Grilled duck is a tasty treat that most families reserve for holidays because its preparation is time-consuming and messy. Moreover, ducks tend to have a lot of fat reservoirs as compared to chicken and turkeys, hence they just don’t drip on the grill, they splatter.
This results in a large mess on your grill while preparing this savory dish. The solution, however, is to grill your duck on the rotisserie section of your grill, and preferably outdoors.
This keeps all the mess outdoors, and lets you enjoy your rich, moist and tender duck with its crackling brown skin.
Getting rid of the Fat
Getting rid of the duck fat serves as the most important part of cooking a duck. Nobody wants to eat that thick layer of greasy fat. Ideally, a cooked duck has little or no fat left in it, and the skin is thin and crispy.
Several techniques can be used to get rid of the fat, one of them being steaming the duck over boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes. This is a traditional method, however, but it cooks the duck and blocks the absorption of smoke flavor when you cook it. This is a downside if you want to grill or smoke the duck.
Another technique is piercing the duck’s skin at regular intervals, about after every inch over the entire duck’s surface. You need to be careful, however, as you only need to cut through the skin and fat, but you don’t want to cut into the meat.
This is done well by using a knife to gently push into the duck’s skin. Fat is easier to cut through than the meat, so once you’re through the skin, push gently and carefully until you feel resistance. The vents created will allow the fat to drain from the duck.
Grilling Vs Smoking Duck
While on the grill, you will need a roasting temperature of around 325F and need to hold it there for about two to three hours, standard time. The duck cooks longer than chicken since there is time to allow the fat to melt away.
Also, you are grilling indirectly, since you are using a drip pan. Something important to note here is to never put a fire under a drip pan as it tends to make bad smoke.
There are several hints to look out for that will tell you your duck is done. First is the internal temperature. The internal temperature needs to hit 165F. You ensure this by checking. Another thing is the duck’s skin should be thin and crisp.
The fat of a duck tends to stick to the skin thus you know it is all gone the moment the skin is nice and crispy. Lastly, your well-grilled duck should have a nice, even brown color over its surface.
On the other hand, you can alternatively smoke your duck at about 225 to 250F for about four to six hours depending on the temperature you are holding. For smoking, you can use good fruit wood like apple, cherry or hickory.
Oak is also an option but it’s a little bit mild while on the other hand mesquite will probably be too strong. A good supply of smoke is what makes the duck savory, so you need one! You can also add different flavors to your duck, just make sure you don’t overpower the duck.
Grilling on the smoker, however, has its downsides, one of them being not being able to get the crispy skin because of the temperature which might not be high enough to achieve it. The smoker, however, gets rid of the fat, just like on the gas grill.
You can, however, solve this by transferring the smoked duck to a grill for a few minutes and set up the grill for indirect grilling while maintaining the fire. You then make sure to turn the duck continuously to make sure every side gets the intense heat, without burning it. An oven will also get your duck crispy. Just set it at 500F and cook for 15 minutes.
While this is a basic recipe for grilling a whole duck, you can always modify it to use with various spices of your choice for different flavor profiles. Cooking methods vary for charcoal and gas grills as highlighted earlier on, but for a smoke flavor, you can always add wood chips to your grill.
What You Will Need:
1 whole duck (5-6 lbs.), defrosted.
1 tablespoon Kosher salt.
1-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
I teaspoon paprika. (Use smoked paprika for smoke flavor.)
1 orange cut in quarters.
1 head garlic, paper removed and top trimmed.
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces.
Step 1: Set Up the Grill
Set up your grill for indirect grilling. For the gas grill, place a large drip pan in the center and preheat the grill on high, then reduce the temperature to medium-low once the duck is placed on the grill. For the charcoal grill, arrange charcoal pieces on either side of the drip pan and allow them to burn until medium-hot.
Step 2: Prep the Duck
Remove defrosted duck from the bag and its giblets and neck from the interior. You can discard the giblets and neck or save them for making stock. The choice is yours. Remove the excess fat from body cavity and neck, as instructed earlier. Rinse the duck inside and outside as well under cool running water. Pat duck dry.
With a large, sharp fork, prick the skin all over, at an angle, being careful not to pierce the meat as it will dry out if pierced.
Step 3: Rub the Duck
Mix the salt, pepper, and paprika. Rub the duck’s inside and out with the spice mixture. Stuff the orange quarters, whole head of garlic and cut celery pieces into the duck’s cavity. Fold the neck skin under, covering the cavity. Secure it in place with a skewer.
You can always grill the orange quarters briefly before stuffing them inside the duck.
Step 4: Grill the Duck
With the breast side up, place the duck on a rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook the duck for 1-1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, add 10-12 pre-lighted coals per side hourly.
Step 5: Drain the Juices
After 1-1/2 hours, drain the juices and fat from the pan and flip the duck, breast side down. Continue cooking the duck for another 30 to 60 minutes until the meat is tender.
For the last 10 cooking minutes, flip the duck, breast side up to crisp the skin. Be careful not to overcook. The internal temperature should be 180oF at the thickest part of the leg and thigh joint.
Step 6: Rest the Duck
Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let it stand for 15 minutes. Remove the oranges and celery from the cavity and discard. Remove the roasted head of garlic.
Step 7: Serve!
Carve the duck and serve!
For faster and more even cooking, always butterfly the whole duck so that it opens wide and flat to speed up cooking on the grill. Also, be sure to always adjust cooking times accordingly.
That’s it, folks, enjoy your next duck cookout at home with this detailed duck recipe!