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I've cooked whole turkeys and chickens many times, but never a whole duck or any other "gamey" meat. Is there a difference in what should be done or technique in general? I've been told by others that duck is "more difficult", but never how or why.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

With chicken and turkey, the most important "trick" to cooking it is to make sure the dark meat gets done before the white meat dries out, and to make sure the skin crisps up somewhat.

Duck is all dark meat, and has a thick layer of fat that must be rendered out. There is not a lot of danger in drying out the breast meat like with a chicken.

Like Martha said, it's best to make a few shallow cuts in the skin over the breast (don't go all the way through to the meat) to help the fat render out. A simple (western) roasted bird would be cooked at 350°F for about 1 hour 45 min, with the oven turned up to 500°F for another 15 minutes to crisp up the skin. There is a LOT of fat rendered out, so it's best to roast in a sturdy roasting pan, on a rack (so it doesn't sit in the fat), and drain the fat about an hour into cooking (save the fat, though; it's delicious).

Personally, I think duck is easier to cook, but it's definitely different from roasting a chicken.

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Also, be prepared: there's a lot less meat on a duck than a comparably-sized chicken. – Marti Jan 16 '11 at 6:01

Duck is much fattier than either chicken or turkey, so it is particularly important to include steps such as placing the bird on a rack and scoring the skin to allow the fat to escape.

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Duck takes a long time to cook, like turkey but longer. You would cook chicken for a shorter time, maybe an hour.

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This difference is only because of the size of the bird, not because of something special about the meat. It is of no concern when you cook by thermometer instead of timer. The OP wanted to know more details about differences based on the specifics of duck meat. – rumtscho Oct 3 '12 at 14:57

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