A whole duck is a treasure trove of prized ingredients, from gamey meat to rich fat. Here, 8 elements of duck and how best to cook with them.


Whole Duck

Butcher a whole duck and cook the legs and breast separately. The breasts are best cooked quickly, to medium or medium rare, while the tougher leg meat requires a longer braise to break down. When working with a whole bird, trim excess fat before roasting. See a recipe for Roast Duck with Mandarin Orange Sauce »
See a recipe for Bebek Batutu (Balinese Roast Duck) »

Duck Legs

Meaty and muscular** duck legs** are prized for their deep flavor. They’re not suited for quick cooking like breasts, but once simmered in a braising liquid, or a bath of garlic-spiked duck fat, the legs will yield exceptionally rich, tender meat. See a recipe for Pappardelle with Duck Sugo »


Duck’s gamy meat and fatty skin are well suited for making sausages. We turned to D’Artagnan’s links, enriched with French brandy and pork, when making cassoulet au canard, the classic French bean and duck casserole. See a recipe for Cassoulet au Canard »

Duck Fat

Few ingredients are as treasured among cooks as duck fat. A smoke point of 375 degrees makes it ideal for roasting or pan-frying, and it’s an excellent finishing fat, to melt into soups and stews, or for crisping bread crumbs to add body and savory-sweet depth.

Duck Confit

Duck confit, one of the most elemental and luxurious dishes in the French canon, makes its way into everything from cassoulet to rillettes. To make it, salt-cured legs are gently cooked in duck fat until the dark meat becomes deeply seasoned and tender. See a recipe for Duck Confit »

Duck Breast

It’s best to approach the dense, lean muscle of the duck breast as if it were a steak, cooking it medium rare and resting it before slicing. To get perfectly crisp skin, start the breast skin side down in a cold pan so that the fat renders without burning. See a recipe for Crispy Duck Breasts with Glazed Carrots »
See a recipe for Sichuan Tea-Smoked Duck »

Foie Gras

Foie gras is the superbly creamy liver of fattened ducks, traditionally the Moulard breed. It can be bought as whole yellow lobes and quickly seared so as not to render too much of the buttery fat, or made into cold, decadent terrines and pâtés.

Duck Rillettes

Duck rillettes, a rough-textured, rustic pâté, is a classic preparation of duck confit mixed with seasoned duck fat. It’s ready to eat as is, and traditionally enjoyed spread thick on crusty French bread with a side of sharp cornichons and mustard.