While most wild ducks enjoy a good reputation, geese are undeservedly maligned as greasy, livery and tough. Yes, they can be all these things, but properly done, a wild goose (or a domestic, for that matter) is essentially a large duck. A normal wild goose, such as a Canada, Snow or Whitefront will feed four, while a small goose (Cackler, Aleutian or Ross’) will serve two heartily. A domestic goose or a Giant Canada (really any Canada larger than 10 pounds) can serve as many as six.
Don’t overcook waterfowl breasts or they will be livery. Rare-to-medium is the mantra. As for the legs, thighs and wings, slow cook them to make them tender. Duck and goose legs are not nearly as tough as pheasant legs because waterfowl don’t do as much walking around. But their wings can be very tough.
If you find yourself with diving ducks, such as scaup, ringnecks, red-heads, buffleheads, goldeneyes, ruddy ducks, oldsquaw or eiders (or brant, for that matter) You may need to brine them to soften any possible fishy taste. One easy way to tell is to cut off the “Pope’s Nose,” or tail of the duck, and render out the fat in a small frying pan. If the fat smells icky, brine the duck with salt, sugar and garlic, plus any aromatic herbs that strike your fancy.
A note on all recipes: If you use domestic geese or ducks for any of them, it is vital that after you thaw them out, you remove all of the body cavity fat and then prick the skin all around with the point of a filet knife or something else narrow and pointy. Domestic geese are flying pigs, raised for their delicious fat as much as their meat.
These are some baseline techniques and skills you need to know to be a good duck and goose cook. Below them are some master recipes, and then other recipes broken down by the part of the bird.
My video for plucking ducks or geese with hot water and melted paraffin wax:
If you only have a few ducks to pluck, or don’t want to use hot wax, here is my video for dry-plucking a duck or goose:
My video for skinning a duck or goose. I skin sea ducks, fishy divers and snow geese:
My video for cleaning a gizzard. Gizzards have a lot of meat, but can be persnickety to clean: