The following instructions are for whole ducks, but it’s possible to use the curing and seasoning mixture on wild or domesticated duck breasts as well. Simply weigh all of the breasts at one time, and apply the appropriate amount of cure to the meat.
Smoked duck breasts are considered a delicacy in numerous European countries. The cure mixture we have used here contains many flavourful seasonings. The duck, or the duck breasts, will be very tender, and the meat will be perfectly seasoned. The naturally dark meat of the duck will become an unbelievable maroon color in the finished product. The meat will titillate the eyes as well as the taste buds.
NOTE: If buying a domesticated duck at a grocery store, be sure to buy one that has not been pumped with brine. If you use a pumped duck, the smoked duck will be much too salty.
The Cure and Seasoning for 5 LBS. (2.25 KG) of Duck
You’ll need 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) Bradley Sugar Cure (do not use more than this amount), 2 tsp. (10 ml) each poultry seasoning — packed in the spoon and 2 tsp. (10 ml) onion granules (or powder). Then add 1 tsp. (5 ml) each paprika, sage, rubbed — packed in the spoon, marjoram, thyme, white pepper, garlic granules (or powder) and 2 bay leaves, cut into thin strips with scissors (Do not add to the ingredients above.)
Note: If the meat weighs either more or less than 5 pounds (2.25 kg), the amount of cure mix applied must be proportional to that weight. For example, if the weight of the meat is 2 1/2 pounds (1.15 kg), then each ingredient, including the Bradley Cure, needs to be cut in half.
- Wash the ducks.
- Remove excess fat from around the necks and inside the body cavities.
- Leave sufficient skin in the front and back to prevent the flesh from being exposed.
- Pierce the ducks well, especially the breasts and legs; use a fork with sharp tines.
- Place the ducks in a curing container (a large food container).
- Mix the cure thoroughly, and rub it on the birds — inside and outside.
- Sprinkle on the bay leaf, and rub the ducks again.
- Place the lid on the curing container.
- Cure in the refrigerator for 6 days. The refrigerator temperature should be set between 34° and 40° F (2.2° to 4.4° C).
- Overhaul (rub all surfaces) several times during this period.
- Rinse the ducks very well with cool water.
- Blot them with paper towels.
- Stuff the body cavities with crumpled newspaper that has been wrapped in paper towels.
- Wrap the whole birds with paper towels, and wrap them again with newspaper.
- Put a paper towel and newspaper under the ducks to absorb the water.
- Store them in the refrigerator overnight.
Day 7, morning – Smoking the ducks
- Lock the wing tips in place by twisting them behind the shoulder joints. On the backside, use butcher’s twine to secure the upper part of the wings together.
- Tie the legs together securely with butcher’s twine. Use a sturdy metal S hook to hang this string on a hanging rod, or pass a hanging rod under this string; this will allow the birds to be hung vertically – with the tail pointed up. If the whole birds are hung vertically in the smoke chamber, the smoke can easily flow through the body cavities. Hanging vertically also allows melted fat to fall freely from the body cavities into a drip tray. (If you must place the ducks horizontally on a smoking rack, use great care when the ducks are moved; spilling of the hot grease that has accumulated in the body cavities could cause a fire or an injury.)
- Dry the birds in the smoker for about 1 hour at 140°F (60°C). Drying should continue until the skin no longer feels clammy. However, there may be a little melted fat on the skin. Do not use smoke during this drying time.
- Smoke at the lowest possible temperature for about 3 hours
- Smoke at about 150°F (65°C) for an additional 3 hours. Smoking is complete when the birds have taken on an attractive brownish coloration. Decrease or increase these smoking times to suit your taste.
Day 7, afternoon or evening – Cooking the ducks
- Preheat the kitchen oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Place the ducks on an elevated wire rack in a pan that is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Placement on an elevated wire rack within a pan is important. The high oven temperature will cause a large amount of grease to collect in the bottom of the pan; if the ducks are not on an elevated rack, the backs of the ducks will be submerged in melted fat.
- Cover each bird with a loose aluminum-foil tent, and roast them until the internal temperature is between 160°F (71°C) and 180°F (82°C). This will require about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Experts on the preparation of duck usually cook the bird until the internal temperature is 160°F (71°C). Some food safety experts say that the internal temperature should be 180°F (82°C). You might wish to compromise at 170°F (77°C).
Note: If the salt taste is too mild, the next time you make this product, add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the ingredients list. If the salt taste is too strong, reduce the amount of Bradley Cure by about 1 teaspoon. Also, a teaspoon of sugar may be added to the list if you like your smoked duck a little sweeter.
Instructions prepared by Warren R. Anderson, author of Mastering the Craft of Smoking Food.