March 08, 2021
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Duck bacon is a thing, and it is a thing that you might want to have in your life.
It is easy to make, tastes wonderful, and while not as glorious as, say, the finest pork belly bacon, it is damn good nonetheless. Here’s how to make it at home.
OK, for starters, I need to say that duck bacon is not the same thing as duck prosciutto, and it’s definitely not the same thing as goose leg ham. Duck prosciutto and duck bacon are both done with breasts, and both are cured. But duck prosciutto is then dry aged, where duck bacon is smoked and not aged.
(Here is my recipe for duck prosciutto.)
You will want to use very fat duck breasts for this, either farmed or wild. Pretty much any farmed duck breast will work, but I would try to get moulard duck breasts if I were you. The finest source I know of for them is D’Artagnan meats.
For wild birds, this is what you want to do with those morbidly obese ducks you were lucky enough to get during the season. Any bird can get this fat, but in a perfect world you would use mallards, pintail, gadwall, canvasbacks, redheads, or, for smaller bacon, wigeon or wood ducks. (I used a pintail in the photos.)
I’ve occasionally seen geese with enough breast fat to make bacon, but honestly, I prefer them as prosciutto.
Another difference between duck bacon and duck prosciutto is the cure. You need cure no. 2, which has sodium nitrate, for duck prosciutto because it dry ages for up to a couple months. Duck bacon only requires cure no. 1, which has sodium nitrite. This cure is for smoked meats.
Do you need nitrate? Yes, in some form. If you want to get it from celery powder, that’s fine, but I don’t like the stuff because it is not as precise as the standardized cures. And no, nitrate is not bad for you in the amounts used in curing meats. You get more eating celery.
The only people who get a pass on this are those allergic. In your case, you can skip it and make something kinda-sorta like duck bacon, without the cure. I’ll get into that in a moment.
The procedure is easy. Measure the weight of the meat, then weigh out 2% to 2.5% salt by weight (your choice), and 0.25% cure no. 1 by weight. Note that that is one quarter of one percent. Massage this into the meat, vacuum seal it, put it in the fridge for a week to cure.
Take it out, rinse briefly and pat dry, then smoke as long as you can stand it. Now I will tell you that cold smoking is the way to go here. If you can swing this, do it.
Why? Because hot smoking duck bacon tends to make the skin and fat want to fall off. It’s still tasty, to be sure, but the goal here is to have a slice you can fry like bacon. That won’t work with duck breast that has been hot smoked, or at least I’ve had trouble with it.
If you want to give this a go without nitrite, cure with 2.5% salt by weight, then hot smoke it at about 180°F for about 3 hours. It is vital here to start the meat very cold, so that it has a chance to build a good smoke ring while it cooks. It won’t look or taste the same, but it will be OK.
Once you have your duck bacon, slice it thinly, skin side down — this helps everything stick together. You can eat it cooked or uncooked. I prefer hot smoked duck bacon as-is, and cold smoked duck bacon cooked.
It will keep a few weeks in the fridge, and freezes well.
- Kitchen scale
- 2 duck breasts
- Salt (See headnotes for how much)
- Curing salt (See headnotes for how much)
- Weigh each duck breast in grams. Now weigh out 2 to 2.5 percent of that weight in salt; I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Sea salt is good, but you want a fine grained salt with no iodide. Weigh out 0.25 percent of the breast's weight in curing salt no. 1. Massage that into the meat. Repeat for the next breast, and so on if you are doing many.
- Vacuum seal the breasts with any excess salt. Set them in the fridge for at least 3 days, and up to 10 days. This cure will not make them too salty. I generally go 5 days to make sure the cure has reached the center of the meat.
- Rinse and pat dry. Cold smoke the breasts for at least 8 hours, and you can repeat this process every day for several days if you want a very smoky product. Slice with the skin side down. Use like regular bacon.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
1 pound goose breast you think 7-8 days of curing to get the cure all the way through? This is gonna be perfect for carbonara and your jambalaya recipe
Keith: Maybe even less than that.
What is a safe range of temperature I want it to be when cold smoking like what is the lowest and highest I can let it get and still be safe safety?
Keith: The salting is what ensures your safety. Cold smoking is done very cool, as in under 85F.
Technically, for it to be kosher the duck would have to be ritually slaughtered. Nothing hunted is Kosher. Other than how the bird slaughtered if the smoker has not been used for anything else not Kosher or is properly cleaned (the saying goes CYHA- consult your halachic authority- it has something to do with high heat and a blow torch), then there is no reason that duck bacon could not be perfectly kosher.
My question is I noticed after curing the breasts in a closed plastic bag, for a week, turning and moving around the 4 breasts inside every day or so, when I opened it up 3 of the 4 breasts were pink/red one hd some brown areas on the flesh. Is that ok?
Esther: Good points on the kosher! I had forgotten some of that, so thanks. As for the brown, they should be OK because of the salt, but it means that the curing salt didn’t penetrate those parts, so they will cook differently.
A friend of mine claims I’m crazy to try this with some mallards I shot recently. They’re fat for local mallards, but I’m sure they’re not like farm ducks.
Yeoman: The birds in the pictures are mallards.
Thank you. those are nice fat ones too. Mine aren’t quite so fat, but I think I’ll try the fattest one and see how it goes.
DO YOU HAVE TO SMOKE THE BACON? OR CAN IT BE HUNG TO DRY CURE THEN COOKED LIKE NORMAL BACON
R Harrison: All “normal” bacon is smoked. This recipe requires it. But if you just want to dry cure a duck breast, you can do that.
What is best temperature got cold smoking?
Jason: 80F or even a little under.
Funny I was thinking of making bacon this week. I have a couple of domesticated duck breast I usually make duck ham. Almost the same cure, only I add a maple syrup. Being from New England,we put maple syrup on just about everything. Wondering if this is kosher
any suggestions if you want to hot smoker (225 degrees F) these?
Kevin: Yes, smoke colder than that. At 225F the meat will heat up too fast for a proper smoke. Even 200F is better. Put a tray of ice in the smoker, too. Even with all this, it should not take more than 3 hours.
Since I quit consuming pork and beef 7 years ago, my choices of meat dwindled. I think this recipe will fit nicely in my diet. Thank you! 🙂
Having Alpha-Gal changed my world. I love duck bacon! I love duck, the other red meat! I refuse to eat that fake nasty other bacon. Thank you for this!