Many people are scared of cooking duck, particularly a whole roast duck. Give them a chicken and they're fine, stuff it, season it, pop in the the oven, baste occasionally and that's it. But if you mention duck, to some, you'll see a slightly uncomfortable look and muttered comments about fat, draining, hanging, hair-dryers & all sorts of handicaps that get in the way of enjoying this wonderful bird. Time to put the myths & mystery aside and discover how easy it is to roast a Gressingham duck.
Whole Roast Duck with Szechuan Sauce by Marcello Tully
Blog post by Mecca Ibrahim of Great British Chefs
Duck is one my all time favourites. Gressingham Duck tastes wonderful, is one of the healthier meats you can choose, and is far easier to cook than many people think. Ducks naturally have thick layer of fat between the skin & the flesh (if you spent that amount of time in water you'd need a fatty layer too!). Some think this means it will end up being greasy when roasted. To cook duck well you want a crispy skin and that will involve be quite a bit of fat coming off the bird. Don't see this as a problem, keep as much of the fat that drains off & use it for beautiful roast potatoes.
You may find some recipes where the aim is remove much of the duck fat before the bird is roast. I've seen recipes which involve pouring boiling water over the duck to dissolve the excess fat. My beloved Delia Smith suggests you take the duck out of its wrapping a day or so before you want to cook it & dry it in kitchen paper. I followed this method when I first started to roast duck, but it's not really necessary.
I've even seen people use a hair dryer when trying to roast duck. Yes, a hair dryer. It's an echo of the Chinese wind-dried method. The duck is simmered in boiling water for 15 minutes to enlarge the pores. Then the duck is blow dried, the heat from the dryer caused the fan to drip out of the large pores and apparently gives the duck a crispy puffed up skin when it's later roasted. I don't own a hairdryer and even if I did this seems too much effort, when you can get crispy skin without it!
There really is no mystery to good roast duck. Pre-heating your oven to 220˚C/gas mark 7. Then, simply prick the duck's skin with a skewer, season it with salt and pepper, put it on a roasting rack and then on a roasting tray. Cook for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 170˚C/gas mark 3 and cook further for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Rest for 15 minutes before carving. That's it. All you have then is the tricky "problem" of deciding what to serve it with.
Personally I like to roast red onions & plums for the last 20-30 minutes with the duck and then make a "marmalade" type chutney/sauce with them by adding tomatoes, fish sauce, sugar and soy sauce to taste.
Alternatively you can try Marcello Tully's spicy Szechuan black bean sauce to serve with the duck. Marcello also has a fruity passion fruit and star anise sauce that expertly brings out the gamey flavours of the duck very well.
Whatever you serve it with, duck is a bird to be enjoyed not feared with it comes to roasting. It's easy for a Sunday roast or a special mid week dinner & you certainly won't have to add a hairdryer to your list of kitchen utensils.
Visit our collection for more delicious duck recipes there's also tips from Gressingham for cooking duck breast and a short video on jointing a duck for those who'd prefer to cook their duck in smaller portions.
What are your tips for roasting duck & getting a crispy skin? How do you like to serve it, with pancakes, veg, rice or noodles? Let us know here or over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.