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Last time I made a roast, I used a recipe from BBC good food. Since I have had luck with those recipes, I decided to go for their roast duck recipe.

That recipe involves cutting the whole duck in half and roasting the halves with the skin pointing up. I have never roasted a bird like that before, and I am wondering why someone would do it. Does it have to do with the flavor of the meat? Proportion of fat? I don't think I'd ever do that to a chicken because I'd be afraid the meat would go dry. But obviously the flavor of duck is different, and maybe if I know why people do that, I can use it intelligently in my cooking.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The main reason why you want to cut the duck in half and roast them with the skin side pointing upwards is so the skin of the duck is nice and crispy. Unlike most roasted poultry where you don't eat the skin, the duck's skin is considered a huge delicacy if it is crispy.

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thanks. i'am just about to put it in the oven, so i'm glad i checked here. –  ixtmixilix Jan 9 '12 at 17:04
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Who doesn't eat chicken skin? It's awesome! –  Chris Cudmore Jan 9 '12 at 17:34
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@Chris: For the most part, people don't eat chicken skin. Where as some people specifically order duck skin. Think Peking Duck, where it is mostly duck skin with a little bit of duck meat attached. –  Jay Jan 9 '12 at 18:00
    
...which brings back fond memories of my meal at this place: china.org.cn/english/features/beijing/31300.htm –  ixtmixilix Jan 9 '12 at 18:11
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As far as I know the not-eating-chicken-skin thing is a calorie and fat saving measure. It used to be rare in the circles I eat in and most lamented by those who felt they had to practice it. These days it seems pretty common. I split the difference by only eating the skin if it's just right. An instance of Fuzzy Pink Niven's Law. –  dmckee Jan 26 '12 at 1:08
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I agree with Jay's answer that one of the reasons is because of keeping the skin crispy, but I don't agree about the difference with other types of poultry and have a bit more background info.

The root difference between duck and other poultry is that duck is much fattier, and most of that fat is stored under the skin. If you don't do anything about the fat, you'll get a bird that will be too greasy to enjoy; and also the skin won't crisp as nicely as, say, chicken skin would with similar preparation, because the skin will be soggy with the fat that's rendering underneath. There are more ways than one to get rid of the fat; a popular one is to steam the duck before you roast it, usually after sticking a fork into the skin a few times so that the rendered fat can get out easily. This seems to be a different solution to the same problem: if you cut the duck in half and put the cut side down (which is the same as putting the skin side up), the fat will have a much easier way out than if you cooked the duck whole.

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Very valid point. My answer was coming from someone who likes to eat the duck and your answer comes from someone who obviously prepared a duck in the past. Haha I fully support switching to this as the accepted answer. –  Jay Jan 9 '12 at 21:43
    
This is definitely the right answer. There's nothing magical about duck skin compared to other poultry skin; the distinguishing characteristic of duck compared to other birds is the amount of fat! –  Aaronut Jan 25 '12 at 23:22
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I routinely butterfly most poultry before roasting, not just duck. The biggest reason I have is the bird cooks faster and more evenly without the cavity. Since it cooks faster, there is less moisture loss. I also get the backbone to save for stock.

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Cut the beast in half and slow roast on a broiling pan, skin side up. You Do it for two reasons. Second is to help make the skin crispy. Firstly is because most of that abundant fat is under the skin. This way the fat oozes out from under the skin and it has somewhere to go. One bird can give you two cups of fat easy. With an uncut bird the fat cannot escape so easily. Cheers.

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Duck is reasonably high in fat. Cutting it in half will allow more of the fat to drip out.

Another possible reason would be that certain kinds of fat will drip out more than others; I found this study does showing such an effect in beef.

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This answer contained very little that actually addressed the question; most of it was iffy health claims. I've edited it down to the portion that's a real answer, and left the potential nutrition differences as a possibility without making any claims. I've also cleaned up all the now obsolete comments. –  Jefromi Aug 21 '13 at 19:49
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