A simple whole roasted duck recipe, stuffed with apples, herbs, and lemon. The meat is juicy, tender, aromatic, and easily falls off the bone.
Roast duck is with apples a traditional Polish dish and my family’s recipe. It’s the most common way of preparing a duck in Poland. It’s often served during holidays (Easter, Christmas) and any other important gatherings. What makes it Polish is stuffing the duck with apples and seasoning it with marjoram.
What do you need to roast a whole duck
– The duck (obviously!) – most ducks weigh 4-5 lbs (1.8-2.2 kg). If you buy a frozen duck, it’s important to thaw it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours, overnight is not enough. Even if a duck has been left in the fridge overnight and appears to be thawed from the outside, it’s usually still partially frozen on the inside. Most often the neck and giblets are inserted into the duck cavity and it‘s really hard to remove them if the duck is not completely thawed.
– Spices: I’m using thyme, marjoram, and lovage. They go with duck very well. You could also use rosemary or tarragon.
– Stuffing: In this recipe, I stuffed the duck with apples, ½ lemon, and herbs. You could also add dried cranberries. It’s important to choose a firm apple variety. They‘re being roasted together with the duck for 2 1/2 hours. Soft apple variety will turn into mush after this time. You can also stuff your duck with oranges or don’t stuff it at all.
How to roast a duck (summary) + why this recipe works
– Rub the duck with salt, pepper, spices and leave it in the fridge at least overnight or better for the whole day. This is the most important step of the recipe. The process is called dry brining and will result in juicy meat (more on that below).
– Roast the duck, first, at high temperature (450°F / 230°C), breast-side down. This makes rendering the fat easier, ducks have a lot of fat, especially on the breasts.
– Then cover the baking dish, reduce the temperature (350°F / 180°C) and bake for 2 hours. Some recipes call for brushing the duck with the rendered juices every 30 minutes or so. I find that not necessary and this preparation method doesn’t require it. Also, each time you open the oven, the temperature of the oven drops by about 20-30 degrees.
– Total duck roasting time is 2 hours 30 minutes.
– When the duck is done, it’s important to let it rest before carving it into servings. All the juices will distribute through the meat, making it more juicy.
– Some recipes also call for placing the duck on a wire rack placed on top of a baking dish. You could also do that, but I prefer when my duck is roasting in all those juices in a closed baking dish – it makes the meat more tender.
– Scoring duck breast is not necessary with this recipe. The duck is roasted for a long time so the fat will have time to be rendered from the breasts + this prevents the breast meat from drying out.
How to brine a duck? wet brine vs. dry brine
Brining the duck is a must, in my opinion. You brine the duck, just as you would brine a turkey.
Without this step, the meat can be tough and dry. I’m a fan of dry brining, even if wet brining of a duck is not so problematic as brining a turkey.
The advantages of dry brine
– Storage of a dry duck in a refrigerator, as opposed to a container filled with water, is far more convenient.
– Dry brined meat tastes better in my opinion, its taste is more concentrated. Wet brined duck meat tastes more watery.
How much salt do you need to dry brine a duck?
For a 4.5 lbs / 2 kg bird I’m using about 2.5 teaspoons of table salt (or fine sea salt). Rub the duck with salt and spices on the outside, inside, and additionally, loosen the skin from the breasts (without totally detaching it) and rub the breast meat under the skin. Normally, if you rub chicken’ or turkey’ skin with salt, it has the ability to go through the skin and reach the meat. Duck skin is very thick though, with a layer of fat underneath. It’s also the most problematic part of the bird so to make sure that it comes out perfect, I rub the meat on the breast also under the skin. I the case of the legs, it doesn’t matter that much.
How many people serves one roasted duck?
Unfortunately, a duck does not have much meat, it yields less meat than chicken or turkey. One duck serves usually 2-3 people. It’s 2-3 elegant servings, that you would serve to your guests. We eat 1 leg + ½ breast per person, but some people eat 1 leg + 1 breast. It would also depend on how big the duck is.
Step by step instructions
STEP 1: Clean the duck with wet paper towels and pat dry with dry towels. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. Remove excess fat from the tail
STEP 2: Loosen the skin on the breasts without detaching it. Rub the duck with salt, pepper, and spices. Let stand, uncovered, overnight or for 24 hours in the fridge.
STEP 3+4: Stuff the duck with apples and lemons.
STEP 5: Close the cavity with toothpicks.
STEP 6: Bake the duck:
- 30 minutes at 450°F (230°C), breast side-down and uncovered
- 1 hour at 350°F (180°C), breast side-down and covered
- 1 hour at 350°F (180°C), breast side-up and covered, add the potatoes
- brown the skin under the broiler (or grill setting).
Let the duck rest for 15 minutes (you can make the gravy while it rests). Serve with potatoes and gravy. Enjoy!
Some leftover duck ideas
– Besides 2-3 servings (mentioned above) you’ll have extra pieces of meat left around the carcass. I usually make this on the next day: I separate meat from the bones and shred it into smaller pieces, pan-fry briefly in butter, and serve with gravy over mashed potatoes.
– Leftover duck meat can also be frozen. Defrost it in a refrigerator, then warm up in a pan with butter.
– You don’t need to throw away the fat that has been rendered from the duck. You can use it to make duck fat potatoes: either pan-fry pre-cooked potatoes in the duck fat or toss uncooked potatoes in fat and roast in the oven.
– Super important: DO NOT throw away the leftover carcass and bones! You can make a stock from them! It comes out really delicious and aromatic, it can be a base of many soups or sauces (like this duck ragu), it can also be frozen. I usually use it to make French onion soup. It tastes amazing, as good as using beef bones stock.
How to make roasted duck bone broth
– It could not be simpler. Add the roasted duck carcass, all leftover bones, and skin into a large pot. Add the vegetables (2 carrots, 1 parsley root (optional), a piece of leek, a piece of celeriac or a stalk of celery, an onion) and the spices: a few black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, 3 allspice berries, 1 unpeeled clove garlic, 2 small dried mushrooms (optional), a few sprigs of parsley or thyme. Peel the vegetables, cut the bigger ones into 2-3 pieces. Cover the bones and vegetables with water, you should add about 8 cups (2 liters). You can also add a duck neck if it was put inside the duck. Simmer for about 1.5 hours (or longer for a more essential broth), then strain. The broth can be used immediately or frozen.
– You can also make roasted duck bone broth, Asian-style – add a piece of fresh ginger, anise star, chopped lemongrass, and season with a bit of soy sauce.
- I like it most with potatoes. I roast them with the duck, sometimes adding a few sprigs thyme or rosemary if I have some on hand. You could also serve it with mashed potatoes or German potato dumplings or Polish potato dumplings (kopytka).
- Green beans almondine (green beans with shallot, garlic, and almond garnish)
- Green bean casserole (from scratch!)
- Zucchini gratin (scalloped zucchini)
- You can also serve it with pearl barley.
- Roasted beets or braised red cabbage.
- Red cabbage and apple slaw with pomegranate and walnuts
- Cranberry jam or Cranberry orange sauce
- Gravy – sauce for roast duck can be made from the drippings and fat, collected from the roasting dish (you can find the instructions in the recipe).
More duck recipes: I also have a recipe for duck breast with plum sauce. It can be made only on the stovetop or seared on the stovetop and finished in the oven.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!
The Best Roast Duck Recipe (with gravy)
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for the duck:
- 1 whole duck 4.5 lbs / 2 kg
- 2.5-3 teaspoons table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon marjoram
- 1 tablespoon thyme can be fresh or dried
- 1 tablespoon lovage or thyme/marjoram
- 2 small apples firm variety
- ½ lemon
- 1 lb potatoes ½ kg
for the gravy (optional):
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 rosemary twigs or other fresh herbs
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon flour
- The day before: Prepare the duck – remove the giblets and neck from the cavity (you can reserve them for the gravy). Clean the duck with wet paper towels then pat dry with dry paper towels (inside and outside). Trim excess fat around the tail. Rub the duck with salt, pepper, and spices. You need to rub it inside, outside, then loosen the skin from the duck breast (without totally detaching it) and rub thoroughly with salt and herbs. Place the duck in a large dish in the fridge, uncovered, overnight, but better for one whole day.
- On the day of baking: Take the duck out of the fridge, leave it on the counter for 30-60 minutes to warm up. In the meantime, set the oven to 450°F (230°C / Gas Mark 8), no fan.
- Cut the lemon in half. Peel and core the apples, cut into quarters. Put inside the duck (as many as fits).
- Use toothpicks to close the cavity, you can also tie the legs together with kitchen twine (this is optional).
- Place the duck, breast side down, in a large baking dish (it must be large enough for the whole duck to fit in).
- Roast the duck: Put in the oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Then cover the dish with a lid or wrap it tightly with a piece of aluminum foil. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C / Gas Mark 4) and bake for 1 hour. At the end of this time, start peeling the potatoes, cut them into 1.5-inch (4 cm) chunks. Peel the carrot and cut it into smaller chunks, cut the celery stalk into 4-5 parts.
- Turn the duck on the other side (it should be breast-side up now), place the potatoes, carrot, celery, and fresh herbs around the duck.Bake, covered, for 1 hour.
- Brown the skin: turn on the broiler setting (or grill setting), place the duck on the top shelf, uncover, and roast for about 5 minutes or until the skin is browned.
- Take the duck out of the oven, transfer to a large plate, leave to rest for about 10-15 minutes. You can make the gravy while the duck is resting.
- Gravy: Strain the vegetables, leaving the baking liquid in a medium saucepan. Most of this liquid is fat. Try to collect the fat, it will gather at the top of the liquid (it’s more clear and yellow), scoop it with a spoon or a ladle, you can discard it or use it in other recipes. About ¾ cup of brown-colored liquid should be left in the pot. Whisk flour with cold chicken broth, add to the pot with baking liquid. Whisk thoroughly and cook for about 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened. Season with pepper if necessary (it should be already salty enough).
- Carve the duck into pieces and serve with roasted potatoes, apples, and gravy.
- If you have bought a frozen duck: it should be thawed in the refrigerator for 24 hours, overnight won’t be enough. Even if a duck thawed overnight appears to be thawed from the outside, it’s usually still partially frozen on the inside and it‘s hard to remove the neck and giblets that are most often put there. The duck must be completely thawed or it won’t cook evenly.
- The amount of salt depends on the weight of the duck: for a 4.5 lbs (2 kg) bird, I use about 2.5-3 teaspoons of table salt or fine sea salt. If you have a smaller duck, add a little less, if bigger – a little more.
- Baking dish: the best would be a heavy cast iron pot with a lid, but every other baking dish will do. If you don‘t have a lid, you can cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil (wrap it tightly around the baking dish). It must be big enough for the whole duck to fit in.
- The baking time depends on the size of the duck. If your duck weighs 4 lbs (1.8 kg), roast it 10 mins shorter, if 4.8 lbs (2.2kg) about 10-15 minutes longer.
- Duck stuffing: Dried cranberries would also be a great addition besides apples or you can serve the duck with cranberry jam on the side. You can also put in orange slices.
- Calories = 1 serving (1/3 duck) + 1/2 potatoes. This is only an estimate!