorns, but I love the fragrant flavour of Sichuan peppers)
- One tablespoon coarse sea salt, or any other coarse salt you have.
- Three tablespoons red currant jam or cranberry sauce, orange marmalade or even strawberry jam.
- Juice of one lime
- Ten small new potatoes, one large sweet potato, three large carrots (depending on your roasting pan’s size).
- Regular cooking salt for the vegetables. A 1/4 teaspoon each of smoked paprika, garlic powder, chilli flakes.
- Two cups of water
- With a sharp knife, score the duck’s skin all over while trying not to cut through the meat. This is an important step because it helps the fat to render and the skin to become deliciously crispy. See the photo above.
- Fill the scored gaps with sea salt crystals, minced or finely chopped garlic, sage, and peppercorns.
- Let the duck sit at room temperature for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large roasting pan, place the duck breast up on the rack, pour one or two cups of water in the bottom of the pan. This is important because it prevents the fat from burning. Place the duck uncovered in the oven for one hour.
- After the first hour, take the duck out of the oven, remove the duck carefully to a large plate. Pour out the rendered fat into a bowl or small saucepan.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the bottom of the pan, drizzle one tablespoon of the rendered duck fat on top, season with salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder and chilli flakes. Turn the duck over and place it and the vegetables back in the oven.
- Roast for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, combine the jam with the lime juice and one tablespoon of water.
- In the last 15 minutes, take the duck out of the oven and brush some of the jam mixture onto the skin. Place it breast up once again, then return it to the oven until the skin is perfectly crispy and the glaze has caramelised.
- Remove the duck from the oven, let it rest on a large cutting board for 10 minutes. In the meantime, return the vegetables to the oven and place them under the broiler for 5 minutes until perfectly crispy on the outside. Taste and check that they are cooked through and cooked to your desired crispiness.
- When the duck has rested and cooled a bit, carve the breasts out and serve with gravy and roast vegetables. Enjoy!
Have you ever roasted a duck before? How do you like to make it? What flavours do you enjoy with a duck? Let me know in the comments!
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