Have you ever deboned a duck??

Whenever I am up to my wrists in bird insides I think of Julia Child (may her memory ever be blessed!)  and that day sometime in the 1960’s when on PBS I watched her debone a duck with her usual humor and efficiency.

Our ducks began as little yellow fluffy guys but ended up as big 10 lb. robust birds ready to butcher:

Deboning a Duck step 1 Deboning a Duck step 2 Deboning a Duck step 3 Deboning a Duck step 4
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1st row  l. to r.

Defrost the duck.

With a small sharp knife begin cutting the flesh away from the rear of the bird, cutting toward the bone and slowly turning the flesh and skin inside out; it helps to use a poultry shear to cut the bones at the joints; when you are at the mid-breast area and the thigh bone has been disconnected from the body begin on the neck end;  cutting the wings free and continuing to cut against the bone as you free up the breast bone.  When the bird is inside out cut the thigh joint where it joins the leg, cut out the thigh bone leaving the meat attached to the carcass.

2nd row  l. to r.

The bird is now inside out and breast and thigh bones are removed.  Season the duck flesh with salt, pepper, mashed garlic and/or ginger; turn the bird right side out.

3rd row  l. to r.

You may choose to stuff  your duck at this point or just truss it.  I use a combination of bamboo skewers and kitchen string to give the bird shape.  Once it is trussed tightly I prick the skin all over with the point of a sharp knife to make sure the fat releases.  Salt the skin after pricking.  Set your stock to cooking with the duck bones, an onion, a bay leaf, celery, peppercorns, and a garlic clove (or four or five ).

4th row  l. to r.

Put your trussed bird in a roasting pan on a rack that holds the bird well above the bottom so the entire skin roast evenly.  Add a cup of water so the initial rendered duck fat doesn’t spatter or burn.  Begin at 400 degrees for 20 min breast up and then another 20 min breast down.  Then turn it breast up and drop temp to 325 degrees for a hour or so.  When the leg wiggles easily you’re just about done.   After removing the duck from the roaster pour all the duck fat through a strainer into a glass jar.  You may have as much as a pint to use for baking, frying and other great cookery.  The duck fat will last for 3-4 months in the freezer.  Let the finished bird rest for 20 min or so before carving.  And as you can see from the picture when deboned a duck can be carved straight across the carcass for neat slices.

You can do the same deboning process to a turkey or chicken.   Even when you’re ‘good’ at it it’s a bit messy to do (wear plastic glove) but as long as the skin is not pierced  most of the ‘mess’ is on the inside so no will know the difference!  Once you’ve done it a few times it goes pretty fast.  I’ve deboned a 24 lb. turkey in 20 min.  The upside is that you have all the fresh bones for stock for the gravy and the bird slices really easily!  Try it!

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