Fire-Roasted Duck & Pheasant with Red Currant Jelly

  • Serves

    serves 6

  • Cook

    1 hour 25 minutes


By David McMillan & Frédéric Morin

Published on January 27, 2017

Fred Morin and Dave McMillan of Joe Beef in Montreal cook a mix of birds over flames and embers, using hooks and chains to suspend and rotate them (different-size birds will cook at different speeds). “The spin, the way the fat drips down, all combines to make a wonderfully burnished bird,” says McMillan. Ambitious home cooks can hang birds using twine or wire over a backyard fire, or simply roast birds on a rack set in a roasting pan in the (indoor) oven.

david mcmillan and frédéric morin

Red Morin and Dave McMillan make an effort to keep their work as relevant outside the kitchen—they have plans for a small apple orchard near their restaurants—as inside.


  • 1 whole duck (4-5 lb.)
  • 1 whole pheasant (about 3 lb.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. lard, duck fat, or olive oil, plus more for basting
  • 1 tbsp. armagnac, cognac, or brandy
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 13 cup red currant or apple jelly, warmed


Step 1

Pat the birds dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Trim any extra skin around the cavity of the duck. Running your hands beneath the skin, carefully separate the skin from the flesh without tearing or removing it. Season the outer part of the skin and the inner cavity of both birds generously with salt and pepper, then transfer to the refrigerator and let rest uncovered at least 6 hours or overnight.

Step 2

In a hearth or fire pit, prepare a small fire. Alternatively, set a rack in the center of an indoor oven and preheat to 350°. In a small pot, warm the lard or other fat and add the armagnac, thyme, and garlic. Brush both birds with the lard mixture. Using a 3-foot piece of twine soaked in water, hang the duck by the limbs or cavity above the fire; or in a large roasting pan fitted with a rack, position the duck off to one side of the rack. If hanging the bird, set a pan beneath it to catch any drippings.

Step 3

Roast the duck until the skin is just starting to color and some of the fat has rendered, about 25 minutes.

Step 4

If cooking with fire, move the duck closer to the heat source, or add more wood to the fire as needed to increase the heat. If cooking in a home oven, retrieve the roasting pan and raise the oven heat to 525°. Meanwhile, baste the duck with some of the rendered fat from the pan, or more of the rendered lard mixture. Hang the pheasant next to the duck, placing a pan beneath it to catch drippings, or adding it to the other half of the roasting pan.

Step 5

Roast both birds until the skin is browned and the juices from the leg joints run mostly clear when poked with a paring knife, about 25 minutes. Remove the birds briefly and brush with the warmed jelly. Roast, swiveling the birds on strings or rotating them as needed, until the skin is caramelized and darkened, 5–10 minutes more (watch closely for burning).

Step 6

Remove and let the birds rest 5 minutes. before carving. Serve the pieces in a shallow pool of the pan drippings.

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