Duck – Beak to Foot

Nose to tail cooking is not just trendy; it is ancient. Today, this is treated as an innovative and resourceful concept. But over centuries, it has been survival! It is thrifty. And it is respect for the animal.

Today, I have duck. It came from the market, sans head and feet, and not a bit will be wasted.

If you like, you can certainly roast a whole duck. Done and done. Or you can spend the day Julia-Child style and create an elaborate Pâté de Canard en Croûte. Here is a link to Smithosian’s site to show you how. 

But if you prefer to get many, and varied, meals out of one duck, break it down.

If you have never fabricated a duck before, here is a very good, and brief, little video from Jacob Burton. He is very technical in his butchery. But if you have ever butchered a chicken, you probably can easily find your way around a duck too.


Now you have pieces… What to do!

The Breast

My favorite way to eat duck breast is a simple pan sear. This is a piece of cake… in fact, easier than making a piece of cake.  The key is to render out the fat under the skin, leaving the skin nice and crispy. Duck breast is best at about a medium-rare. This meat is somewhat “beefy” and very tender.  Click here for simple instructions.


The Fat

Don’t waste even one tiny little bit of fat! This stuff is GOLD! This fat is highly valued for its flavor. It can keep duck meat from spoilage for months! And there are also great claims as to its health benefits.

For an easy method and more information, click here How To Render Duck Fat.


The Skin

Crispy crunchy salty arguably-better-than-bacon cracklins. After you have rendered all the fat you can get from the skin, go ahead and turn up the heat and deep fry these skin pieces in the duck fat. When they are golden brown, strain off the fat, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy!

Here is a link for more information – Crispy Duck Skin Cracklins.


The Legs and Thighs

One word… confit. Succulent, falling off the bone, slow-cooked to intensify flavor. maybe you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about this.

This is, of course, not the only thing you can do with legs and thighs, but it is the quintessential preparation. Once you have confit, you have a succulent addition to a salad, or you can make rillette. Serious YUM!

My recipes simplify these techniques and foods so it is easier and quicker to get them on the table… I am a very busy Mom…

Any recipe with…
“With duck submerged in fat, cover and cook at 275° until the meat is very tender and pulls easily from the bone.”
…is a keeper.
Click on this link for succulent Duck Confit.


Dem Bones

Stock! Duck stock is very flavorful and great to have on hand.

You can prepare a duck stock in the same way that you prepare your chicken stock. Place all bones into your stock pot with root vegetables. Carrots (1 or 2), celery (1 or 2 ribs), and garlic (3-4, we like garlic) impart a lot of flavor and nutrition. Wash your carrots and celery, peeling is not necessary and will waste nutrition. Garlic can just be smashed. If you like onion, add one! (sometimes I feed the scraps and carrots to my little dog, so I leave the onion out)

Always add a bay leaf or kombu, as this will make the nutrition in the stock more bioavailable. And they add flavor. I like to throw in a little thyme for flavor, and parsley for digestion. You can add salt and other seasonings, if desired. I keep my stock simple so I can use it for anything.

Add water to cover everything. Bring to boil, then immediately reduce to simmer. Simmer for at least an hour. I usually let it go for two or three hours.

Over a large heat-proof bowl. strain out the liquid. Cool. Refrigerate. The fat will rise to the top when it is chilled and you can scrape off the fat. Freeze in batches. Use for soups, stews, gravies, sauces, all kinds of things! No more buying stock in a box with all the added salt and unwanted ingredients.

If you can salvage any scraps, all the better!



You may end up with a collection of little scraps and nuggets, especially after making broth. Don’t throw those our either! You can make a hash with sweet potatoes and a poached egg, or something like this Korean style BBQ. Yum!


The Organ Meat – Offal

In my house, this gets floured and fried. My son likes it this way, so pretty much this happens, and they are gone as soon as I have finished breaking down the duck and before I can take a photo for my blog.

If you can eat dairy, soak the offal in buttermilk to remove some mineralness and impurities. Then do whatever else with it that you would like! Terrines, mousse, pate,  are all great options. or chop and saute with onion. Put it in a ravioli or spread it on bread.

Here is a pate with chicken liver that would be just as delicious with duck offal.


The Head

Truth be told, I have never been as adventurous as this. I am not a hunter and have never had a duck head in my kitchen. But it is done! I am thinking… maybe a roasted method and a tangy sweet sauce would be good. Duck heads are frequently used in Asian dishes. Here is a beautiful image from girl eats world.


The Feet

If you throw the feet in with the bones for broth, they will add a lot of gelatin. But you can also make the feet shine on their own.


  • remove any yellow outer skin that is present before cooking
  • the feet should be scalded to remove outer scaly skin
  • duck feet are often fried with scallions and ginger, then simmered for hours to make them tender; they need a slow cooking time
  • their broth contains a lot gel



Photo credit: Dia Darcey

Featured Image is from Sherman’s Food Adventure.



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