Ask Chef Boy Ari
Goodnight, and Good Duck
Q: Hey Chef Boy,
Have you ever smoked a whole duck? What kind of brine would you soak it in? How long should one smoke a full bird? Is there any way to avoid an overly dry duck?
A: Dear Quack,
Smoking meat is one of the culinary areas in which, contrary to what you may have read before, I like to use a recipe. The successful outcome of a smoking session depends on soaking the meat in a brine with the right level of salt.
For two wild ducks, mix 2 quarts of filtered water, 3/4 cup pickling salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon pickling spice in a big ceramic or glass bowl. Add the birds and put a plate on top to submerge them. If the ducks are big, double the recipe for the brine. Let the birds soak for eight hours or overnight in the fridge. Then remove them from the brine, pat dry, and then air-dry for half an hour.
Thanks to that salty brine, the ducks are already cured. All the smoking does is add flavor. So to cut down the prep time, just cold-smoke the ducks for three to four hours, and then finish them off in the oven at 350°F for about an hour.
If the ducks have their skin on, roast them uncovered. If they’ve been skinned, cover them with a piece of cheesecloth that’s been soaked in butter. That way your bird won’t dry out.
If you’re hot-smoking, skip the oven part and just smoke your duck until it’s done.
A duck smoked like this is typically served cold. But I don’t think duck will ever taste better than when it’s fresh out of the oven or smoker, and eaten with fingers.
Send your food and garden queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.