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70 responses to “How to Make Smoked Duck”

  1. steve

    Just a couple of suggestions: I would lean strongly towards only a half teaspoon of the Pink salt. A little goes a long way, but then I start with a gallon of water. I would also brine it a lot longer if it was a bigger duck.

    Good Lord, I am salivating at my desk! Smoked duck is close to heaven!

    Here in the Midwest, we get a small ‘diver’ that still goes to puddles called a ring-bill. They are obviously coming from north of us; they are well fed, easier to pluck, snowy white skin with no pin feathers, and a consistent layer of fat that makes them a favorite.

    But I will also pluck a teal and be perfectly content. There are not many ducks better than these little morsels!

  2. Rachel B

    My husband and I disagree on the amount of wood you use to smoke with. How much do you use?

  3. Steve

    This sounds wonderful. Could you smoke a turkey? We have a turkey awaiting harvesting and I’ve wanted to smoke it. The last one was 40 pounds and this will push 30. I was thinking the longer smoke would be a nice way to savor this bird.

  4. bob

    I smoke ducks unbrined, salted the day before, left to dry in the fridge overnight, seasoned simply with salt and peppers and some aromatics on the inside. I let them cook until completly tender throughout at about 215-225 for around 5-6 hours. I dont mind eating the overcoked breast because they stay moist. My question is how do the legs come out with your preparation? The breast looks great in your pic though. Cheers

  5. Diana Welsch

    Which smoker do you use? I have never bought one, but a vendor at the farmer’s market sells a whole duck and I’d like to try your recipe.

  6. Lance

    Just finished smoking a mallard and a wood duck with this recipe. I used both cherry wood and pecan hulls for the smoke. Modified the glaze and used about 1/4 maple syrup and the other 3/4 boiled cider. Fantastic! Looking forward to cooking the carcasses down into stock. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Ryan Sabalow

    Great tips, dude. I now know why my skin didn’t get all crispy last couple of times I’ve tried smoking.

    A few nights back, I smoked up a mallard, a cannie and a speck the other day for me and a buddy for dinner. The cannies were heavenly, though the other two were good. The best part, however, was the leftovers. I chopped the meat up cold and mixed it in with red-leaf lettuce, a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and some salty green olives.

    Pure bliss.

  8. Bob Johnson

    When you are smoking for the slower low temperature version, what internal temperature are you trying to achieve? 3-7 hours is a pretty big window.

  9. Bob Johnson

    Thanks. I am just always worried about overcooking and getting the livery taste. I will be smoking a Pintail, Gadwall, and Spoonie today that we got at Sacramento NWR on Wed. for a New Year’s Day party tomorrow.

  10. Dan K

    Hank. Why is it so important to remove the fat? Isn’t fat what holds the smoke flavor?

  11. Paul C

    I love smoked duck … my absolute favourite way to do them though is to brine the breasts exactly how I’d brine pork for ham and hot smoke them with a simple rub of salt and pepper with a drizzle of maple syrup.

  12. 2peasandapot

    That’s killer. Just another thing that makes me wish I lived outside NYC. I’d follow your blog and hunt and smoke stuff. happy new year’s.

  13. Mark L.

    Not only is this smoked duck fantastic (thanks again for the tips on this technique with my wood ducks), the carcasses make amazing stock.

  14. BethBader

    Sweet! We served duck for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner party and I ended up braising them in mulled cider, then roasting a bit for crispy skin. It worked, but I really want to try them smoked next.

  15. Mike Dwyer


    We smoked a bunch of goose yesterday. How long will it keep in the fridge?

    If I freeze it, when we’re ready to eat do I just thaw and serve (I like it chilled or even room temperature).

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  17. Clifton Lemon

    What’s pink salt?

  18. Ben


    Love the website. I am a Navy pilot who was stationed overseas in Japan, and I used to salivate reading your blog while underway. I have used many of your techniques and recipes to serve to friends, including a huge Christmas meal in 2010 for most of our squadron, many of whom had to go out to sea the next day. That meal was a highlight for many of us during a time when 24 hour-notice deployments were a regular occurrence.

    Duck is popular in Japan (think of all the starred French restaurants in Tokyo…) but less common than in China, so whenever I cooked one of your recipes for our Japanese friends, they could not get enough.

    Our neighborhood park in Yamato, JP had a fantastic pond that attracted great waterfowl during the winter, usually making the trek from Hokkaido, Korea, or Siberian Russia; lesser scaup, Eurasian widgeon, pintail, redheads, etc. My wife and I used to love spending Sundays reading books by the pond and throwing old bread to the ducks.

    Now that we are back in the states and have access to a smoker, and easier access to ducks to cook with, its funny that you posted something about smoked ducks. You already posted a great recipe for pheasant carnitas. As a native Iowan, I naturally gravitate towards anything pheasant. I feel you may want to try this idea, as it has worked for me time and time again:

    Smoke your whole duck according the the recipe above, with the added thought that a touch of cherry or persimmon wood to any bbq is a good idea. Serve the breasts as described. Then, take the smoked wings and legs and do a decent carnitas slow cook in duck fat. Serve on heated tortillas with onion and cilantro.

    Oh, and beer. I am an Iowan, and a Navy pilot. Beer must be included.

  19. neville

    i would like to smoke some barbury duck brests i was looking at your method and trought i would ask for you opnion salt the breasts then cold smoke for 12 hours would this be a safe way to do this

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  21. mike samansky

    What great recipes you do. With pheasant season coming fast Iam looking for a smoked phesant recipe. Do you think this would work for pheasant? I plan to try your pheasant sausage this year as well.

  22. Marty

    Great article. I agree, mesquite is weird. I tend to like Red Oak from the California Coastal Mountains (think Santa Maria Tritip), but I’m going to try some of the other woods you talked about. Another wood I love is Olive.

    I always place my birds breast down. That way the fat off the back moves to the breast making it juicier. I’ve done taste test and everyone unanimously preferred breast down(wild and domestic). I never have time to cut the birds, because after I put them out, they are gone in minutes.


  23. Colin Edwards

    Good site…Am bringing the 10 geese . I breased them & took the legs as well….Hope this works…Thanks for the tips.>>>>COLIN

  24. Cabous


    I live in South Africa, we hunt on a regular bases and will try your recipes, it looks greate!

  25. Peter Imle


    Almost exactly my process. I do brine longer as I do larger batches and freeze some after smoking, but I also do a 24-48 hour (depending on the size of the birds) soak in dr. Pepper or coke. The phosphoric acid does a nice little tenderizing. Err on shorter rather than longer as the consistency gets a little like liver if you over do it. Great recipe.


  26. Steven Button

    Hi Hank, I’ve been working on a smoke house out back for a few days now and this will be very helpful. We were given a couple of Muscovy ducklings around Christmas, and told not to kill them or the kids would be upset. Of course they turned out to be drakes, and have become quite aggressive (and randy!). Mother managed to top it off by asking why we hadn’t put them in the pot at 12 weeks! So, I decided on smoking them, which has led me to here, and here I shall stay-Great Blog, keep it up!

    Steve Button, Tasmania

  27. Richard

    I’m a first time smoker, looking to smoke some duck. Your recipe sounds divine! This may be a silly question, but my smoker tray has an area for the wood chips/etc. and an area for brine or other liquid additives. Any recommendations for the liquid portion? Or should I just use the leftover brine?

  28. peter


    Have you ever used a beer brine for duck? If so, how did it turn out? If not can you speculate how it might come out? Thanks!

  29. Anne Marie

    I have several Canada goose breasts to smoke. Should I brine them before smoking? How long should I plan on smoking them? Because they have been skinned should I be concerned about them drying out? I have a Brinkmann smoker without temperature control.

  30. Patrick J. McNamara

    I can’t wait to shoot a plump dabbler so I can try this method on my Traeger smoker. We are seeing mostly divers and shovelers right now in the SF Bay Area, so that fishy “surf & turf” essence comes with the duck, especially the hens, who are packing on the protein. Here’s a way to mitigate that:

    I breast the ducks, sometimes retaining the skin, but not usually. Then, before grilling I par boil them in a 20% vinegar solution for about 3-4 minutes. The breasts retain that deep red color to the meat, despite the boiling (that color cannot be cooked away!). But, much of the fishiness is gone, and the meaty, hint-of-liver taste I love remains.

  31. Erik Argotti

    Love the site and your books. I am always making something off your website and am telling everybody about it..This maybe obvious to you but I just want to be sure.i have a question about a goose. If I wanted to smoke a goose the 4 cup brine is not going to cover the bird.. Do I just double everything in the brine, including the pink salt if I wanted a more watery brine to cover the whole goose?? So 8 cups of water 1 cup of salt and 2 teaspoons of pink salt??

  32. Jeff croci

    Hi Hank, thanks for sharing all the great recipes. I mostly hunt tye SF bay out of Mtn. View Ca.I shoot a few cans and was wondering what your thoughts were on cooking them whole or smoking them?
    Thanks, jeff

  33. Terry

    Hank: I shot some ducks in ND which were breasted. Is there a more abbreviated proces without the whole carcass ?

  34. Pam

    Hank: I am intending to smoke duck breast in few days time. This dish will be used with a salad. Should I pan sear the skin before or after the smoking process?

  35. Tony

    Someone ask about smoking a turkey. I have smoked several. Yes I do brine my turkey with 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, a large handful of fresh tyme, a 6 inch sprig of rosemary, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 tablespoon dry mustard. I put all these in a pot of water and bring to a boil. I let the water cool with ice and make sure it is cool before pouring over my turkey. I set the brined turkey in the fridge for at least 24 hours. I then rinse off and pat dry. Rub with butter and apply your favored rub. Let let again for at least a full day wrapped tight in plastic wrap. Now get the smoker ready. I use an electric smoker. I like oak and pecan wood mixed. I smoke at 200 degrees for 12 hours. I have never had any one not want seconds.

  36. Matt

    I had doubts about the recipe. Boy was I wrong! Simple and delicious.
    I used mostly cherry wood and a couple of chunks of walnut. Reducing the maple is a must. I didn’t brine, but I sprinkled a little salt with each maple syrup application. Great recipe thanks. Oh, did I mention, great recipe?

  37. Diana

    For Thanksgiving tomorrow I’ll be smoking both a duck and a turkey (putting the duck on the upper rack to baste the turkey). I didn’t see any notes here on finished temperature? Would I be correct in assuming 180 for the ‘dinner duck’ and about 160 for the ‘cold duck’? I’ll be doing the dinner version tomorrow, but would be interested in the cold version for later on.

  38. Dylan

    Hi Hank: First of all, I love your website! I wanted to ask, I am smoking a coot, a teal, an Aleutian, a mallard and a turkey for tomorrow over oak and pear wood in my (non-pc) “little chief” charcoal smoker. I am doing it today so I can make your bourbon-maple gravy (with lots of porcinis I picked yesterday) and help with all the other kitchen craziness my family will be up to, tomorrow. I was going to reheat and crisp the skin of the birds tomorrow, but should I worry about them drying out while reheating? What would you do?

  39. Dylan

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! My family is having a good “We told you so” laugh about what you said about the coot. I happen to like coot, and have found that using your maple smoking technique gets rid of lots of their legendary “muddy” flavor. Perhaps my fondness for them is related to my lousy shooting and their awkward, easier to hit flying… Also, I have used this recipe a few times now on shitake mushrooms; they smoke up nice! Do you reckon it’s worth trying on a few fresh bolete caps, to be eaten as appetizers?

  40. Diana

    Hank – thanks for the response. I can’t wait to try the lower cold cut recipe later on. As for the dinner temp, both birds are relaxing in an electric aromatherapy sauna as I type so I’m looking forward to trying them.

  41. Ronald


    I have used your smoked duck recipe several times with great success on my offset charcoal/wood smoker – my only variation has been to start with 50/50 cane syrup and bourbon and reduce that by 1/2. Otherwise, I have followed your recipe to the letter, using mallards and wood ducks, though with a shorter smoke time for the wood ducks.

    Things changed when I got an electric smoker for Christmas, and I am hoping you might have a suggestion. In the offset smoker, the ducks have come out beautifully – deep golden mahogany. I have smoked some mallards and pintails on the electric smoker, and the ducks have come out a muddy brown. The temperature is the same in both units, per my digital thermometer, but the results in the electric smoker have been very different. The taste is okay, but the color is less than appetizing. The only thought I have is that the cover on the offset smoker may be radiating/reflecting heat onto the skin of the birds, causing the skin to brown and the sugar in the syrup to caramelize. However, that is just a guess. I am not really sure what the difference is. If you have any suggestions, they would be welcome. It would be nice to be able to use the electric smoker, as it is much more convenient than the offset smoker, but I don’t want to sacrifice any more of the ducks in my freezer to random experimentation.

    Thanks for any help you can provide and keep up the great work on this great site.


  42. tyler

    Any tips for keeping skinned goose beats moist during the smoking process? After a brine what temperature does the meat need to rise to in order to be safe to eat?

  43. Aaron


    Absolutely love the site. Question on timing for smoking: if I’m going for a long smoke on a duck, and want to use your grill method after the smoke session to crisp the skin, do you know if there’s any reason I couldn’t wait, say, 30 minutes or an hour between the time I finish smoking and the time I put the bird on the grill?

    (Context: I and a group of buddies consistently try to outdo ourselves at sporting event tailgating sessions, and I tend to think that smoked duck would have to be at or near the pinnacle of tailgating cuisine.)


  44. rian

    how long to smoke a 6 lb duck in digital smoker @ 200 f.?

  45. Neil B

    You should be writing books. I’ve never seen anyone wrap so many variables into a workable recipe. There’s a brined farm duck hanging over my sink in front of a fan right now, and a stack of oak and cherry out by my Bar-B-Chef. BUT, if I’m to go the ‘long-term’ 5-6 hour route, would you recommend tenting it in foil before I go for the big heat at the end?

  46. Jason

    Hank, would you change the process at all when smoking ducks for a duck and andouille gumbo?

  47. Jay Lott

    For those asking about how much pink salt (instacure #1) to use, the standard ratio is measured by weight. Weigh the combined meat (the duck) and the brine liquid, then add pink salt in the amount of 0.25% (one quarter of one percent) of the total weight. For example if you have one gallon of brine liquid (weight 128 oz) and a duck which weighs 2 lbs (36 oz) then your total weight is 164 oz. One quarter of one percent of that is .41 oz of pink salt.

    A digital kitchen scale is not too expensive and is a very helpful addition to your kitchen especially when you are reading charcuterie recipes which are often expressed by weights and percentages of weights.

    If you go a lot under .25% then your pink salt won’t be effective, if you go way over then you are eating more nitrites than you need to.

    The pink salt is in addition to the regular (kosher or sea) salt which you use to create your brine mix.

  48. Michael Cheshire

    I know this post is from about three years ago, but hopefully you still reply to questions. Full disclosure: I’m brand new to smoking, I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, I have very little prior experience with eating duck so I’m not sure what a “good” duck is supposed to taste like. I just got this electric smoker for Father’s Day and I’ve been smoking stuff like a madman ever since.

    With all that said. We’re doing a small Christmas eve dinner and I had the bright idea to smoke a duck for it. My wife found this post and we decided to do a dry run. I got a frozen Muscovy duck thawed it out and followed your recipe. Did not brine. Salted the inside, painted with maple syrup and basted with maple syrup every hour. I put it in at 225 for ~4 hours. I let the internal temp. get up to 160 and pulled it out.

    The meat was really tasty but pretty tough and a little dry. Is this normal? If not, what did I do wrong? After skimming through the comments it looks like the internal temp. of duck doesn’t need to reach 165. Should I really pull it out at 150? My in-laws would never forgive me if I gave them salmonella for Christmas.

    That’s all I got. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

  49. Raegan Stuart

    Wow. I am bookmarking this page. Thank you SO much for all the helpful info! I am so impressed! Just got a Bradley Smoker & have been smoking trout & salmon like crazy, but tomorrow I will try this and smoke some of my wild black ducks for a Supper Club I’m having here in Nova Scotia. Thanks again!! 🙂

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  51. Mark Denner

    I used this recipe to make smoked duck for a multi-course dinner centered around Peking-style duck dinner (pancakes, scallions and cucumbers with homemade plum sauce).

    I roasted three ducks for three hours at 225′ in my electric smoker – the meat was nicely done, easily shredded and full of smokey goodness. The skin was pretty disappointing but I don’t think that’s really fixable – the drying effect of smoke and the lower roasting temp isn’t going to produce crispy skin, it’s just too leathery. Even running it through the oven at 500′ for a few minutes only gave marginal improvement. Still, Peking duck is a mix of shredded meat and skin and the general smokiness from the skin was great.

    I note a lot of people here proposing to use the smoked duck carcass for stock – I don’t think this would work very well. In my experience (mostly around smoked chicken carcasses) the smoke flavor comes through really strongly, rendering the stock too weird to use for anything. That said, I had smoked a few test ducks in advance of the dinner and was going to throw out the carcasses until I happened on Momofuku’s tare recipe, which relied on a chicken back and smokey bacon. Ok… this might work, I thought. Tare is basically Japanese dipping sauce and is sort of a “chef’s secret” with everyone using different variations (feel free to correct me if someone knows more than I do). Momofuku is using it as a flavoring sauce for their ramen in this example. It’s simply a matter of simmering the duck carcass for a while in a mix of mirin, sake and soy sauce.

    I served it with my duck ramen soup and my guests went wild for it – the smokiness played well with the savory/salt of the soy and the sweetness of the mirin. In addition to soup, it’s worked as dipping sauce for dumplings and stir fry flavoring. I’m sure it would be great with fish as well. Here’s the original recipe, just substitute duck carcass for roast chicken back and bacon:

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