Roast Wild Duck (Teal)

Did you know that the only way you can get a hold of wild duck in this country is by shooting it yourself, or having extraordinarily generous hunter friends who share their bounty? It’s the law. Certain migratory birds can be hunted in season, but not sold. We were the lucky recipients of some teal ducks recently from our hunting friends Hank and Holly. I’ve never eaten, let alone cooked wild duck, and let me tell you, it is an entirely different experience than working with ducks from the grocery store. What follows is a loose recipe and several notes on cooking wild duck, for my own benefit so I remember the next time, as well as for anyone else out there who may have the opportunity to cook wild duck. And for any of you who happened to be seasoned duck hunters, please feel free to offer cooking suggestions in the comments.

The first thing to note is that wild ducks aren’t like chickens or turkey that you have to cook until 170°F. Wild duck is best eaten rare. The juices run red, not clear, more like a beautiful juicy red steak. The meat itself is a deep garnet red. It is easy to overcook the meat, like overcooking a pork tenderloin. Except when you overcook duck, the meat tastes game-y, like liver.

The taste of wild duck is highly dependent on where that duck has been feeding. According to the Joy of Cooking, shallow water ducks feeding on local grains, like mallards, widgeons, and teal, can be very succulent, while diving ducks feed on fish, affecting their flavor. Wild ducks are much more flavorful than domesticated ducks, as their muscles are getting a constant work-out, which is also why their flesh is so red. The taste is closer to steak than to chicken.

I experimented with two recipes, one with rosemary in the cavity and a sherry cream sauce, and the other with orange rind in the cavity and an orange juice reduction sauce. We all agreed that the rosemary recipe was great and the orange recipe wasn’t worth repeating. So, here is the recipe we liked, note that there are no set amounts, this recipe is more of a loose guideline than anything else.

Roast Wild Duck (Teal) Recipe

Ingredients

  • Wild (not domesticated) whole duck(s), prepped (gutted, head and feet removed, plucked clean of feathers, shot and any bruised areas removed)
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Rosemary
  • Onion
  • Apple
  • Whole Cloves
  • Dry Sherry
  • Cream

Method

1 Preheat oven to 450°F. Inspect duck to see if there are any remaining pin feathers, if so, remove them. Rinse the duck with water. Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Lightly stuff duck with a sprig of rosemary, an apple slice with a few cloves poked in them to hold them in place, and a small wedge of onion.

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2 Slather the duck inside and out with olive oil. Generously sprinkle all sides of the duck with coarse salt. Lay, breast up, on a roast rack in a roasting pan. Place in the middle rack of the oven. Immediately lower the heat to 425°F.

Cooking times depend on the variety of the duck. Teal ducks typically weigh less than a pound and cook in 10-15 minutes. According to the Joy of Cooking a mallard can take up to 25 minutes. Our duck was perfectly done at 13 minutes. Another duck we cooked for 17 minutes was slightly overdone. Meat thermometers are hardly useful with the small fowl because there isn't enough flesh to put the thermometer into. But if you have an instant read thermometer and can get a good read, my pal Hank suggests cooking until the duck reaches an internal temp of 135°F. If you error on the rare and underdone side, you can always put the bird back in the oven for a few more minutes if it isn't done enough.

If you aren't using a meat thermometer, to test for doneness you can take the bird out of the oven and cut a part of it with the tip of a sharp knife. Note that the juices will run red, and the meat will be quite red. You want the meat to be rare (wild duck only); it should look like a rare (not raw) steak. The more the meat is cooked beyond the rare stage, the more "livery" or gamey it will taste.

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3 Remove the duck from the oven and remove to a separate rack or plate to rest, breast side down, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the stuffing in the cavity before serving.

4 While the duck is resting, if there are drippings in the roasting pan, pour off the excess fat (save this wonderful fat for another recipe). Place the roasting pan on the stovetop, heat to medium, and deglaze with a little dry sherry or white wine. Scrape up the browned bits with a metal spatula. Use a metal whisk to break up the bits even further into the wine. Reduce and then add a little cream, (and a few juniper berries if you want an extra touch). Pour off into a gravy serving dish or little bowl.

Serve ducks with wild rice and gravy. Teal ducks are single serving ducks.

Note that you can get excellent stock from the duck carcass. Put the duck carcasses in a saucepan, cover with an inch of cold water, bring to a simmer, lower the heat to barely-a-bubble-simmer covered, and cook for 3 hours. Then strain the stock to a glass jar, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Use the duck stock in place of chicken stock for recipes.

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Many thanks to Hank of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and Holly of NorCal Cazadora for the wonderful and delicious gift of these ducks.

Links:
A Meal of Teal - Hanks notes on preparing teal
Roast duck or goose - basic roast wild fowl recipe, also from Hank

32 Comments

  1. Hank

    I’m Hank Shaw and I approve of that recipe! (can you tell it’s election season?) You can never go wrong with a sherry cream sauce. Glad you liked the teal, Elise. They will not be the last…

  2. Elise

    Oh, music to my ears…

    ;-)

  3. Amy

    I am so jealous! I’m always on the prowl for some fresh wild game (I just had antelope the other night), and you’ve got something that sounds utterly succulent and unique. I need to get myself some hunter friends…

    Antelope? Garrett has some antelope right now that he’s dreaming of ways to cook up. Have any suggestions for him? ~Elise

  4. joanne

    Well that explains why I was so disappointed with wild duck. I was given several wild duck breasts from a hunter friend. I marinated and grilled it, but I was working on the same rules as domesticated birds. Goodness, they were dry and tough. This was 10 years ago, and I have shied away wild birds since. Time to get back on the horse.

  5. Mercedes

    At a dinner party once we were served wild duck- it was only after my mom bit into the buckshot that we realized wild duck meant it was killed by our host!
    In my (limited) experience, wild duck are very lean, and the tougher meat can benefit from braising, though you have to use a delicate hand.

  6. Sarah

    We always roasted wild duck stuffed with apples and onions, and with a couple strips of bacon laid over the breasts since wild duck tends to have very little fat. Served with crabapple jelly, yum.

  7. Belinda

    Elise, I could kiss you for this. Alex and I (yes, *I* am going too, though I can’t hit the broad side of a barn) are going back out to the “duck woods” this weekend, and we already have a plentiful stock of mallard breasts on hand.

    We’ve been breasting them, since there seems to be so very LITTLE meat on the rest of the bird, hardly worth the trouble of dressing them out. I’m re-thinking that now. Hmmmm.

    Do you have any notes on preparing boneless, skinless breast of wild duck? Alex filleted them beautifully, and he’s really a great shot, so there was zero buckshot in the meat. They’ve been soaked in slightly briny water (soaking for a few hours, then changing the water, repeating until the water stays clear) and then vacuum-sealed.

    Personally, *I* don’t really like (even recently from a 5-star restaurant, where they prepared it to my taste, for which I was grateful) rare duck, but then I don’t like any meat rare, even beef.

    I wish you were local–we would fill your freezer!

  8. Wanda

    I agree Sarah, we have always put rashers of bacon over the breasts. However, next time I cook wild duck (hubby is a hunter) I will simply cook it following your recipe Elise.

    Like the idea of serving with wild rice we usually have baked veges.

  9. jonathan

    My suggestion for Garrett’s antelope?

    Antelope & Bacon Ice Cream.

    It could work.

    Anyway…if you remove the head, feet and feathers from the wild duck prior to cooking and serving it, what will the kids fight over? ;)

  10. Liz

    I don’t know who you are Jonathan, but your comments always crack me up. I too am a bacon lover, but I’m not sure *anyone* is in your league! :)

  11. katy

    Ha! I looked at the title for this recipe, and was like, “wow, wild duck, I’ve never even seen that on a restaurant menu” — but then I read the rest of your post, and that makes sense! that duck looks so amazing — duck is pretty much the only meat that makes me wish I wasn’t a vegetarian. yum!

  12. Hank

    Hey all,

    The ducks I gave Elise are from Northern California, which is a wintering ground – as is the Mississippi Delta. So what? That means most of our ducks are fat and lovely, thus no bacon rashers are needed. Occasionally I will get a skinny duck (wigeon are notorious for this) and then I use the bacon, or I’ll slather duck fat under the skin of the breasts.

    And Belinda, wild duck is perfectly good cooked to medium. But no farther…

  13. NorCal Cazadora

    Hey, I recognize that duck in your left hand! That one was mine.

    If anyone would like to explore the connection between nature and the dinner table, you can read the story of that hunt here:

    http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com/2008/01/duck-hunting-with-boys-in-delta.html

    You’ll also be treated to an insider’s view of a very manly duck club (and I use the word “treated” loosely).

    Thanks for the shout-out, Elise!

    -Holly

  14. Garrett

    Hank gave me a spoonie duck, which was delicious. WHen I first cut into it it was so dark red, almost purple, that I was afraid I under-cooked it. Not so! Very delicious and the strong, heady, gamey scent that dominated the kitchen was absolutely wonderful!

  15. Hillary

    I’ll never forget when a friend gave my dad two ducks he’d hunted down. My dad tried to grill them like chicken but they were way too rich in fat and ended up looking like two bits of charcoal when he pulled them off the grill. I think we ended up ordering pizza. My brother and I were instructed never to speak of the incident, for fear that the friend would find out that my dad destroyed his bounty. That was probably twenty years ago, and I believe this is the first time I’ve shared the story with anyone!

  16. Gail

    Thank you, thank you. My dad was an avid duck hunter and I literally grew up eating wild duck every season. They would stuff the cavity with pieces of celery and onion with some salt and pepper, then salt and pepper the duck and roast at a very high temperature for 10-13 minutes for a small teal, and anywhere from 15-23 minutes for the larger ones. We also ate our ducks very rare. As dad no longer hunts, it has been many years since I have eaten one. Truly a delicacy.

  17. sabi

    I have no personal experience cooking a wild duck, but my grandfather often used to talk about how when camping, he used to cook with the mud from around the lake where the bird was killed. he explained it was necessary to remove only the neck, leave the feathers and everything else, then start covering it with mud until having something similar to a sphere. he would place it in the fire and wait until it cracked open, then the feathers would come off easily while removing the dried mud and the meat would be juicy and ready to eat!
    like I’ve said, I have no personal experience… so I have no idea if this is even possible, and I guess there are to many things to consider before doing something like this, but if I ever have the chance I think I’m going to give it a try!

  18. Hank

    Yep, the Indians did the mud trick. Never done it before, but I bet it would be tough to peel without ripping the skin.

  19. ejm

    It has been years since the one and only time I ate wild duck. I remember it being very very oily and wild tasting. And lots of bones. I was young and still in my “reluctant to try anything new and different” phase. (They were Mallards, as I recall.)

    Your ducks look fantastic! How I wish that we knew some duck hunters so we could try this too!

    We just recently roasted a domestic duck (I’m in the process of putting together a post about it). And you’re right. A duck carcass makes fantastic stock. We added an onion, carrot, celery and some herbs to the water for making our duck stock.

    Once the stock was made, we reduced it and served it under a grilled chop. The amazing thing was that we added zero salt to the stock but when it was reduced, it needed no salt. It was fabulous!

    -Elizabeth

  20. Mrs. L

    Wonder if pheasants would be cooked the same? My husband hunts them and usually has them smoked but every once in a while he brings one home to cook. Know if I could cook them like the duck here?

  21. Nanette

    Wowie Zowie!

    Apparently, I’ve been cooking my teal the wrong way. This was out of this world!

    The only changes I made were: Omitted Rosemary, added a garlic clove, and cooked an extra 5 minutes or so.

    They were still rare, and as tasty as can be. Thanks for posting this recipe. It’s a “keeper”.

    Nanette
    Poplarville, MS

    Teal was from Breaux Bridge, LA

  22. EL

    The teal recipe sounds delicious. I eat a lot of woodducks and your method should work well with them. I’ve always eaten duck a little more well done. I’ll try the next one rare. I’ve also never used rosemary, so I’ll give it a try. thanks.

  23. Sinead

    Hi Elise,

    Just wanted to say that I used your recipe for a couple of Teals I bought from my butcher. Never had anything like it before – DELICIOUS!!! Thank you so much for the recipe – its gone in the book and I will definately use it again.

    Sinead
    Canterbury, UK

  24. Randi Lynne

    Your recipe collection constantly amazes me.

    I had a friend give me a few mallards to cook. I followed your recipe above. Cooked them for 16 minutes and they were still raw. I cooked for 4 more minutes and they were perfect. The meat tasted wonderful. Thanks for the advice. I am definitely making stock with the bones.

  25. darren fradgley england

    I have just got two teals from my shoot up at Alnwick and going to try your recipe but only with the garden allotment onions I brought up with me from England.. I’m up on the Scottish borders on hols in a log cabin, also nice bottle of sherry in the boot might as well use it ….

  26. Jimbo

    I roasted a wood duck and a green-wing teal last night in almost strict compliance with your recipe. Deviation was as follows: ceramic baking dish rather than roasting tray (longer cook time was required because of this), covered the ducks in bacon and poured red wine over them about 70% of the way through the cook time. 450 for 35 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and add wine, cook for 15 minutes. The teal was ever-so-slightly overdone (in the future I will cook teal this way for only 25 minutes @ 450, or maybe less) but the woodie looked like a medium-rare steak. A big duck like a gadwall, mallard, pintail or widgeon would be perfect.

    Fantastic. I omitted the sherry for the sauce since I had added red wine, but the cream was an incredible addition. Really, really, really good over wild rice.

    I’ve been hunting and eating wild ducks since I was a child but this is hands down the best way to cook them that I have found.

    While we ate, I marveled a bit at the thought that one must go out in the cold and wet to kill a duck in order to enjoy that delicate combination of flavors.

    Anyway, GREAT recipe. It’s my new bread and butter.

  27. Vicki Mueller

    My source used to swear by simmering duck and goose breasts in cream of mushroom/chicken soup all day. It was the ONLY way he’d eat the birds he shot. I did some research and learned that medium rare is the trick and since I convinced him to try them that way, there’s been no going back.

    I will save your recipe in my Wild Game recipe box. Unfortunately, my “source” always breasts his birds so I don’t ever get a chance to experiment with roasting them whole.

  28. j

    Oh, thank you for this. I’m planning a family dinner with wild duck, and it’s been hard finding a good recipe specifically for wild duck (especially one that’s been tested with results noted and photos). I’m going into this blind so this helps immensely.

    The only thing I’m worrying about is serving it rare – doesn’t seem like the sort of thing my family will necessarily go for. Maybe I’ll try one rare for myself and wrap the others with bacon and try to cook them a bit longer.

    We’ll see. I’ll try to remember to post the results in a week.

    Hi J, the thing with wild duck is that if you cook it anything but rare, it’s just going to taste like liver, not like the domesticated duck that you might be used to. ~Elise

  29. Andy O'Malley

    Utterly Delicious! I am a very avid hunter, and have cooked a LOT of wild ducks various ways. The teal i cooked tonight with this recipe is now the best duck I have ever cooked!

    My meal was overflowing with flavors.

  30. Molly

    My dad and I use to split the duck breasts, stuff with pepper jack cheese and wrap in bacon and then grill.

  31. Dan Davis

    Your recipe is an awesome one , I have duck hunted for a long time and over the years gotten away from cooking them whole, the plucking is a bit of work- we usually breast them out; but this recipe makes it well worth the time. Can’t stress the need for those trying any duck recipe to really spend some prep time in soaking, washing & cleaning the meat well- then marinate for at least a few hours (a day is better), with a product called Allegro, a special wild game marinade that is available in most grocery stores. I love to hunt ‘em , and REALLY love to cook/eat ‘em.
    D. Davis
    Brandon , MS

  32. Dan Davis

    Oh , I forgot to add this- try your recipe served with Garlic Cheese Grits and some steamed veggies for a great change up to the wild rice (the rice is pretty hard to beat!)
    And..a good Pinot Noir.
    D. Davis

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