How To Cook Duck

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Published by: Chef Braam Botha • Updated: November 21, 2023 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

Cooking a duck might seem like a big step, especially if you’ve never done it before. But experts say it’s actually easier to cook the bird as a whole. And we all know it’s a great item whether you want to impress your dinner party guests or just want a Christmas treat.

There’s very little to know about technique when cooking a duck, whether whole or just the legs or breasts. We’ll tell you all about it. Let’s go.

Roasting a whole duck is easy, and you can do it in two ways. You can make the skin dry, known as the Chinese style, or roast the whole bird in an oven like a chicken. The difference is that you must de-fat the duck in the process. If not, it has a greasy taste.

But that’s not tough either.

All you need to do is prick the bird on the surface to take care of the fat. Let’s look into the process.

Roasting Whole Duck

Roasting Whole Duck
How To Cook a Whole Duck
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5 from 1 vote
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOK TIME 3 hours 40 minutes
COURSE Main Course
CALORIES 3087 kcal


  • Oven
  • Skewer or roasting fork
  • Roasting Tray
  • Glass or ceramic dish


  • 1 large Duck
  • Sea salt


  • Step 1: You want to start by heating your oven to 120 degrees C or the fan to 100 degrees C. locate a cavity and pull out excess fat from there.
  • Step 2: You must then score the duck at a criss-cross angle instead of cutting right into its flesh.
  • Step 3: Using a skewer or a roasting fork, you must prick the surface of the entire duck. Make sure the flesh underneath the skin doesn’t get pierced. This is important.
  • Step 4: Rub some sea salt on the surface of the duck and place it on the roasting tray with the breasts on the tray.
  • Step 5: Let the bird roast for three hours but prick it a few times during the process.
  • Step 6: After 2 hours and 30 minutes, you should turn up the oven temperature to 180 degrees C or the fan to 160 degrees C and turn over the duck. Let it roast for the last 30 minutes.
  • Step 7: Take the duck out and let it sit for 10 more minutes. You know the bird is cooked if its leg joints are loose when you wiggle. If that doesn’t happen, you should cook it some more.
  • Step 8: Take the excess fat and place it in a glass or ceramic dish before it cools down.
Chefs Tips
When roasting a whole duck, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure a delicious and successful dish. Here are some tips:
  • Pricking the skin of the duck all over with a fork allows the fat to render out during cooking.
  • Seasoning the inside and outside of the duck with your preferred spices and herbs adds flavor.
  • Basting the duck periodically with its own juices or a glaze to keeps the meat moist and flavourful.
  • It's important to allow the duck rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 3087kcalProtein: 88gFat: 301gSaturated Fat: 101gPolyunsaturated Fat: 39gMonounsaturated Fat: 143gCholesterol: 581mgSodium: 481mgPotassium: 1597mgVitamin A: 1284IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 84mgIron: 18mg
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Cooking Duck Breasts

If you want to cook only the breasts, you should know that there’s a thick layer of fat around them that needs to be melted and removed while cooking. For this, you must leave the breasts out so that they are dry and at room temperature before you cook them.

Score the surface at an angle as instructed before. The idea is to ensure that the fat is closer to a hot pan when it’s cooking. For that, you must place the skin side of the breasts facing the pan when it’s cold and heat it up slowly. This will keep the skin from burning and get the fat out first.

Duck Breasts Recipe

duck breasts recipe
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5 from 1 vote
PREP TIME 25 minutes
COOK TIME 37 minutes
COURSE Main Course
CALORIES 557 kcal



  • 1 knob Butter
  • 2 Duck breasts


  • Step 1: After scoring the duck, you must cut the skin but not the flesh as instructed earlier.
  • Step 2: Season the breasts and leave them outside till they are at room temperature.
  • Step 3: Place the breasts on a cold pan with the skin towards the pan.
  • Step 4: Let the breasts fry for 6 to 7 minutes till the fat melts its way out. This will also make the skin crisp.
  • Step 5: The skin will turn brown in about 10 to 15 minutes and most of the fat will be out as well.
  • Step 6: Take the fat out into an empty dish.
  • Step 7: Flip the breasts and add a knob of butter. Let it swirl in the pan and cook for 5 more minutes. The meat will be brown on both sides.
  • Step 8: Press them lightly to see if they spring back. If yes, the breasts are soft and cooked. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
Chefs Tips
Nutritional Information
Calories: 557kcalCarbohydrates: 0.1gProtein: 90gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 348mgSodium: 259mgPotassium: 1213mgSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 241IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 20mg
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Cooking Duck Legs

If you want to cook just the legs, you must prepare them the night before. But all you really need to do is salt the legs. In this method, you cook the meat on low for the most part because you need to ensure the legs are succulent and don’t become dry. That’s also why you’ll cook them in duck fat.

Of course, you can also cook them in wine or stock for the same effect.

Duck Legs Recipe

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5 from 1 vote
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 40 minutes
COURSE Main Course
CALORIES 749 kcal


  • Roasting tin
  • Oven


  • 2 Duck legs
  • Duck fat or wine or stock
  • Salt


  • Step 1: Remove the fat and place the legs on a roasting tin.
  • Step 2: Place the salted legs in the oven that is heated to 220 degrees C or fan at the same temperature.
  • Step 3: Cook for 15 to 20 minutes till the side is brown.
  • Step 4: Flip the meat and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes till the other side is brown as well.
  • Step 5: Turn up the heat to high at the end for each side to make sure the exterior is crisp.
Chefs Tips
  • The skin must be dry for it to become crisp when it is cooked, which means you will need to prep it the night before.
  • When you’re cooking in the fat, make sure it is hot and doesn’t mix with any other liquid.
  • You can use leftover fat to roast other vegetables like potatoes but use it within 7 days.
  • If you want to store the fat longer, you must remove the juices and reheat it till it turns to liquid. Freeze it into cubes and use it.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 749kcalProtein: 92gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 393mgSodium: 380mgVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 7mg
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @my_home_selection!


Should You Cover A Duck When Roasting?

This isn’t mandatory, but it sure helps to cover it during the first two hours. During the last 30 to 40 minutes, you should remove the foil.

What Should You Soak Your Duck Meat In Before Cooking It?

Like other waterfowl, you can soak the duck in a saltwater solution (brine) for more flavour and less gamey taste.

Asian chef slicing a roasted duck

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Chef Braam Botha