Crispy Roast Duck Recipe

Whether it's roast chicken or roast duck, people crave its crackling skin. It's pretty easy to achieve with a chicken, but a duck has more fat and needs a bit more TLC to get crispy. Ausrine Zygaityte creates delectable and mostly gluten-free recipes on her blog, and she's developed a method that assures a crispy roasted duck, even for a beginner cook.

"I love duck, because it is juicier than chicken," she says, "and you don't even need a sauce." The duck is slow-roasted and then glazed with a magical lemon-honey concoction that burnishes the duck a gorgeous golden mahogany. "I especially prefer this recipe because it is the perfect combination of sweet and sour, which is complemented with incredibly crispy duck skin."

Duck might not be to everyone's taste because of its rich — some say, gamey — flavor. Duck is all dark meat, so if you're a person who eagerly tears into a chicken or turkey drumstick, this recipe is for you. Zygaityte balances the duck's richness with roasted fruits, and by tossing in shallots and baby potatoes, it's basically a sheet-pan dinner

Gather together the ingredients for the crispy roast duck

Zygaityte creates bold flavors to accompany her duck that really make this a special recipe. According to Spoon University, duck is often roasted with fruit, which helps balance the duck's strong taste. Zygaityte uses Bartlett pears (also known as Williams pears), lemons, and fresh figs, which, when in season, are one of the most luscious fruits, and when roasted, their flavor deepens. Shallots and baby potatoes round out the meal.

Most of your attention, though, should go toward the duck. The type of duck you'll find either frozen or fresh in many supermarkets is Pekin duck (also called Long Island duck). According to Saveur, it's inexpensive and can be cooked using several methods. Pekin ducks don't have as much breast meat as their heftier cousins, so for three people — and maybe four, if you stretch it out — look for a duck that's between five and six pounds.

Prepare and roast the potatoes, shallots, and fruit

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the duck out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before preparing it. Zygaityte's recipe also includes a side dish of roasted baby potatoes, shallots, fresh figs, and Bartlett pears. You'll be roasting them first and then reheating them later after the duck has roasted.

Wash and cut the baby potatoes in half. Peel the three shallots and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut three pears in half, and scoop out the cores with a spoon or cut them out with a paring knife. Cut the figs in half vertically from the stem. Brush a roasting pan with canola oil or other oil with a high smoking point, and arrange the potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears.

If you would like a more interesting presentation, spray a baking rack with cooking spray, and insert it into a baking sheet. Arrange the figs and pears on the rack. When roasted, the figs and pears will have "grill" marks left by the rack. Put the pan (or pan and tray) into the oven and roast 30 minutes.

Make the fruit stuffing for the crispy roast duck

Zygaityte makes good use of lemons in her recipe by using the juice for the glaze and also putting them into the stuffing for the duck. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a medium-size microwavable bowl in the microwave. Stir in the juice of one and a half lemons and one tablespoon of honey, and mix until well-combined. Cut up three figs, one or two Bartlett pears (depending on their size), and half of a lemon into eighths, and add them to the butter mixture. Set the bowl aside.

Score the duck's skin, then stuff the duck

Duck is famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for the amount of fat that is rendered when it's roasted. So to make sure that as much of the fat oozes out, which will then help crisp up the skin, the duck needs to be scored. But first, check the duck's skin for any leftover feathers. "If you enjoy eating the crispy skin," Zygaityte told us, "I strongly recommend taking a tweezer and remove [them]."

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the skin in several angled cuts. Take care to not cut too deeply, or you'll cut the meat. Turn the duck 45 degrees, and score the duck again to create a crosshatch pattern. If you see any globules of fat hanging out of the duck cavity, trim them off with kitchen shears. There's more fat in the legs, and Zygaityte recommends scoring them as well and any other areas where you see fat. 

Generously season the duck inside and out with kosher salt and pepper. Make sure to rub the seasoning into the cut skin. Stuff the fruit stuffing into the duck's cavity. Cross the duck's legs, and tie them up with kitchen twine. Zygaityte recommends lining a roasting pan with foil "to make the cleaning process a lot easier." Insert a roasting rack on top of the foil, and lay the duck breast-side up on the rack. Take the potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears out of the oven, and cover with foil.

Roast the duck and make the lemon-honey glaze

Put the duck into the oven, and roast for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 300 degrees, and roast the duck for another 50 minutes. Hereafter, you won't have to do much to the duck but turn it every 30 minutes to ensure even cooking and allow the duck's fat to drain as it's rendered. After the first 50 minutes of roasting, turn the duck breast-side down, and roast 30 minutes. Then turn the duck breast-side up, and roast another 30 minutes. Turn the duck breast-side down, and roast 30 minutes.

While the duck is roasting, you can prepare the glaze. Combine the juice of two lemons, four  tablespoons of honey, and a handful of fresh thyme in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the thyme turns brown. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Lower the heat, and simmer the glaze until it begins to thicken. Take the saucepan off of the heat, and set aside.

Glaze the duck and finish roasting

Turn the duck one last time, breast-side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Your duck should be a beautiful golden color by now, but to get the burnished and crispy skin, it needs a final 15 minutes. Brush the duck all over with the lemon-honey-thyme glaze. Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees, and return the duck to the oven. Roast the duck for 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it, since the honey in the glaze could easily burn. After 15 minutes (or less), take the roasting pan out of the oven, and let the duck rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pop the pan(s) with the potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears back into the oven. The potatoes may need a little more time to be done, so once the shallots, figs, and pears are warmed through, transfer them to a serving platter and tent loosely with foil. 

Carve the crispy roast duck, and serve

Once it's rested, it's time to cut up that duck! It's really not difficult, especially with Zygaityte's easy way of doing it. First, snip off the kitchen twine from the tied legs with kitchen shears. Remove the stuffing, and transfer it to a serving bowl. Holding one leg by the tip, use the shears to cut away the leg from the body. When you feel you've hit bone, bend the drumstick back, and it will pop right out. Repeat with the other drumstick.

Next, use the shears to cut off each wing. And finally, snip down the breast bone and separate the two halves. Now, that couldn't be simpler. Arrange the potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears on plates with portions of duck, and spoon a little stuffing along the side. Enjoy a beautiful wine to complement this magnificent feast for a holiday or any special occasion that calls for an elegant meal.

Crispy Roast Duck Recipe
5 from 60 ratings
This duck is slow-roasted and then glazed with a magical lemon-honey concoction that burnishes the meat a gorgeous golden mahogany.
Prep Time
30
minutes
Cook Time
3.25
hours
Servings
3
servings
crispy roast duck
Total time: 3.75 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) whole duck
  • ½ pound baby potatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • 6 fresh figs
  • 5 Bartlett pears
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 lemons, divided
  • 5 tablespoons honey, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 F.
  2. Take the duck out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before preparing it.
  3. Cut the baby potatoes, the shallots, three figs, and three pears in half. Arrange them on an oiled baking sheet. If you would like the fruit to have grill marks, insert a baking rack into a second baking sheet, and lay the figs and pears on top. Put the tray in the oven and roast 30 minutes while you prepare the duck and fruit stuffing.
  4. Melt the butter, and add it to a mixing bowl. Mix in the juice of 1 ½ lemons and 1 tablespoon of honey.
  5. Cut the remaining figs and pears and half a lemon into eighths, and add them to the lemon-butter mixture.
  6. Using a sharp knife, score the duck's skin in a crosshatch pattern. Avoid cutting into the duck's meat.
  7. Generously season the duck inside and out with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  8. Trim any excess fat around the duck's cavity. Stuff the duck's cavity with the fruit stuffing, then pour in the lemon juice from the bowl.
  9. Criss-cross the duck's legs, and secure with kitchen twine. Place the duck breast-side up on a rack inside of a roasting pan.
  10. Put the duck into the preheated oven, and roast for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees, and roast the duck for 50 minutes.
  11. Turn the duck breast-side down, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the duck breast-side up, and roast 30 minutes. Turn the duck breast-side down, and roast 30 minutes.
  12. While the duck is roasting, combine the juice of 2 lemons, 4 tablespoons of honey, and the fresh thyme in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the thyme turns brown. Remove the thyme, lower the heat, and simmer until thickened.
  13. Turn the duck breast-side down, and roast 30 minutes. Take the duck out of the oven, and brush the breasts with the lemon-honey-thyme glaze.
  14. Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees, and roast the duck a final 15 minutes. Watch the duck carefully so the glaze doesn't burn.
  15. Take the duck out of the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board. Let it rest 15 minutes before carving.
  16. While the duck is resting, put the potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears back in the oven to reheat.
  17. Cut up or carve the duck, and serve with the fruit stuffing, potatoes, shallots, figs, and pears.
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