Roast Duck

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Two or three


Appears in

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1969

  • About

Perhaps the easiest of all roasts to prepare is the domestic duck of America. The reason is that the ducks are so fat that they do not require basting. The best way to cook a duck is to start it at a relatively high heat. You do not even need to put the duck on a rack in order to roast it. The only real burden is that the duck or ducks must be turned in the pan as they cook and the fat from the pan must be poured off as it accumulates. And one word of caution: be sure to use pot holder mitts or hot pads in getting the roasting pan in and out of the oven when pouring off the fat. Most ducks in most markets will be frozen when purchased. The best way to defrost them is to place them in the refrigerator overnight. This way the defrosting takes place gradually. Or they may be defrosted at room temperature for about 5 or 6 hours.


  • A 3- to 5-pound duck
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley (see note)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Open the cavity of the duck and remove the neck, gizzard, liver, and heart. With the fingers, remove and discard the chunks of fat inside the duck if there are any. Sprinkle both the inside and the outside of the duck with salt and pepper. Put the onion, garlic, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf inside the duck. Lay the duck on its side in an open roasting pan—by “open” is meant a pan whose sides are only two or three inches deep with enough room for heat to circulate around the duck.

  3. Scatter the neck, the gizzard, and the heart around the duck. You may add the liver or not as desired. Many people discard it. Carefully place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes if it is a 3-pound duck; 25 minutes if it is a 4-pound duck; 30 minutes if it is a 5-pound duck. Now, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Holding a large two-pronged fork inside the duck to keep it from falling out of the pan, pour the duck fat down the drain or into a receptacle. You may, of course, use a basting syringe but this takes longer and is more tedious. Now, using the fork, turn the duck onto its other side and place the pan back in the oven. Continue baking for the same length of time as you did for the first side. Once more pour off the fat and this time turn the duck on its back.

  4. When a 3-pound duck has cooked for a total of 40 minutes, or a 4-pound duck has cooked for 50 minutes, or a 5-pound duck has cooked for 1 hour, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue roasting the duck, pouring off fat as it accumulates. THE TOTAL COOKING TIME for a 3- pound duck is about 1¼, hours; for a 4-pound duck is about 1½ hours; for a 5-pound duck about 2 hours. When cooked, the duck should be golden-brown and crisp. There are two ways to tell when the duck is done. Lift it up with the large fork and if the liquids inside the duck run clear (that is to say, they are not reddish), it is done. Or, prick the duck between the thigh and the leg. If the liquid runs clear, the duck is done.

  5. Cut the duck in half or quarter it and serve hot.

    Leftover cold duck is also delicious served on a plate or in sandwiches.