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I am going to be smoking a duck on my grill in the next few days, and I'm finding a ton of conflicting information. I was hoping you all could help sort it out.

What breast/thigh temperature am I trying to get to for medium rare? I'm looking for the real answer, not the FDA approved politically-correct 165 degree answer. I've seen anywhere from 130 for rare, to the 165 for a hockey puck. There seems to be a lack of decent recipes.

I'm thinking a 200-225 degree smoker for at least a few hours should get rid of any actual danger from salmonella (though I honestly doubt duck is as much of a concern as, say, turkey or chicken since duck tartare and duck prosciutto aren't too hard to find).

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You cannot find the correct final internal temperature for a whole duck, because it doesn't exist. If you stop the cooking when the white meat is tender, you'll have very tough red meat. If you cook until the collagen is melted, you'll get very tough white meat.

With whole birds, it is more popular to go the collagen route. Especially a duck, with its darker meat overall and sufficient fat in the breast area to insulate the breast meat during smoking and then lubricate it, is a very good candidate for it.

To melt the collagen, wait until the duck thigh has gone up to 70 Celsius (160 Fahrenheit) and from then on smoke for 2-4 hours. In this case, the lower part of the range (2 hours) is probably better, to have a chance of a little bit of juiciness to remain in the breast.

  • Is there any option to put a baffle on the bird? Similar to the shield Alton Brown suggested using when he roasts turkey? – Matthew Aug 14 '14 at 21:10
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    @Matthew I'm not experienced enough with smoking to know about that, but my first thought is: if it can isolate the smoke, you'll get neither a smoke taste nor a crispy skin. If it can't isolate, it's not very useful. But you could try, or maybe somebody else here knows more. – rumtscho Aug 14 '14 at 21:14
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    @Matthew I'm inclined to agree that a baffle would be counterproductive. You're stuck with what could be called the Whole Bird Conundrum: namely, breast and thigh are two very different pieces of meat, with different amounts of connective tissue and ideal cooking time. If you want to cook them together, the breast will get cooked more than would be ideal on its own. But I think with this answer, it'll still turn out well. – logophobe Aug 15 '14 at 14:16
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    @logophobe heat shields are actually a good trick for whole birds, if your heat source has a high proportion of radiation heat. I just doubt that they are a good solution in a smoker. Else, if the OP is willing to sacrifice the presentation, cutting up the bird and rolling the breast in the red meat is supposed to work well. Kenji has an article describing it for a turkey. But I don't know if I'd do this to a duck, as it will reduce the amount of crackly skin. – rumtscho Aug 15 '14 at 14:49
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    Absolutely true, I agree this is specific to a smoker, for the exact reasons you mentioned. I follow the Alton Brown gospel for turkey as well :) – logophobe Aug 15 '14 at 15:13

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