If you’re intimidated by cooking a whole duck, here’s a little secret: it’s almost as easy (and much harder to overcook, thanks to all that fat) as roasting a whole chicken or turkey. That’s not to say you can simply slide some waterfowl in the oven and walk away, but a few quick tasks will give you a gorgeously gamy main course that will feed up for four people.
For our recipe, we adapt a couple of tricks from the elaborate process of making Peking duck: dunking the bird in a pot of boiling water to tighten its skin, piercing its skin to make fat render more easily, spatchcocking the duck to help the bird cook more quickly and evenly, and brushing the duck with a simple maple-tamari glaze to give it a beautiful burnished finish. We also roast the duck on a generous bed of herbs, which both flavors the meat and makes your kitchen smell amazing.
Roasting duck in a Field Skillet also has an added bonus: duck fat! Save any rendered fat in the skillet for cooking potatoes, making confit, or one of many other uses for this flavorful leftover—and if you cook with it in your Field Skillet, it’ll season your skillet as well.
If you don’t have a pot large enough for your duck’s hot-water bath, boil some water in a tea kettle and slowly pour it all over the bird—it’ll have the same effect.
You can’t overdo the amount of herbs you use to line the bottom of your skillet. In the fall, we like to use this recipe as an excuse to use up any woody-stemmed herbs from our garden before the frost hits.
Recipe: Maple-Tamari Roasted Duck
One whole duck (4 to 5 pounds), giblets removed
¼ cup maple syrup (the darker the better)
2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
3 to 5 bunches rosemary, sage, and/or thyme
The Field Method for Cast Iron Care
Bring a large saucepan or stockpot of water (enough to submerge the duck) to a boil over high heat. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Use the tip of a paring knife to prick the duck skin all over, making sure not to cut through the fat and into the meat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully lower the duck into the water and wait 2 minutes. Transfer the duck to the wire rack and let drain.
When cool, use heavy-duty shears or a serrated knife to remove the duck’s spine. Remove the wing tips and neck and save with the spine and giblets for making stock. Remove any excess chunks of fat. Turn the duck, breast side up, and press down to flatten the bird. Season the duck all over with salt and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 12 hour and up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and maple syrup. Line the bottom of a No.12 Field Skillet with the herbs. Place the duck, breast side up, on top. Add enough water around the duck to cover the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Brush the duck all over with the maple-tamari glaze. If the water in the pan has evaporated or if the duck fat is splattering, add a bit more. Continue roasting, brushing with glaze every 10 minutes and adding more water as needed, until the duck is well browned all over and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°F, 30 to 45 minutes longer.
Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before carving and serving. (Suggested method for carving: remove the breast halves from the carcass, then remove the legs. Cut the breasts crosswise into ¼-inch slices, then separate the legs into thighs and drumsticks.) Pour any remaining liquid in the skillet into a measuring cup and refrigerate until the fat solidifies on top. Reserve this fat for another use.
Seasoning Rating: Safe
Because your skillet will continue both water and fat while the duck cooks, it won’t build up much seasoning with this recipe, but the leftover duck fat, you’ll build up layers of durable seasoning whenever you use it.
Best—These dishes are the best options for building resilient seasoning, and surefire choices for getting tricky pans back on track.
Better—The best way to keep your skillet in great shape is to cook frequently, and cast iron-friendly dishes like these are your bread and butter.
Safe—These recipes won't strip seasoning away from your pan, but won't really add any, either.
OK—Be sure to clean up promptly. Recipes with this rating might feature acidic ingredients which can affect seasoning if not washed soon after cooking.