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Roasted Duck with Port-Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Here's a sweet holiday dish your entire family will love.

Roasted Duck with Port-Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This holiday-themed roast duck recipe is perfect for any occasion. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

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For us waterfowlers who have grown tired of feeling tired thanks to tryptophan, or who simply feel turkey is likely the most boring and bland bird one can slide into the oven, a wild duck is the perfect solution.

Notice I said wild duck and not wild goose, as a wild mallard is likely the largest bird I would recommend roasting whole. Even with this recipe, you still may need to carve off legs and wings and add them back to the oven after the initial roast. Legs and wings, which are tougher cuts with more collagen, require more time to break down stubborn muscle fibers and offer up tender bites. This is less of an issue with small ducks like teal, which can roast whole at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes and come out fairly perfect.

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Cooking a larger duck, like a mallard, in the oven is often a matter of compromise—either you have perfect breasts and slightly underdone legs, or overdone breasts and perfect legs. You choose your own destiny. If you don’t like the idea of underdone legs, shoot for a longer, lower roast: 90 minutes at 300 degrees, or until the legs’ internal temp reads between 170 and 180 and breasts are closer to 155.

This recipe is designed to produce perfect breasts (which is the majority of the meat on the bird). I personally can tolerate chewy legs but have less appreciation for overdone gamebird breasts. Depending on your oven, it should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to roast a mallard so breasts turn out perfectly. We pull the duck when the internal temp of the breast reads 130. Allowing the bird to rest uncovered for 10 minutes will raise the internal temp another 5-10 degrees, but likely not much more.

Yes, you can gently prick the skin just before sliding in the oven to facilitate fat rendering, and crispier skin, but be careful not to prick any meat. Don’t pluck your ducks? I hear Walmart has a sale on turkeys this time of year.

roasted duck with oranges and port-cranberry sauce on a plate
Depending on your oven, it should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to roast a mallard so breasts turn out perfectly. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

Roasted Duck with Port-Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: Overnight
Cook time: 60 minutes

Main Ingredients:

  • One whole, plucked mallard, approximately 2 pounds
  • 5 to 6 large carrots, halved

Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
  • 8 ounces crushed fresh ginger
  • 1 fresh garlic bulb, smashed

Port-Cranberry Sauce Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup port wine
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly minced basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground black pepper

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Brine Directions:

  1. Pour half gallon water in large pot along with all brine ingredients. No need to peel ginger or garlic—just take a meat hammer and smash and add to pot.
  2. Bring water to low simmer and stir until salt and sugar is absorbed.
  3. Add half gallon ice-cold water to pot for total of 1 gallon and place in fridge.
  4. Add whole mallard once brine is cool.
  5. Brine overnight.

Cooking Directions:

  1. Upon removing the duck from the brine, rinse thoroughly under cold water then pat dry.
  2. Place duck uncovered in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours to further dry skin.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. In a large (preferably cast-iron) skillet heated on medium, sear the sides of the duck to add crispiness to wings and legs.
  5. Remove the duck and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off burner under skillet and in that same skillet, add halved large carrots arranged so duck can rest breast-side-up atop. Idea is to allow for airflow underneath backside of duck, and so duck never touches skillet while roasting.
  7. Ideally, you want to add an oven-safe meat probe into duck breast, inserted in the middle-most part of breast, just above the tenderloin. This will help you monitor the internal temp.
  8. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until internal temp reads 130.
  9. Remove skillet from oven and remove duck from skillet, allow duck to rest uncovered for 10 minutes prior to carving.
  10. While duck roasts, add all Port-Cranberry Sauce ingredients to a medium saucepan.
  11. Heat on medium-low, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Once fully heated, you can turn off heat.
  12. To serve, carve duck and plate with cranberry sauce. Serve carrots, which have roasted in duck fat, alongside duck. If legs and wings are still underdone to your liking, add just those cuts back to the oven for 10-20 minutes but lower heat to 300.

Any questions or comments, please reach out on Instagram: @WildGameJack




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