It seems that people often serve rare duck in restaurants and at home, though this is not consistent with USDA guidelines, or published normal internal temperatures. So, I kept wondering if this is safe.
My take on this is that medium-rare to rare duck is safer to eat, mainly because of the different farming conditions between duck and chicken. Generally, duck is not as intensively farmed as chicken, who are often reared in a squalid and very dirty environment.
Salmonella is not specific to chicken. It just happens to like the poor conditions people rear many chicken in. Although chicken husbandry has improved and the amount of salmonella reduced, it still leaves a lot to be desired in many instances.
Ducks Are Not Intensively Farmed As Chickens
Ducks are sometimes intensively farmed, but generally not to the same level as chicken. Legislation nowadays means that they will never be as intensively reared as chickens once were. However, an important thing to bear in mind is that, if you are going to cook duck rare, you should have bought it from a reliable source.
Even if you have a free range chicken that has been reared in a great environment with a low risk of salmonella, rare chicken does not look or taste nice. Believe me I have tried!
Always Sear Duck Meat
On the other hand, rare to medium rare duck beats well cooked duck hands down. Not only because of the colour of the flesh, but it also looks and tastes nice.
Another factor is that, when cooking duck breast, we often sear the breast at high temperatures. Regardless of how you’re going to cook it, you should cut the fat layer with a knife. But do not cut the meat, as this could drive any bacteria from the skin into the meat. The high-temperature searing of the surfaces will kill any bacteria.
Even when I smoke duck breast in my Bradley Smoker, I finish off with a sear in the frying pan, at high temperature. This not only kills any bacteria but also crispens up the skin.
Published guidelines, whether government or in cookery books, tend to err on the side of caution. Not only from a Health and Safety point of view but to avoid any comeback from disgruntled users. Therefore, you can use such values with discretion, if you are a confident cook.
I am happy to eat rare duck, but I do follow the rough guide outlined above. Others may differ.
The short answer is: Experts, like folks at the USDA and FDA, say it is not appropriate to cook any poultry to a temperature under 165°F without increasing the risk of foodborne illness and it really isn’t ok to eat rare duck breast for the same reason.
Food Standards Agency advises people to cook duck thoroughly, rather than medium-rare, to avoid the risk of campylobacter poisoning. We hope you learned why you shouldn’t eat rare duck. Check out the Bradley Food Smoking Blog for more expert tips & tricks on smoking food like a pitmaster!