The Rack Technique For Tastier Roast Duck

A whole roasted duck benefits gloriously from sitting on a simple wire rack placed inside a deep-sided roasting tray. Not only will the rack provide a surface for the duck to sit on, but it will allow the bird to cook evenly and develop a wonderfully crispy skin.

The myth (and truth) of duck is that it is a greasy bird. While duck is loaded with fat, that doesn't mean that you have to end up with a fatty fowl that tastes like liver. This is where the wire rack comes in. When a duck roasts, its fat will render. Without the rack, the duck sits directly in that fat, making it potentially overly greasy and preventing its underside from becoming crispy. With a wire rack, the duck stays off the bottom of the tray, allowing the fat to drip down into the pan below and not reabsorb into the meat. 

The other benefit of having a wire rack is that it will allow the heat of the oven to circulate around the duck, better penetrating the bird and roasting it more evenly. But lest you think this technique is as simple as throwing the bird in the oven, as with roasted goose, roasting a duck is a little more involved.

Flipping the duck

To hone your rack technique, you must flip your duck. You can do this up to three times, or just once, but the idea is to allow most of the fat to render out of the breast into the pan. This works well for larger ducks with more fat. However, you don't want all of that fat to drain into the pan. You still want some of it for basting the meat and crisping the breast skin, which is why you will need to flip the duck back upright to finish it. 

Here's a general rule: For the first 40 minutes of the roast, cook the duck breast side down. Don't worry about the breast sticking to the wire rack because the rendering fat will lubricate the grate and keep the skin from sticking. The final half of the roast can be breast side up. The skin will get crispy, and the meat will roast evenly.

There are other ways to ensure the perfectly crispy roasted duck, but the beauty of adding the tray is that it will allow you to render just enough fat to get the great flavor you want without drying out the meat.