Recipe Source (Glaze): Crispy Duck with Port Wine Glaze, found on the Kamado Cooking Website, at http://www.zenreich.com/ZenWeb/duckport.htm
We really like duck, especially prepared in our Big Green Egg smoker, but it is sometimes hard to find fresh duck in our area. For some reason, the local supermarkets seem to carry it most often in the fall, and sure enough, last weekend, Jess came home from Whole Foods with a little quacker for Sunday dinner. Sunday morning, we discovered we were going to have more guests for dinner than we anticipated, and we needed to grab another duck. We didn’t feel like driving all the way to Whole Foods, and luckily the local Stop and Shop also had fresh ducks.
If you have ever tried to cook a store-bought duck, you know that ducks must eat too much junk food and play too many video games, because they are really fatty. I understand that wild ducks are much leaner, but since I don’t have a gun, and I wouldn’t eat a duck that might have been swimming in Boston Harbor, we had to go for the store bought ones.
Because ducks are so fatty, it is difficult to find recipes for whole duck. People usually steam them first to render some of the fat off, then chop them into pieces to grill. However, we have a Big Green Egg, and one of its many merits is that it can slow cook virtually anything without drying it out. Therefore, you can cook a whole duck and allow the fat to drip off during cooking, and still end up with a nice moist and tasty result. Therefore, I ignored the preparation instructions associated with the recipes I found, and looked for a good way to flavor the duck. The port wine glaze from this recipe looked simple to prepare and tasty, and we had a bottle of cheap port on hand for cooking, so I decided to try it out. The recipe didn’t call for any other flavoring, but I added a simple kosher salt and black pepper rub to add some additional complexity to the flavor.
The ducks came out really well, with a nice smoke flavor, and a sweet contrast from the port. The port glaze also gave the ducks a great color. However, we experienced an interesting result in cooking them. We carved the smaller duck, which came from Whole Foods first. It still had a thick layer of fat under the skin, and I was really disappointed – I thought I had screwed up somehow. When we carved the larger Stop and Shop duck, all the fat was gone, and the result was exactly what I was expecting. Since we cooked them together, there was no difference in the cooking technique or temperature. For some reason, the Whole Foods duck retained its fat, which is strange, since their meats are usually a lot better than those from the other supermarkets around here. I actually had this happen once before with a different recipe, but since I only cooked one duck, I thought I had done something wrong. Now it seems the issue was with the meat, not the cook. From now on, I’ll be getting my ducks someplace besides Whole Foods.
Duck with Port Wine Glaze (Serves 3 - 4; approx. cost per serving not available)
One duckling – about 5 pounds
Apple wood chips or chunks for smoking
For the glaze:
1 ¼ cups port wine. Note that this doesn’t need to be high quality, unless you plan to split it with the duck
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Basting brush
1) Prepare the duck. Begin by removing the parts that the store so generously leaves in the body cavity. I sometimes save these to grill up for the dog. Wash the duck in cold water.
2) Using a fork or the end of your meat thermometer, liberally poke holes through the skin of the duck and into the fatty layer. Try to avoid poking all the way through the meat. This allows a path for the fat to drip out as the bird cooks.
3) Sprinkle each side of the duck with kosher salt and black pepper.
4) Set up your smoker for cooking. Using my Big Green Egg, I set up for indirect cooking, putting in the plate setter legs up, with a drip pan sitting on the plate setter. I used apple wood chunks to add smoke flavor, and brought the temperature up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
5) Put the ducks on the grate of your smoker. Make sure that they are completely over the drip pan, or you will make a huge mess. I normally cook poultry breast side up, but for duck, I like to cook it breast side down, to allow more of the fat to drip off.
6) While the ducks are smoking, prepare the glaze by combining the ingredients in a saucepan, and reducing over low heat until about 25% is remaining. Set aside.
7) Smoke the meat at 225 degrees for at least 4 hours, or until the internal temperature comes up to about 155 degrees. Your drip pan should be full of duck fat. Jess tells me this is useful for other recipes. Ick. (Note from Fearless Kitchen: it is only useful for other recipes if you use a clean drip pan. If it is the same drip pan you've used for 100 previous cooks, do not recycle the duck fat. And clean your drip pan.)
8) If you are using a Big Green Egg, or another smoker that can raise its temperature quickly, open the vents and raise the temperature up to about 450 degrees. Otherwise, transfer to a gas or charcoal grill to finish the next step.
9) Using a grill-safe basting brush, brush the glaze onto the side of the duck that is facing up.
10) Cook for about 5 minutes at the higher temperature. Flip over, glaze the other side, and cook for 5 minutes more.
11) Remove from the smoker, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving. The internal temperature should be around 165 degrees.