Crispy Roasted Duck with Holiday Seasonings and Sauces

Who knows why turkey became the fowl of choice this time of year, leaving duck forgotten by most. I guess the ducks themselves are just fine with this arrangement, but if you’re looking for a less-traditional and more adventurous Thanksgiving dinner, why not give duck a try?

A whole, roasted duck tends to work best for smaller groups, as there is less meat on a duck carcass than on a chicken or turkey and depending on where you buy it, duck can be more expensive. Duck is prized for its rich flavor and thick, fatty skin that is hard to resist when cooked until crisp. Duck is often cooked with a sweet glaze because it helps the skin caramelize and crisp up. A hint of sweetness also goes well with the slightly gamey flavor of the meat. You don’t need to go overboard with this, however, as our recipe below for a Tamari Honey Glaze proves. You can skip a glaze completely, of course, and simply season the duck with spices that give the impression of sweetness, like cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and Chinese five spice powder.

Either way, the duck will be even more memorable if you serve some sort of sauce on the side. Again, a hint of sweetness pairs undeniably well. Orange Honey Sauce and Balsamic Berry Sauce get their sweetness from fruit and also have a palate-cleansing kick from a hit of vinegar. Served next to the cooked duck, either (or both!) will make for a memorable holiday meal.

How to Roast a Duck

Talk to your butcher about how large of a duck you need. The cooking time below is for a 4lb duck, which will typically feed three people.


Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.

Rinse the duck, then pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Optional: For extra crispy skin, place the duck in a roasting pan and refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Remove fat and anything else from inside the cavity and discard.

Using your fingers, loosen the duck’s skin all around it’s body. Apply seasoning of choice (see recipes below) under the skin as much as possible and on top of the duck skin.

Optional: Truss the duck with kitchen string. A duck will cook just fine without being tied together, however, some people feel it looks better if it is trussed. There are many methods of trussing poultry and we favor a very simple one. First, cut 4 feet or so of kitchen twine. Set the duck breast-side-up with the legs facing you. Center the twine beneath the ends of the legs and the tail of fat at the end of the duck. Lift the two ends of twine on your left and right and cross the twine over the top of the duck legs and tail of fat.

Pull the twine tightly so the legs are pulled close to the body of the duck. Pull the ends of the twine forward (away from you) and loop the twine over the wings and around the front of the duck so the wings are pulled close to the body.

Tie a knot so the twine is secured where the neck once was. You can snip the tips of the wings off, as they have little to no meat on them and often burn while cooking.

Place the trussed, seasoned duck breast side down in a roasting pan, preferably one with a rack so excess fat can drip off. Roast for 45 minutes.

Turn the duck over and cook, breast side up about 45 minutes more. A thermometer inserted into a thigh (not touching bone) should read 170-180°F. The meat will still be a bit pink.

If the skin is not dark and crispy enough for you, turn on the broiler and broil duck a few minutes more until golden brown.

Remove duck from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Glaze and Seasoning

A little spice can go a long way…

Tamari Honey Glaze

This sweet and salty glaze gives the duck skin more flavor. It also helps the skin brown faster. If the skin actually begins to burn before the duck is cooked through, tent a piece of foil over the duck.

Apple this glaze under and over the duck skin so it can flavor the meat as well. Make sure to do so before placing the duck in the roasting pan, as an excess amount of tamari and honey dripping into the pan will burn and smoke while the duck cooks.


  • 1/2 cup tamari
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder


Combine tamari, honey and five-spice powder in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly. Using your fingers, loosen the duck’s skin then rub the glaze over and under skin. Finish by lightly salting the outside of the duck.

Spice Seasoning

Instead of a glaze, simply season the duck. You can always use just salt and pepper, but spices make the end result much more interesting.


  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice


Stir together spices. Using your fingers loosen the duck’s skin. Sprinkle the spice mixture under and on top of the skin.


Orange Honey Sauce

A sauce need not be overloaded with sugar to pair well with duck. In fact, this sauce is more tart than sweet, thanks to the acidity in the orange juice and a drizzle of vinegar.


  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • The juice of 2 oranges (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon tamari


Gently boil the honey, vinegar and orange juice over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the butter and tamari. Simmer again for five minutes.

Balsamic Berry Sauce

Again with this sauce, sweet and tart flavors play off one another with great success. One more flavor element –  chicken stock –  gives this sauce a savory flavor.


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken or duck stock
  • 1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Bring vinegar, wine and stock to a boil for ten minutes. Add berries and simmer 12-15 minutes more, until less than a 1/2 cup of liquid is left. Turn off heat and stir in butter. You can strain the sauce so it is smooth, or leave the berries in. Enjoy!

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32 thoughts on “Crispy Roasted Duck with Holiday Seasonings and Sauces”

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  1. For an oriental taste, I like to season the duck with 5 spice and have a dipping sauce of:
    – Zest of an Orange
    – Freshly squeezed orange juice
    – 5 dessert spoons of Oyster sauce
    – tsp of sesame oil
    – 1/2 tsp of honey
    – 1/2 lime juice
    – a bit of grated ginger

  2. I could eat duck everyday, cant get enoughof that skin. We have a duck each for Christmas Eve, a duck each for Christmas day, and whats left over (very little) dishes up cold with salad on Boxing day. Then carcasses get re-roasted with veg lemons and oranges and then go into the pressure cooker with stock and herbs for…you guessed it, duck soup.

  3. The one time I tried to cook a duck I end up with more duck fat than duck when I was done, the fat was just pouring off it, quarts of fat, I was scared it would overflow the roasting pan.

  4. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering. It can be helpful to add a little water to the bottom of the pan since a lot of fat gets released almost immediately and this can be somewhat smoky. But you definitely want to save all that yummy fat for just about anything you need to saute afterward!

  5. My grandmother makes a roasted duck for Christmas every year. She serves it in a traditional way, with red cabbage and potato dumplings. Often she makes a second vegetable dish like Brussel sprouts, because I don’t eat the dumplings (and my Mom is happy about more veggies, too). It’s very yummy and a great Christmas dinner.

  6. Save the fat. There is nothing better than eggs fried in duck fat.

    Also I would suggest you keep the fat and make some duck rinds by sauteing the fat chunks on a skillet. Will taste different from the fat you get from roasting though.

  7. I love this post! One tip: follow the Chinese trick for extra crispy skin; plunge the duck into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge it into an ice bath. The skin will be super crispy after you roast it.

  8. Is your grandmother Czech? Mine was. That’s why my mother made roast duck on Christmas Eve. I will be continuing the tradition by making duck and red cabbage for Christmas too, with potato dumplings (not a lot), homemade sauerkraut (which you otherwise can’t get here in Norway) and smoked sausage that I will buy in Prague when I am there on a short trip in two weeks. Dobrou chu?! (Bon appétit!)

  9. “Remove fat and anything else from inside the cavity and discard.”

    Are you nuts? Discard what’s inside? The heart, liver, gizzard, kidney? Man, there’s hardly tastier offal around than inside a duck! Seriously, Mark, you’ve got to try it!

    1. I’m sure he didn’t mean the offal. some ducks come without the offal included. You’re just supposed to remove the blood and stringy stuff that is sometimes left inside the carcass.
      Cooked duck twice this month, and it’s damn tasty! I just sit it on top of some carrots and rhutebagas, and puree the veggies together with the fat drippings when its done. This way I don’t waste the fat and I get a quick colorful sauce kinda thing ^^

  10. If a duck isn’t large enough for your family, have a goose. They taste exactly the same.
    I love the duck fat, too. It can be used to roast vegetables in the oven, for example.

  11. I love duck, but don’t eat it that often. This recipe sounds great. Another primal friendly meal to serve to a large group that features duck is Turducken. This is delicious if prepared correctly. De-boned chicken, stuffed into a de-boned duck, stuffed into a de-boned turkey. A friend made it once for a holiday feast, simply delicious, and very primal mmmmmm! Thanksgiving is long gone in Canada, but you’ve got me thinking Christmas now.

  12. Well Thanksgiving in our house is about the turkey, at least for my wife and daughter, But I’m the one who cooks Christmas dinner around here and it may have to be duck again this year. Two years ago it was duck and our dinner guests still rave about it.

    For me it’s always “duck season”.

  13. To de bone like restaurants, roast the duck earlier in the day or even a day before. Let cool. slide a sharp knife on both sides of the breastbone. and along the wishbone then thru the wing joint, score both sides of the backbone. then gently slide your thumb in nalong the the ribcage and remove the body from the ribcage. wing thigh and leg will still have the bone. repeat on other half. Place half ducks in roasting pan and reheat and crisp. Makes for a very enjoyable semi boneless duck. Oh and more fat cooks off. and ofcourse glaze with your fav. sauce and crisp up. I have some wild autumnberry sauce that I jarred this fall that cant wait to be a duck glaze

  14. Yumm… I always wondered how to cook Duck. I love getting it from the Chinese restaurants. Ya keep the offal, foie gras is duck liver pate.

  15. I read this on Saturday and while at the farmers market on Sunday I bought a duck. Tonight it’s duck for dinner, even though my wife is bringing home the Thanksgiving turkey this evening. I love duck and figure all that duck fat may be useful for cooking on Thursday. Eating well (healthy, natural foods) makes life worth living.

  16. love duck. First had it roasted by my sister-in-law’s Danish immigrant Mom. Wow! Karin (Kah’ rin) uses just salt and pepper; I’ve been roasting them that way ever since. Really want to try goose next.

  17. Love finding stuff from previous years. I’m getting two ducks on Tuesday, so roast duck first and save the fat for duck confit to follow! Can’t wait.

  18. To season a duck, is lemon pepper combined with paprika okay?

  19. I just bought a duck at the farmers market. I cannot wait to taste it. I have not made duck in 20 years. I am not sure why. I have some delicious plum sauce made from an Asian plum tree in the back yard that I am going to try for the dipping sauce.

  20. I should’ve followed this recipe. Martha stewart has the initial roasting tempt so high that most of the skin turned black before the time was even up.

  21. Holy smokes! (and i do mean smoke!) Duck turned out great but splattering fat flew all over the inside of my oven thus smoking the heck out of the whole house! Ideas to prevent that for next time?

  22. New to primal, roasting our first duck RIGHT NOW (got it at the farmer’s market yesterday morning). I’m going to make the orange sauce above. Can’t wait! Duck is delicious.

  23. “Remove fat and anything else from inside the cavity and discard.”

    What kind of paleo blog is this?!

  24. All these ways how to do the duck sounds real good to me. I came trying to learn how to cook duck. Now i got different ways to try out. I even want to try the turducken it sounds good too. Sombody need to take all these recipes and some more of them and book’em. Duck Recipe. Thank you all!