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Slow Roasted Duck

slow roast duck recipe

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is another way to roast a duck or goose in the oven, a method I first read about in Clarissa Dickson Wright’s The Game Cookbook. Normally I roast a wild duck over very high heat – up to 500°F. This crisps the skin quickly while leaving the meat rare-to-medium.

But if the duck is very fat, as pintails, mallards, specklebelly geese — even some wigeon, ringnecks and gadwall — are around Northern California, then the skin has trouble crisping up because the fat keeps it moist.

Here’s what to do: Clarissa, who is one of the Two Fat Ladies of TV fame, suggests you start in a low oven and finish on high. This will cook the meat all the way through — so no pink — the fat will keep the meat nice and moist. Remember to only do this with fat birds!

Slow Roasted Duck

This recipe works with any sort of waterfowl. Keep in mind that a mallard, gadwall or pintail will serve two, a goose four and a shoveller, wigeon or teal one.

Serves 4.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

  • 2 very fat wild ducks (see above for species variations)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 4 sprigs sage, rosemary, parsley and/or thyme

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a needle or a very sharp knife point, prick the skin of the duck all over — but be sure to not pierce the meat itself, only the skin. This helps the fat render out and will help crisp the skin.
  2. Rub the lemon all over the duck and stick it inside the cavity. Liberally salt the bird; use a little more salt than you think you need. Stuff the cavity with the herbs. Put the duck on an iron frying pan or other ovenproof pan and set in the oven.
  3. Cook regular ducks like mallards and pintails for 45 minutes. Small ducks (shovellers, wigeon, teal, ruddies, etc.) only need 30 minutes. If you are roasting a goose, increase the roasting time to 55 minutes. After the alloted time, take the pan out of the oven and set the ducks on a cutting board to rest. Spoon out any excess fat.
  4. Now turn the heat up to 450°F. When the oven hits this temperature, roast it for 10 more minutes, or until the skin is crisp. The reason you take the bird out of the oven is because a) the resting time helps redistribute the juices in the bird midstream, and b) you are crisping skin without totally overcooking the duck by only returning it to the oven when it is hot.
  5. Remove from oven and let the birds rest. You’ll only need 5 minutes resting time for small birds, 10 minutes for large ducks, and 15 for geese.

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18 responses to “Slow Roasted Duck”

  1. Kindred spirit

    Hi Hank.
    It would be educational (to me anyway) if you could post pictures of a dressed duck that has enough fat to make it suitable for this technique. We’ve shot some ducks this year that had nice fat, but I doubt they are fat enough.

  2. Laneey

    Very Interesting reading your site and comments. I have cooked wild duck for years now, and I roast them, but not short times like you do. I will roast at probably a lower temperature of 150 deg Celcius (around 300F) for 4 hours and even more if it is a large bird – I usually wrap the bird in a non stick baking paper, then foil wrapped around the outer to avoid losing moisture. These are stuffed with a bread stuffing/ onion and mixed herbs, which I assume does take longer to cook right through?? but we like the meat to fall off the bone. You do not experience the tough leg and shoulder meat then. doing it this way I arrive with a crispy/gravy like skin which my husband loves.
    Maybe our birds in NZ are different to yours? your comments would be interesting there.
    Thought you might like to hear my views on the way I cook wild duck.

  3. Arlyn

    Just found your webpage — excellent! such a lucky find while researching hanging game – your article was beautifully thorough and complete. Thank you !

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  5. Flyhole

    Tried both recipes and definitely prefer the slow roast recipe regardless of size or fat content. The meat is well done but still moist and tender.

    Found that when roasted at high heat and not cooked through a lot of blood squirted out everywhere when cut up. Very unappealing.



  6. Lou

    @ Laneey

    We do indeed get different ducks/waterfowl (in addition to mallards, as you do). Best by leaps and bounds:specs (specklebelly geese) and sprig (pintail). Mallards are third, then teal, then the smaller Canadas (NOT cacklers).

    We cook them as you do. They are wonderful with the brown pan juices poured over.

  7. scott stewart

    In other videos you suggest skinning Snow geese is that because they are so hard to pluck or its it because their skin/fat is bad. We have our first snow goose sitting plucked in the refrigerator, should I remove its skin before cooking it.

  8. Scott

    I really enjoy your site. It’s very helpful for preparing waterfowl and cooking them. I tried the roasted duck recipe using a Mallard along with the Cumberland Sauce. I have to say it was the best duck I’ve ever had! Thanks again”

  9. Brandon

    I did this recipe last night out of your cook book. We had two fat plucked mallard and it was by far the best duck I can remember eating. We do eat a lot of duck so that’s something.

    I roasted mine in a cast iron pan covered. The skin was a little pale and not crispy. Should I have uncovered the pan for the last 10 minutes at 500 degrees?

  10. Donna Przybylek

    I tried geese few times and decided never again. It was a disaster. I get them frozen, defrost in the fridge and follow instructions attached to the bird. The come out tough, dry and nobody wants to eat it. They are so expensive here, you want to have a masterpiece dinner! Do you have any suggestions?

  11. wade van harpen

    First of all I was raised in a family that had duck dinners every Sunday in the fall. One of the most important things my grandmother did was clean the ducks. All the shot through holes had to be chased with a knife and brush to get all the duck blood out, it takes a long time before all that blood is gone. It makes all the difference in the world. We used to stuff ours with a stuffing made from the hearts and gizzards ground up with onion and bread crumbs soaked with chicken stock. We roasted them whole in a nesco, we would do six to eight of them at a time, stacked up like cord wood. By the time they were done they’d be falling apart and moist and perfect. My grandmother made pillows with all the down feathers. I still remember those dinners. When my father married my mother her family had 300 ducks in the freezer. They did a duck dinner every Sunday for most of the year.

  12. Mary Corbett

    I really enjoyed reading up on some of your recipes. I have been cooking rsted. ducks for nearly 30 years. I found by soaking the birds in kosher salt,then rinsing well and stuffing cavity with either apples or bread stuffing and laying bacon on top of bird then slow roasting on 300 degrees for 2-2 1/2 hrs. produces a delicous moist bird. If we cook just the duck breast I like to broil them and cook those medium with fresh mushrooms and onions and red pepper.

    There is nothing more delicous than properly cooked wild game.

    Thanks for the information with the recipes.

    Mary Corbett

  13. Darren Gewant

    hi hank – i just found your website, and hope to purchase (kindle) duck, duck, goose. i am returning seriously to duck hunting this year (even purchased a vacuum sealer!) with the intent on eating every bird i shoot. my blind is near Rio Vista, CA which i still dont understand where these birds came from and what they have been eating. SF Bay? Sacramento Rice? Nor Cal ag? It has been just an OK season, but i do have a freezer full of teal, spoonies, and a few mallards and pintail all of which i breasted.

    question: do your recipes work with the marsh duck that have been sifting bay mud (clams, i guess) or towards the fatty ducks that look like they came from the supermarket? the array of cooking techniques i get from fellow local hunters are inconsistent, and i cant seem to find a common theme.

    thanks for any insight!

  14. Jenn

    Hi Hank, I’m not a hunter but I love to eat and cook – loving Duck Duck Goose, by the way – the seared duck breast recipe turned out perfectly!

    I’ve only roasted duck once or twice before, unsuccessfully. I tried this recipe with a store-bought fatty duck, and kind of combined it with the one where you carve up the duck as it cooks, by adding the head of garlic in the cavity so I could make the gravy. The duck turned out really delicious but the skin was not as crispy as it could be, especially on the underside (I scored the skin all over in a tight cross hatch pattern), though it was quite browned on the top side. Could it be because I loosely tented it with tinfoil while resting? Or the high sides of my roasting pan (about 3″, though I did use a roasting rack in it)? What exactly does rubbing the skin with lemon do? When I roast a turkey I often start it breast down and flip it halfway so that it gets browned all over. Would this work for a duck?

    I checked the internal temperature of the duck with my Thermapen towards the end of the cooking time and tried to match it with approximately what was listed in the carved roast duck recipe. The breast was perfectly tender and still a tiny bit pink, but the legs were still quite pink (even after resting) and all joints were pinkish and tough. Is this normal? After perusing other slow roast recipes online, it seems like a lot of them roast for several hours. What is your take on that?

    Oh, one more thing – the head of garlic was still hard after roasting – I was not able to squeeze out any cloves. It was a relatively small head of garlic so I was a little surprised by that. The rest of the gravy turned out fantastic though.

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