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Roast Duck Recipe

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Ever wondered how to cook duck? It’s much simpler than most people think. This Roast Duck has tender and juicy meat, crispy skin, and it’s glazed with the honey-balsamic glaze to give the duck a beautiful roasted look. It’s a great looking dish – perfect for any special occasion, and with the holidays coming up, this duck will work great on any Thanksgiving dinner menu, or as a Christmas dinner idea.  By the way, the honey-balsamic glaze in this recipe DOES NOT MAKE THE DUCK SWEET – I did not want a sweet duck.  It only gives the nice crispiness and beautiful look to the duck skin.  Your duck will have a very savory and juicy flavor from the garlic and lemon that you’ll stuff inside the duck cavity. SO GOOD!

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This recipe has very detailed instructions (with step-by-step photos) on how to prepare and cook the duck – which could be very helpful if you’ve never cooked the duck before.  The duck will be roasted in the oven at 350 F for a total of 3 hours, and in addition to the beautiful duck, you’ll end up with a lot of duck fat which I highly recommend you save and use for roasting vegetables, potatoes, and even cooking your breakfast eggs with it!

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If you want a really beautiful and festive presentation for your holiday duck, use my recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash glazed with Cinnamon & Maple Syrup, with Pecans & Cranberries as garnish for the duck (this is what you see on the photo below).  You can garnish the duck and decorate the serving platter with these colorful veggies – they will have all the holiday colors and flavors and will look very pretty with duck:

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Step-by-step photos and instructions start here (the complete recipe without photos is at the bottom of this post).  I recommend that you read and look through these photos and then scroll down to the recipe box itself for more condensed version of the recipe (without photos).

If using frozen duck, make sure it’s completely defrosted (defrosted in the refrigerator for a couple of days).   Remove the giblets from inside the duck. Rinse the duck, inside and outside, with cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels:

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Set the duck on the working surface.  Score the duck’s skin on the breast side in a diamond pattern, making sure you only cut the skin, without reaching the meat.  The 2 deep cuts to the right of the photos is the example of how NOT TO SCORE, but it’s still OK, as I did not cut through the meat but did reach the meat in those 2 cuts on the right:

scoring the duck's skin, how to make the best duck

The duck breast should be scored in a diamond pattern:

score the duck breast in a diamond pattern

This is what the duck should look like, breast side up, scored (see 2 deep scores on the right – try not to do that but it’s OK as long as you don’t cut into the meat itself):

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Poke the other fatty parts of the duck with the tip of the knife all over, to ensure fat release, especially in very fatty parts.  You don’t need to poke the duck legs as the skin is pretty thin there (except for where the duck legs connect to the duck body).

poke the duck's skin

Season the duck very generously with salt both inside the cavity of the duck and outside on the skin, legs, all over.

generously salt the duck

Put 5 chopped garlic cloves and lemon slices inside the duck cavity (these are just for flavor, not for eating – you will discard them after cooking).

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The duck will have flapping skin on both ends – fold that skin inwards, to hold the garlic and lemon inside.

Tie the duck legs with butcher’s twine or butcher’s string (or, in my case, I just used folded aluminum foil to tie up the duck legs, because I forgot to get butcher’s twine):

Tie the duck legs with butcher’s twine or butcher's string

Place the bird breast side up on a large roasting pan with a rack (roasting pan should have a roasting rack to lift the duck from the bottom of the pan and allow the fat to drip below the duck).

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You will be roasting the duck for a total of 3 hours at 350 F.  These 3 hours of roasting are divided into 4 distinctive time chunks (1 hour breast side up + 40 minutes breast side down + 40 minutes breast side up brushed with balsamic-lemon mixture + 40 minutes breast side up brushed with honey-balsamic mixture).

  1. Roast the duck for 1 hour at 350 F, breast side up, then remove the duck from the oven, it should look like this after the first 1 hour of roasting:

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2.  Then, flip the duck breast side down, and roast for 40 minutes at 350 F breast side down.  The duck should look like this – it’s breast side down on this picture:

roast duck recipe

3.  In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar with the freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon.  Set the duck breast side up again on the roasting rack in the roasting pan.  Brush all of the duck with the balsamic mixture (especially the scored duck breast) and cook the duck breast side up for another 40 minutes at 350 F, brushing every 10 minutes with the mixture.

4.  Now, in a separate small bowl, combine 1/4 cup honey and 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar lemon mixture that you will have left over from the previous step.  Brush the breast side of the duck with this honey-balsamic mixture, and roast the duck breast side up for another 40 minutes, brushing the duck breast side every 10 minutes with honey balsamic mixture. You can even carefully broil the duck for the last 10-15 minutes if you like (do it carefully, checking the duck regularly to make sure it doesn’t char too much).

The duck will really start to brown. In the end, the duck should be nicely browned with crispy skin like that (By now you would’ve cooked the duck for 3 hours at 350 F. ):

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Untie the legs:

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If you want a really beautiful and festive presentation for your holiday duck, use my recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash glazed with Cinnamon & Maple Syrup, with Pecans & Cranberries.  You can garnish the duck and decorate the serving platter with these colorful veggies – they will have all the holiday colors and flavors and will look very pretty with duck:

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Roast Duck Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 1 whole duck

Roast Duck Recipe

Ingredients

    Duck
  • 6 lb whole Pekin duck
  • salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lemon (small or medium), chopped
  • Glaze
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup honey

Instructions

  1. If you purchased frozen duck, make sure to defrost the frozen duck in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Once the duck is completely defrosted (in the refrigerator), take the duck out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring it more or less to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will be roasting the duck for a total of 3 hours (3 hours will be divided into 4 time chunks where you will be flipping the duck, brushing it with glaze, etc. - see the instructions below).
  3. Prepare the duck:
  4. Remove the giblets from inside the duck. Rinse the duck, inside and outside, with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Set the duck on the working surface. Score the duck's skin on the breast in a diamond pattern, making sure you only cut the skin, without reaching the meat. Poke the other fatty parts of the duck with the tip of the knife all over, to ensure fat release, especially in very fatty parts. You don’t need to poke the duck legs as the skin is pretty thin there (except for where the duck legs connect to the duck body). Season the duck very generously with salt both inside the cavity of the duck and outside on the skin, legs, all over. Place the duck breast side up.
  6. Put 5 chopped garlic cloves and lemon slices inside the duck cavity (these are just for flavor, not for eating - you will discard them after cooking). The duck will have flapping skin on both ends - fold that skin inwards, to hold the garlic and lemon inside. Tie up the duck legs with butcher's twine.
  7. Roast the duck for 3 hours in 4 distinctive steps:
  8. Place the bird breast side up on a large roasting pan with a rack (roasting pan should have a roasting rack to lift the duck from the bottom of the pan and allow the fat to drip below the duck). Roast the duck, breast side up, for 1 hour at 350 F.
  9. After 1 hour of roasting, flip the duck on its breast and roast it breast side down (roast the other side) for 40 minutes, at 350 F.
  10. Remove the roasting pan with the duck from the oven (you now have roasted the duck for 1 hour + 40 minutes), carefully remove the duck to a platter (making sure the lemons and garlic from the cavity do not fall out - keep the skin on both ends of the duck folded), and carefully pour off all the duck fat juices from the roasting pan into a large heat-proof bowl or container.
  11. Flip the duck breast side up again on a rack in a roasting pan (the pan will have no fat juices now). In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar with the freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon. Brush all of the duck with the balsamic mixture (especially the scored duck breast) and cook the duck breast side up for another 40 minutes at 350 F, brushing every 10 minutes with the mixture.
  12. Now, in a separate small bowl, combine 1/4 cup honey and 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar lemon mixture that you will have left over from the previous step. Brush the breast side of the duck with this honey-balsamic mixture, and roast for another 40 minutes, brushing the duck breast side every 10 minutes with honey balsamic mixture. You can even carefully broil the duck for the last 10-15 minutes if you like (do it carefully, checking the duck regularly to make sure it doesn't char too much).
  13. After the duck is cooked, remove it from the oven, let duck stand for 15 minutes. Then, carefully remove and discard the lemon from the cavity (being careful not to get burned). Carve the duck and serve!
  14. TOTAL COOKING TIME: The duck should be roasted for a total of 3 hours at 350 F. These 3 hours of roasting are divided into 4 distinctive time chunks (1 hour breast side up + 40 minutes breast side down + 40 minutes breast side up brushed with balsamic-lemon mixture + 40 minutes breast side up brushed with honey-balsamic mixture).
http://juliasalbum.com/2015/10/how-to-cook-duck/

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef October 29, 2015, 11:37 pm

    My father-in-law is nearly 95 and his all-time favorite food is duck. I bought a lovely duck and wondered what to do with it. One peek at this post and Rob is going to be in duck heaven tonight!

    • Beverly November 19, 2016, 7:45 pm

      Awesome recipe. The duck turned out moist, and tender, we followed the recipe exactly, Yummy. The duck looked exactly like your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

      • Julia December 20, 2016, 4:36 pm

        Thank you – I am glad you liked it!

  • Daniela November 2, 2015, 7:41 pm

    This duck looks amazing , perfectly golden browned and so inviting.
    I didn’t prepare duck since a long time, your recipe inspired me. Thanks so much for sharing, Julia!

  • Nancy G January 30, 2016, 7:56 pm

    Just made your duck recipe. It was so good! Your pictures and helpful hints were fantastic. Can’t thank you enough!

  • Annie March 31, 2016, 4:11 pm

    I’m making this tonight for dinner. I’m putting the duck into the oven at 5. I’ll let you know how it comes out. I can’t wait to try it. Your recipes looks so good!

  • Sivan May 13, 2016, 10:47 am

    Yea… This did not work for me… lol, mostly my fault, I don’t have a roasting pan…. well, we will see how it tastes soon….

  • Robin July 10, 2016, 8:37 am

    I made this and it was so delicious and juicy!! Hubby loved it. Was very easy to follow and will be making duck more often! Thank you Julia for sharing!

    • Julia July 15, 2016, 11:57 am

      Robin, thank you! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! 🙂

  • Rebecca September 9, 2016, 4:03 pm

    I’m preparing this tonight but my duck is only 3.5 lbs (it’s one of our own we butchered). How should I adjust the cooking time?

  • bridget November 4, 2016, 12:42 pm

    Have you ever replaced the lemon with fresh orange and orange juice for the the glaze? Orange is traditionally pared with duck so I’m wondering if it would go well in this recipe?

    • Julia December 20, 2016, 5:52 pm

      I am sure orange will go beautifully with duck in this recipe, whether in a glaze form or as a sauce!

  • Crystal November 25, 2016, 1:55 pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving. Perfect recipe. Duck tastes great.

    • Julia December 17, 2016, 8:16 pm

      Thank you, Crystal, so happy to hear you made this for Thanksgiving!

  • Greg November 26, 2016, 12:49 pm

    Made this recipe as directed and the product was amazing. I had a substantial amount of the balsamic mixture left (before adding the honey in step 10), so perhaps I was a bit light when brushing it on, but the results were delicious. Note: I did two 5.25 lbs ducks side by side, and the cook time was slightly less than directly here.

    • Julia December 17, 2016, 8:15 pm

      Thank you, Greg, for taking your time to leave feedback here. I am so glad you liked the recipe! Yes, the cooking time might vary depending on individual ovens.

  • Natalie December 25, 2016, 8:04 pm

    Oh my. I just made this for our Christmas dinner. My kids were extremely skeptical about having duck.
    It. Was. Amazing!!!! Thank you for sharing your recipe. The kids want it again. So therefore, success!!!!

    • Julia January 2, 2017, 11:42 pm

      Natalie, so glad to hear that your family (including the kids) enjoyed the duck! 🙂

  • Amy Sobina December 28, 2016, 7:35 pm

    Hello!
    I’m making this for New Years Day for my inlaws. I’ve ordered two fresh ducks from a local farm. Should I prepare them side by side in the same pan or in separate pans. Also, will I need to adjust the cooking time? Can’t wait to try this! Thanks in advance!

    • Julia January 2, 2017, 11:29 pm

      Amy, sorry for the late response. Yes, you can roast 2 ducks side by side in the same pan if it is large enough. That’s what I did this Thanksgiving – I roasted 2 fresh ducks in the same pan, side by side (the ducks where not touching each other). The cooking times were the same as with the single duck.

  • mary-ellen Coutu January 1, 2017, 10:27 am

    Well i never cooked duck, going to try this let you know how it turns out. Happy New Year

    • Julia January 2, 2017, 11:17 pm

      Happy New Year! I hope you like it! I just cooked it again for New Year’s Eve, too!

  • Jeanne Marie January 9, 2017, 1:15 pm

    We made this recipe a few days ago. It was wonderful. The only differences were that we added an orange inside the duck as well, and we did not cook the sprouts (because we all hate them), but we did do the squash with dried cherries and pecans. It was a fabulous meal. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Julia January 31, 2017, 1:03 pm

      Thank you, Jeanne Marie, for stopping by and leaving your comment! Orange provides such a nice flavor to duck, I am sure your duck came out pretty delicious! I am glad you liked the recipe! 🙂

  • nicolas hakim January 25, 2017, 4:01 am

    Unfortunately I tried this and after making this recipe it didn’t taste very good at all.

  • Lindsay March 22, 2017, 10:32 am

    Thank you for this clear and thorough tutorial with photographs! I will be trying your recipe this weekend. It will be my first time cooking duck. Just an FYI, this is THE BEST tutorial I have found after searching for days online and reading about 40 different ones (including Martha Stewart’s!) I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

    • Julia March 29, 2017, 12:45 am

      Thank you, Lindsay! I hope you enjoyed the duck! 🙂

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