Welcome to the first post in a week-long series on duck. Today, I am going to show you how to breakdown a whole duck, render down the excess skin and fat and make confit with that fat and the leg-thigh portion of the duck.
The picture above is the duck completely broken down. Check out the video below for instructions. Starting at the top left, going clockwise, the portions and their uses are as follows. The wing drumettes and leg-thigh portions get made into confit. Two breasts will get seared and served with duck fat potatoes. The excess skin and fat get rendered down, making cracklings for salad garnish. The fat makes the confit and duck fat potatoes. The carcass, wingtips, and neck bone will be made into ramen. This one duck makes four different meals with zero waste!
To make the cracklings and the rendered fat, take all the skin and fat trimmings and cut them into one to two inch pieces. Put the pieces in a pot with 1/4 cup of water. Place the pot on the stove and heat one or two notches above low. Think of this process as cooking bacon. To make the skin crispy all of the fat needs to be slowly cooked out. Rendering fat can take up to four hours. Stir the pot frequently to prevent the skins from sticking to the bottom and burning. The water in the pan will evaporate over time, leaving nothing but pure “liquid gold” fat. When the skin is crispy, remove the pan from the heat, and strain off the fat. The amount of fat rendered will vary. I ended up with one cup of fat.
To make the duck confit, cure the duck for 6-8 hours with a salt-spice mixture. Leaving the duck in the cure longer will result in a saltier finished product, but otherwise won’t harm the meat. Rinse the salt from the duck and pat dry. Place the cured duck in a pot and cover completely with duck fat. If you did not get enough fat from rendering the skin, add enough butter to make up the difference. Heat the duck over low heat. The pot should never simmer, but a bubble may pop up every now and then. Cook the duck until the meat is falling off the bone. If planning to use the meat right away, remove the duck from the fat, cool, and pull the meat off the bones. Strain the fat, cool, and refrigerate. The fat can be stored, in the refrigerator or the freezer, indefinitely. When the fat becomes solid, there may be a jelly layer on the bottom. This duck jelly can be used in stocks and sauces, just be aware that it may be salty. If you would like to store the duck for future use, cool the duck in the fat and refrigerate. The duck will stay fresh for at least two weeks if it is completely covered with fat.
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 duck leg-thigh portions
- 2 duck wing drumettes
- duck fat enough to cover
- Mix together salt, sugar, and pepper. Sprinkle a layer of the mixture in a nonreactive container. Place half the thyme on the mixture. Coat the the duck in the mixture and place on top of the thyme. Add the remaining thyme and pour the rest of the salt mix over the duck. Refrigerate 6-8 hours.
- Rinse the duck and pat dry. Place the duck in a pan and cover with duck fat. Heat over low-medium low heat for about 3 hours or until the duck is fall apart tender. Pull the meat from the bones to use immediately or cool and refrigerate in the fat for later use.