Duck, or duckling, includes any of the 80 different species of wild or domestic birds with webbed feet. Today, several major breeds of duck are raised for their meat. These domesticated ducks may be three times larger than their wilderness-reared relatives. Duck is very popular in Europe and
China, where more duck is eaten each year than chicken. In the United States, however, duck is usually perceived as a special holiday dish, if eaten at all, because Americans annually eat less than a pound of duck per person. In contrast, Americans eat close to 50 pounds of chicken per year. The consumption level may be lower because Americans consider ducks to be fatty and scrawny. The perception of ducks as fatty rings true, because ducks are one of the highest-fat types of poultry. The fat (mainly found within and beneath the skin).
Helps keep the duck buoyant. Duck is also rich in protein. It is an excellent source of riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorus and is a good source of iron, zinc, and thiamin. Duck’s reputation as scrawny may be undeserved, however. They do have a large skeleton and thus a relatively high proportion of bone. But specialty breeds, such as Muscovy ducks, have increased breast size for more meat. The USDA grades duck quality with classifications A, B, and C, similar to other poultry. The majority of ducks are really ducklings, 6 to 8 weeks old. Broilers and fryers are less than 8 weeks old. Roasters are birds that are slaughtered when they are no more
than 16 weeks old. Domestic ducks can weigh between 3 and 7 1/2 pounds. Older ducks are generally larger. Almost all ducks sold in stores are frozen so that they are available year-round.
Fresh duck should have a broad, fairly plump breast; the skin should be elastic, not saggy. For frozen birds, the packaging should be tight and unbroken. Frozen duck should be thawed in the refrigerator, a process that takes from 24 to 36 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Duck should not be refrozen once it has been thawed. Before cooking, all visible fat should be removed. Also, prick the skin with a fork to help the fat melt and drip away from the bird during roasting. Some cooks also remove the skin and underlying fat. Cook whole birds to 180° Fahrenheit, breasts to 170° Fahrenheit, and legs, thighs, and wings to 180° Fahrenheit.
Duck can be prepared in a variety of ways, including roasting, braising, and broiling. Ducklings are best roasted in the oven on a rack so that as much fat as possible can drip away from the bird. A citrus sauce nicely complements a duck’s flavor; accordingly, the dish called duck à l’orange is one of the most popular ways to eat this bird. Allow about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of raw bone-in duck per person. This will yield 3 to 4 ounces of fully cooked duck. (One pound of boneless raw meat, when cooked, will serve 3 people.)