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The Best Roast Duck Recipe (with gravy)

10 April 2019 | Last Updated: 27 January 2022 By Aleksandra

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 on a white plate. Potatoes and apples in the background.

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.

Roasted duck breast and leg, potatoes, apples, and beet salad on a beige plate.

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.

Duck breast on a plate is being cut with a fork.

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

A duck is being patted dry with paper towels. A duck rubbed with herbs in a baking dish.

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.

Skin is being loosened from duck breast. A duck is being stuffed with apples.

STEP 3+4: Stuff the duck with apples and lemons.

A duck in a baking dish with a cavity closed with toothpicks. A duck in a baking dish with potatoes.

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.

Serving suggestions

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)

A simple whole roasted duck recipe, stuffed with apples, herbs, and lemon. The meat is juicy, tender, and aromatic, easily falls off the bone.
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Roast duck on a white plate. Apples and potatoes in the background.
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RATE THE RECIPE

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5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
dry brining 1 day
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 3 servings
Calories 1050kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • 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!
Course dinner
Cuisine international, polish
Tried this Recipe? Rate the Recipe and tell us what you think in the Comments!

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Jane
    26 December 2021 at 15:56

    5 stars
    Love this recipe, always turns out perfect!
    This NYE I’m fixing two ducks. I have the largest La Creuset should I roast both in the Creuset, both Will fit or put each one in a separate la creuset. I do not have a double oven but large enough to fit two La Creuset.
    Thank you

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      26 December 2021 at 16:12

      If they can both fit in one large dish, I would try to bake them together. Please let us know how it turned out.
      I’m glad you like the recipe!

  • Reply
    CJG
    15 May 2021 at 14:53

    I followed the recipe exactly…it was done after 1 and 1/2 hours. Thank goodness I checked it. Same sized duck…..

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      15 May 2021 at 16:14

      Yes, the duck will the done sooner (meaning cooked through and not raw) but we are baking it longer so that the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and literally falls off the bones. Was your duck also like this? This is a well-tested recipe and many readers have also tried this, so I would really recommend baking it longer next time, if you are willing to try. Best regards!

  • Reply
    Marina
    18 January 2021 at 17:12

    5 stars
    I’ve just made the duck according to this recipe. It is sooooo delicious! I was afraid it would be dry or something else would fail, but this recipe worked just perfect. It does take time to cook but the result absolutely worth the waiting time. Bravo!

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      18 January 2021 at 17:27

      Thank you Marina for commenting, I’m glad you’re happy with the recipe!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    2 January 2021 at 15:01

    5 stars
    The best duck I ever ate. All enjoyed the indulgence.

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      2 January 2021 at 15:18

      Thank you, Elizabeth for letting me know!

  • Reply
    Anina Bach
    25 December 2020 at 16:17

    5 stars
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe that we used to cook last night’s Xmas eve dinner! It was the best duck I’ve ever made. I love to dry brine all poultry and now I’ve learned that duck is no different. Cooking the duck in a covered roasting pot makes the duck taste almost like a confit as it cooks in its own juices. It was delicious! We served it with your green bean almondine recipe as well-also excellent. We will definitely make this again for next year’s Xmas. A new tradition! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      25 December 2020 at 21:34

      Hi Anina! I am so so happy that you enjoyed both recipes! I truly appreciate your taking the time to comment. I love the photo! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Reply
    annemarie
    9 October 2020 at 16:34

    I am wondering why you don’t score the duck skin before you roast it? It is my first time cooking duck and every other recipe I have seen calls for this. Is this why dry brine instead?

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      9 October 2020 at 19:22

      I only score the breasts when I’m cooking duck breasts alone and not the whole duck. Scoring the breast helps to render the fat and it makes the skin very crispy. I prefer that this fat stays on the breasts and moistens the duck meat while it bakes making it super moist. Duck’s breast meat can very easily dry out. Additionally, in this recipe, the duck sits uncovered in the fridge overnight so this will help to dry out and crisp the skin. This is just my preferred method. I hope this helps! Please let me know if anything else is unclear.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Wolken
    6 August 2020 at 16:58

    Wondering why I have to leave it in the fridge overnight. You say it’s importance but don’t explain why.

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      7 August 2020 at 08:17

      This is for dry brining the duck. The salt needs time to break down the meat so it’s tender and juicy! Without the brining (leaving the duck overnight in the fridge with salt and spices) the meat can be sometimes tough and dry. Hope this explains it better.

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    16 April 2020 at 14:45

    Thanks for this recipe, I’m looking forward to trying it! Just to clarify: if I’m starting with a frozen duck, do I need to let it thaw for 24 hours, then rub with salt and spices, then let it dry-brine for another day?

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      16 April 2020 at 15:04

      Yes, exactly. Thaw for a minimum of 24h, then rub with salt and spices and leave in the fridge overnight or for the whole day, then bake. Thanks for giving my recipe a try!

  • Reply
    Aleksandra
    11 January 2020 at 16:50

    5 stars
    Review from a Pinterest reader Lana: it was a huge hit! Everyone said it was the best duck they’ve ever had! 5 stars!

  • Reply
    Elena
    14 October 2019 at 20:45

    5 stars
    It came out absolutely delicious, the brine was the key. Thank you very much for the recipe)

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      15 October 2019 at 12:21

      Thanks for letting me know! I’m glad that you enjoyed it like we did 🙂

  • Reply
    Danielle Wolter
    11 April 2019 at 17:29

    5 stars
    duck is one of the best things ever. i just love roasting a whole duck. i’m a sucker for stuffing it with orange, but am loving the use of apples here. it sounds so incredible!

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      11 April 2019 at 18:31

      thank you, Danielle, give the apple stuffing a try 🙂

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