I think smoked duck is often an under appreciated meat and when you season it up right and cook it on the smoker, it takes on a flavor that is better than turkey or chicken in my opinion.
In this recipe I will show you how easy it is to prepare a duck, dry brine it, season it, cook it up on your smoker and then finish it off with some high heat to render some of that fat in the breast.
I am going to open this bird up so it will cook faster and more evenly and to do that, we simply need to remove the backbone. Don't worry.. it's very easy.
First let's cut off that annoying long piece of extra skin!
Now, while you have the shears in hand, place the bird breast side down and let's cut along the first side of that backbone. It does not have to be perfect so don't be too concerned that you won't do it right if this is your first time.
Now, spin the bird around and cut along the other side of the backbone removing it entirely.
Flip the bird to skin side up and press down to flatten it out.
The duck is now properly spatchcocked and is ready to be a-salted 😉
To dry brine any poultry or other meat, you simply coat it with a layer of coarse kosher salt at a ratio of approximately ½ teaspoon per pound of meat. I don't necessarily measure since this is not mission critical but I have learned what the right amount looks like and it's never even getting close to being salty. If you want to measure it out, it's not a bad idea.
For a 6 lb duck like this one, you'd need about 3 to 4 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt.
With meat side facing up, sprinkle about 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt evenly all over. Leave it in this position for about 5 or 10 minutes or until you see the salt starting to dissolve
Now flip the bird over the skin side up and place it on a rack inside of a cookie sheet or pan. I used a Bradley rack as usual but a cooling rack or even a Weber grill pan would work great.
Sprinkle another 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt evenly all over the wings, legs and breast..
Now place the whole pan with the duck into the fridge, uncovered overnight or for 8 to 12 hours.
During this time the salt will draw bird juice to the surface, the salt will dissolve, the salty bird juice will then be absorbed back into the duck. It's that simple.
When the time in the fridge is over, all of the juices that were on the outside will have absorbed and/or drained off into the pan. There is no need to rinse the duck.
We have salted the inside of the duck, and now it is time to season the outside. I recommend a seasoning that is low in salt, tastes amazing and works well with duck. If you don't have one that you already love, then I recommend my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub). I and many others have been using it for more than a decade and it has stood the test of time.
I took things a step further and not only added my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) all over the duck, both sides, I also applied a light sprinkling of the Texas rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub). Mixing the two rubs together is never a bad idea. If you try it, you'll see what I mean.
Season up the meat side and then do the same thing to the skin side.
Set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat at about 225°F and if your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
Use pecan and cherry wood (or a mix) for smoke
Once your smoker is ready, place the whole pan into the smoker, with the duck skin side up.
As you can see, I'm using the brand new Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi— I wish I could just send all of you one of these to use and you could see why I rave about this thing so much.
Folks, I don't sell products.. I just get excited and tell everyone about the products I love and the products sell themselves.
If you're a salesman and you're not excited about your product, you need to find a new product!
Ok pep talk is over!
Let that duck sail along at about 225°F for around 2 hours to get some good smoke flavor on it before we finish it out with some high heat.
Several times during the cook brush the duck with a mixture of 1 stick of butter and 2 TBS of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).
The duck has a thick layer of fat just under the skin on the breast and that fat needs to render out some. To do that, you really need some high heat.
I have smoked these at lower temperatures and they do fine but they are not as good as they could be.
For this reason, I recommend you get that duck to some high heat, whatever that requires.
First, grab a pair of kitchen shears and make a few snips in the skin over the breast. These are drain holes so the fat can bubble out as it renders (melts).
If you have a smoker that will cook at higher temperatures, I recommend 300-325°F for another hour or so until the duck reaches 150°F in the thickest part of the breast. Then you can flip it over and finish it off over direct flames on the grill or you can leave it skin side up and use the broiler in your oven.
I decided to give it some high heat in the Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi for about an hour along with some apple halves to go with my cranberry sauce.
I only left the apples in there for about 30 minutes brushing them once with some melted butter and a light sprinkle of my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).
I then moved the duck to my new Made In blue carbon steel roaster and put some broiler on it until it reached 165°F.
When the duck is finished cooking, remove it from the heat and tent some foil over the top for about 15 minutes.
Because it was spatchcocked, this makes it really easy to carve up.
Remove the wings and legs then slowly and carefully remove the breast meat by following right along the breast bone with a very sharp knife. Slice the breast into cutlets and call dinner.
For cranberry sauce I make a simple syrup and add 12-16 ounces of fresh cranberries but with this one, I decided to jazz it up and use orange juice for the liquid. If you want to make this recipe like I did, here it is:
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
Add all three ingredients to a small sauce pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until it thickens to your liking.
Easy and delicious.