Mighty Duck

2 to 4 servings

Combine all brine ingredients in a plastic container with a lid. Place the lid on the container and shake to dissolve the salt.

Remove the pop-up thermometer, liver, gizzards, and heart. Cut off the wings.

Using kitchen shears, locate the spine at the base of the neck. Cut up the line of the backbone towards the neck cavity. Turn the duck and cut straight towards the rear cavity. Remove the backbone.

Turn the duck over and cut straight down the middle of the breast bone, leaving 2 equal duck halves. To separate the legs from the breast, flip your halves over so the flesh side is facing up at you. Using a knife, make a crescent shape cut between the leg and the breast. Lay your knife flat against the skin and make 3 marks in one direction and then in the other, making an X. Make sure that you are cutting through the skin and not the meat.

Line the inside of a plastic lexan or a pot with a zip-top bag. Place the duck quarters inside the bag, and pour the brine over the duck. Seal the bag, ensuring that all air is removed from the bag. Brine the duck for 2 to 2 1/2 hours in the refrigerator.

Bring 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. Place a colander into the pot and line the sides of the colander with the duck. Do not stack the duck quarters on each other. Cover and turn the heat to medium low. Steam the duck for 45 minutes. Set oven to 475 degrees F. Place a large cast iron skillet into the oven.

Remove duck pieces from steamer and place legs, skin side down, into the hot skillet. Place the skillet into the hot oven immediately and cook the leg quarters for 10 minutes. Add the breasts, skin side down, and cook for 7 more minutes or until the duck takes on a deep mahogany color and the skin is very crisp.

Remove the duck from the skillet and rest under foil. Add the chard and the shallots to the skillet. Toss the chard in the fat until it barely wilts. Season with the sherry or balsamic vinegar.

Serve the duck with the chard.

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    This was my first time making duck, and my first time eating it beyond a small taste as PF Changs once. I double checked that it's safe to eat pink duck meat (and it is) and I was relieved that it wasn't blood red after cooking. I did use my meat thermometer to ensure food safety. I found it quite tasty. I was just a bit disappointed that it didn't taste more different. It was actually quite similar to chicken with the crispy skin. I did not have a cast iron skillet, so I used my large roasting pan and it worked fine. The meat was very moist and I really liked the flavor of thyme and salt. There was no discernible citrus flavor in the finished bird.
    This was fantastic! First time every cooking duck and it came out succulent, incredibly moist, and extremely tender with this recipe. Raves all around the dinner table.
    This is the only way I will make duck in the future!
    Just tried this today, Wonderful idea of first steaming and then roasting! worked perfectly
    We've made duck for Christmas dinner for several years now but after watching the episode of Good Eats where Alton uses this recipe, we decided to try it this way. This is how we'll be preparing it in the future. It was great. Tender, juicy, full of flavor. I even left in in the brine for 3.5 hours (recipe calls for 2-2.5) with no ill effects. We still had some smoke despite the steaming taking off a lot of the fat, but not enough to set off the smoke alarm. I couldn't find chard for the salad and used fresh spinach instead. It turned out great as well. Highly recommended! 
    Another Alton hit. I knew it would be good, since I have been using his steaming method to make the best hot wings on the planet. Too bad they have moved Good Eats to the Cooking Channel premium cable channel by me now - I really miss it!!
    I first made this recipe for Christmas dinner several years ago, it was a BIG hit. Now, whenever I am polling my family for what to cook for a special meal, my son says "well, Duck always works"!! This year I'm going to follow this recipe but use a goose. I know I will need to adjust the cooking times, but am hopeful for a better result than the last goose I cooked. It was not edible. 
    This dish was fantastic. Follow the recipe and watch the video. It was moist and perfectly seasoned, and the skin was crispy and not over-cooked. The chard was a great fit. For anyone trying to improvise, don't use anything but a cast-iron skillet. You won't get the desired result without it. I roasted some red potatoes, carrots, and onions separately and put it all together over the chard. If you like dark meat and don't want to deep-fry to get a crispy, flavorful poultry dish, this is it.
    I cooked duck years ago but it was too fatty. This was perfect. I followed the recipe exactly including the chard. My husband and son rate new recipes as do-overs or not do-overs. This was a definite do-over. Tender, juicy and not fatty. Thanks

    ***02/17/2013 There has been a change in the diplay of the recipe from when it first was posted. "4 cloves garlic, smashed" should be the final ingredient on the Brine list.


    I think the folks who had dissapointing results didn't stick to the directions and probably used a different type of duck than specified or, as I did once, used a duck that was larger than the 5.5 to 6 pounds as directed. When it comes to cooking, Mr. Brown is more scientist than artist, and with science, when you start fudging around, the "ooops" factor tends to produce seriously undesireable things.
    I've used this recipe seven times now. The only times it wasn't perfect was once when I used a nearly eight pound duck (in that case, more was NOT better!! and another time when circumstances beyond my control had me leaving the duck in the brine for nearly six hours.
    Anyway, it's Thanksgiving morning and I gotta start preparing my duck!!!!


    First review for a first rate recipe! I have been using this recipe for a few years now. Last night your recipe converted another duck hater. But the most important one was my sweetie of nearly 40 years. She has hated duck ever since a horrible dinner in her childhood and your wonderful recipe for moist flavorful and juicy duck won her over.

    The duck is crispy and moist without the excess fat. I steam it on the deck and finish the duck in my old iron skillet on the grill. I harvest the duck fat from the steaming water and freeze for later. I make a pasta using the harvested parts for flavoring.

    There are never leftovers from the main meal. And we get wonderful economy from the duck using your fantastic recipe. Thank you so much for everything you do but especially for this recipe.

    This was great. The meat was tender and delicious. I substituted spinach for chard as my dinner partner's preference. It was good, but chard would be better. The hot fat in the pan needed an assist of some stovetop flame to cook the vegetable. It, too, was delicious. The recipe was not difficult; the hardest part is cutting up the duck. But now I have duck parts in the freezer for soup later, as well as a nice supply of duck fat, ?harvested? by boiling down the steaming water afterwards, as per Alton?s ?Good Eats? TV segment.
    Thank you for the recipe. It was fantastic. The duck was moist and not greasy and the chard was fantastic
    Kudos Alton!! This has AMAZING flavor and is fun to make. Duck is traditionally our 2nd meat @ Thanksgiving. Every year I tried diff. ways to make it interesting. We will stop here for quite some time AND Thanksgiving won't be the only time we have this! Thank You, Sir!!
    This recipe is a staple now in my kitchen. Family and friends loved it and I have shared the recipe with others as well.
    Never cooked a duck before, but it was my wife's birthday and she loves it. This made it easy and incredibly tasty. This will become a staple in our house. We used kale as it was pretty fresh and it was amazing.
    A mighty duck indeed! This is one worth repeating!
    Great Flavor...but DRY! Maybe I should have watched the video first. :-( 
    I used two large breasts, not the whole duck. I steamed the breasts fat side down, but then found that almost all the fat was rendered into the simmering water. So not enough fat was left on the breast to render out once I put it in the oven. However, I was able to skim some of the "liquid gold" from the broth, which I used to sauté the shallots and lots of kale (not chard. I used madiera instead of sherry, and added a little salt and nutmeg. So the kale was delicious, and helped to moisten the duck, a little. Will try again, but cut way backon the steaming time.
    This was to-die-for good. I watched the show first --can be found in its entirety on veoh-- then precisely followed the duck recipe. After hearing Alton describe the fat as "liquid love" on the show, I wanted to do more with it than just saute greens. While the duck was steaming I rendered some fat from scraps left over from quartering the bird and sauteed some mushrooms and onions. Alton wasn't kidding, this stuff is great! Don't waste a molecule. I brined the backbone and scraps along with the bird. It made great stock and clarified duck fat. That'll make a KILLER gumbo.
    I had never cooked duck before, but I found it at 75% off a month after Christmas. I had to work late, so I did not have time to brine the duck. It didn't seem to be a problem. I used a collapsible, metal steamer, because there's no way my metal colander would fit in my pot. I seasoned and steamed the duck. I preheated the skillets and finished the duck in the oven as directed. That skin was like "poultry bacon"--the best part of the dish. I did keep the steaming liquid and refrigerate it. I let the fat congeal and used it to make DUCK CONFIT. I used Laura Brody's Crockpot recipe here on FN to make the duck confit.
    This recipe is great! The duck comes out very flavorful and moist. I will make this again.
    Great recipe! If you are planning on feeding more than a few people, get two ducks. Made this for my immediate family Christmas Day. Very tasty! If you are expecting a lot of meat on the bird?.get a turkey. Will use this recipe again.
    Very tasty and unique duck recipe! Would make again!
    Sorry cobelskill 72, but, a goose hisses, a duck quacks. This could explain your troubles. GREAT recipe!
    Made this a while ago because I love duck (and Good Eats). It turned out pretty good, my boyfriend and I ended up eating the whole duck. The breast was a little dry though. I think the next time I make this I'll take the breasts out of the steamer after 30 minutes and definitely invite guests so we don't end up overeating again.
    My 76 year old super cook wife, followed directions to a "T". Don't know what went wrong but it turned out dry, tough with squishy skin. We did not eat much . Dog enjoyed it. I have eaten duck since I was a boy and never had a dry one. BY THE WAY BOY DUCKS DON'T QUACK!!!! They make a hissing squeaky sound. The AFLAC duck is a GIRL
    I was a little worried about the 45 minute steaming, but I ended up following the recipe. The breast meat ends up deliciously rare.


    I had a little trouble getting enough contact with the iron pan. In the future, I'd cut each quarter in half after the steam to make them fit in the pan better, and make it easier to cut apart at the table.

    My big problem, I think, was the size of the colander. His pot and colander were huge. With my pasta-pot and steamer the pieces were too cramped and the Breasts did cook completely through, nor did enough fat melt away. The result was great dark meat and ok breast meat. And OK isn't OK, when it's expensive. I also didn't feel that the pineapple/orange juice did much.
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