How Duck Became My Kids' Favorite Food

Part 1

I love duck so much. If I had to choose a favorite meat, it would probably be duck.  

But would you believe my 5 and 7 year olds love duck even more than I do?

That hasn't always been the case. They used to like duck well enough but, as I changed how I cook duck, our children's favorite meat also changed. From "bacon" to "duck"!

So, if my children now choose duck over bacon, why does duck have a bad rap for being too greasy, too tough and too hard to cook?

Because sometimes duck really is all those thing. But folks, it doesn't have to be!

At Lyndaker Farms, we've learned 2 key cooking techniques - one for duck breasts and one for duck legs, thighs and wings - that will produce delicious, tender, not greasy duck - every time.

In this post we'll show you Duck Confit - The Farmer's Hack. It's a simplified version of the French classic. Rather than taking months, you can produce very similar results in just an afternoon. 

In Part 2, I'll cover how to make the perfect grilled duck breast in just 8 minutes. 

But before we dive into the recipes, let's first  the common complaints about duck. 

1. duck IS greasy

Ducks have extremely fatty skin.

It's one of life's deep truths. Accept it. 

Here's how to make that fatty skin your new best friend: 

Choose Pastured Duck

Fat from pastured ducks renders light, flavorful cooking fat that's liquid at room temperature - just like healthy fats should be. Pastured duck fat performs somewhat like coconut oil - it feels, acts and tastes light. Used correctly, pastured duck fat will not make your food greasy. 

In comparison, ducks raised in confinement render heavier fat - like crisco. Not only is the fat difficult to thoroughly render, it also makes food feel "heavy." 

Most ducks currently available are raised in confinement. Which means most folks have only ever had the heavier "crisco" version of duck fat.  No wonder people think of duck as "greasy."

Lyndaker Farms' flock of ducks on pasture, enjoying the shade.

Be sure to completely render the fat. 

If the duck fat isn't thoroughly rendered, the meat will seem fatty. Imagine eating a piece of under-cooked bacon. 

Conversely, once the fat is fully rendered, you're left with deliciously crispy skin. Just like the skin on a good piece of fried chicken. Yum!

Our recipe Duck Confit - The Farmer's Hack, renders the duck fat completely, leaving tender meat & crispy skin.

2. Duck is tough 

Duck is a red meat. When I stopped cooking duck like chicken and started cooking it more like beef, it changed EVERYTHING.

Which is why it's helpful to understand how duck parts correlate to beef cuts. 

Duck breast - like filet mignon - is extremely tender, cooks very quickly and is best eaten on the rare side. 

Duck legs, thighs - like brisket cuts - are intensely flavorful and should to be well-cooked in wet heat to achieve fall-off-the-bone yumminess. 

Adopt this mindset and watch your toughness issues will melt away.

3. Duck is hard to cook

If you're trying to cook every piece of duck using the same techniques, it IS hard to cook. For example, I have tried pan frying duck legs. It worked but was fussy, took a LONG time and the result was only slightly better than mediocre.

However, if you use cooking approaches tailor made for the specific parts, cooking duck becomes a breeze.

We've already said that duck legs, thighs and wings, work best cooked in slow, wet heat. In our Duck Confit recipe, you'll learn poach these pieces in their own rendered fat. This will give you incredibly tender meat. We'll then show you how to crisp the skin at the end of the poaching process. 

In Part 2 of this series, we'll cover duck breast techniques. 

 

So, what STOPS you from cooking duck?

Here's why I ask.

Just last week, a farm store customer asked us great questions about the best ways to prepare duck. It was his questions that inspired me to write this series!

I want this series to answer  YOUR questions too. So in the comments below tell me, did you have a bad experience cooking duck? Is duck hard to find in your area?  Are you worried your family won't like it?

Let me know where you're getting hung up and I will try to help you solve it! 

 

And now....  Duck Confit - The Farmer's Hack.


Want more Recipes from the farm?


Duck Confit - The Farmer's Hack

Confit is a traditional French preparation in which duck parts were rubbed with salt and herbs and then packed in jars of duck fat. This allowed the meat to be stored - without refrigeration - for months.

When it was time to use the Confit, the jars were simply opened and the duck parts browned, producing a deliciously tender duck with crispy skin. 

I have tried the traditional French method - and it really is good. But it also takes months to cure.

In the Farmer's Hack version you simply use fresh duck to achieve essentially that same tender meat and crisp skin. In just one afternoon. No packing in jars. No waiting.

When we eat Duck Confit, I like to serve it with "Tangy Sriracha Maple  Dipping Sauce" on the side. My kids love dipping the tender meat in the tangy sweet sauce.  

Ingredients:

- 6 duck leg quarters or 8-10 duck wings. (or a mix of the 2)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Your choice of fresh herbs

Instructions:

Rub the duck all over with salt and pepper. Use more salt than you think you'll need. This helps in browning and crisping the skin. 

Prick the skin all over with a fork, being careful to prick only the skin, not the meat.

Place fresh herbs of your choice in the baking dish. I typically use oregano, parsley or thyme. 

Place the duck parts in a small baking dish, skin side up. Pieces should all be touching but should not be on top of each other. The small dish is key; it ensures that your legs or wings poach IN the duck fat. You want only the skin, not the meat, exposed to the hot oven air. 

Place the UNCOVERED baking pan in a COLD oven and then turn the oven to 300 degrees. If your oven runs hot, I would go as low as 275. The point is for the duck pieces to cook very slowly.

As the oven warms up, it will start rendering the fat and poaching the meat. This is exactly what you want. 

As the oil renders, it should come at least half-way up the duck pieces. If - after about an hour - there is not enough fat to halfway submerge the pieces, you may add more oil to the pan. I add more duck fat but any neutral-tasting oil works. Just don't add so much oil that the oil covers the skin. 

Continue to bake at 300 (or 275) until duck pieces are very fork tender and skin is starting to brown. For smaller pieces this will take about 2 hours but larger pieces can take 3+.

Once pieces are tender and the skin is starting to brown, turn up the oven to 375 to brown and crisp the skin. This will usually take about 20 minutes but could be more or less. 

Remove the pan from the oven, pull the pieces out of the rendered fat and serve with the Tangy Maple Sriracha Dipping Sauce on the side. 

 

Cook's notes:

This method produces a LOT of excess duck fat. Please, please, please don't throw it out. Strain it and store it in the fridge. Use it the next time you roast potatoes and I guarantee - they will be the best potatoes you've ever had.


Tangy Sriracha Dipping Sauce

Mix together: 

- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- Sriracha sauce to taste - I have young children so only use approx 1-2 tsp. But if you have a spice-loving family you can easily double - or even triple - that amount.

Once you've mixed the above ingredients the sauce is done.

Cook's notes:

If you have time - you can also thicken the sauce on the stove. But if you do, be careful to not let the sauce brown too much - that will ruin its fresh flavor.