This is one of those breakthrough recipes everyone needs to know. You can now disregard received wisdom about how to roast a duck and produce a gorgeous one with very little effort. Bonus: you won't be appearing at the dinner table as a grease-stained wench. Your duck slow-roasts all afternoon, releasing its fat into the roasting pan, while the flesh stays moist and succulent under a crisp, mahogany brown skin.
Don't forget to save the duck fat, which is wonderful for cooking potatoes or livening up a winter soup with just a spoonful.
- 1 Pekin (Long Island) duck, wing tips cut off
(not necessary, but more elegant)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1 small handful of thyme sprigs
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a rack in the middle level.
Remove the giblets from the duck; save the giblets and wing tips for stock, if you like. Dry the duck well with paper towels. Remove any loose globs of yellow fat from the two cavities. Rub the large cavity with salt and pepper and the garlic and put the thyme in it. With a small sharp paring knife, make dozens of slits all over the duck, piercing the skin and fat but being careful not to pierce the flesh. The easiest way to do this is to insert the knife on the diagonal, not straight in.
Put the duck breast side up on a rack (a cake cooling rack is fine) set on a jelly-roll pan and put it in the oven. Every hour for 4 hours, take the pan out of the oven, pierce the duck all over with the knife, and turn it over. Each time, pour off the fat in the pan.
After 4 hours, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees (see note). Sprinkle the duck with salt and pepper and cook for about 1 hour longer, or until the skin is crisp and browned. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Instead of carving the duck in the usual way, try sectioning it with heavy kitchen shears: cut it in half along the backbone and then cut each half into 2 pieces. Or use a cleaver and hack it into small pieces, bones and all, to serve Chinese style.
Notes From Our Test Kitchen
- You can serve the duck after it has cooked for 4 hours. It will be juicier than the 5-hour duck, but not as tender.
- Leftovers (probably not possible) are delicious, of course, in stir-fries and duck salads.
Mindy Heiferling suggests taking the duck in a couple of Asian directions. For a Chinese duck, put peeled, chopped fresh ginger, scallions, and garlic in the cavity and brush the duck during the last hour of cooking with a mixture ofhoisin sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and a little honey. For a Thai duck, put chopped fresh lemongrass, fresh cilantro, and garlic in the cavity and brush during the last hour with a mix of Thai curry paste, unsweetened coconut milk, and lime juice.