OK, I know I’m deluding myself. I live in Northeastern Ohio. It’s going to snow the first week of April. It always does. But…when you have one of these gorgeous, 59*F, not a cloud in the sky spring days in early March, it always lifts my spirits. And after this winter, which has been particularly brutal, I’m willing to deny years of cold reality and start believing that spring is here.* And how do you think I celebrate spring? I bring out the charcoal, because it’s time to grill!
*In fact, I’m ready to skip straight to summer. When I was at the mall, I started looking at the Tommy Bahama hawaiian shirts. I had to talk myself down:
Me: Put it back, you won’t be able to wear it for another four months.
Myself: But…but…I want it to be summer right now! And that color! It reminds me of the ocean! I want to go to the beach!
Me: Will you listen to yourself? Put that shirt down right now! Down! Besides, it’s got flowers on it. What will people think?
Myself: So you’re saying I should get the burnt orange one instead?
Me: Wow! That is a cool color. We’d look great at the beach…What am I saying? Stop! Put it down!
**And yes, the voices in my head are telling me to grill again.
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber kettle with the Rotisserie attachment here and here)
- Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x12″, or whatever fits your grill)
- Butcher’s twine
- 1 whole duck, 5-6 pounds
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 orange (optional)
- smoking wood chunk (hickory or a fruit wood, half the size of your fist. Only do this if you’re using charcoal)
- fresh ground pepper
Note: for an overview of the technique, see my rotisserie poultry post.
1. Pre-Salt the duck:24 to 48 hours before you cook the duck, salt the duck evenly – about 1/2 tsp on the breast, 1/2 tsp on the legs, 1/2 tsp on the back, 1/2 tsp in the cavity, and 1/2 tsp in the neck. Put the duck on a rack over a roasting pan or baking sheet, and store in the refrigerator, uncovered. This lets the skin dry, and gives the salt time to dry brine the duck.
2. Prep the duck: One hour before cooking, stuff the duck with the half an orange, truss the duck, and skewer the duck. Let it rest at room temperature. Put the wood chunk in a bowl of water to soak.
[Update 12/5/09]: This is also a good time to pierce the skin of the duck all over with a paring knife. This helps the fat escape from under the skin; just be careful that you don’t pierce the duck flesh while you’re doing it. I do this by coming at the duck from a very low angle, almost parallel to the skin.
3. Prep the rotisserie: Prepare your rotisserie for cooking on indirect high heat (see details here). For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it in two equal piles on the sides of the grill. I put the drip pan in the middle, between the piles. Then I put the wood chunk on top of the charcoal, and give it five minutes to start smoking.
4. Cook the duck: Put the spit on the grill, and cook the duck with the lid closed for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. After an hour, add 10 charcoal briquettes to each pile of charcoal, to kick the heat back up. Start checking the temperature in the thigh after about 1 hour 15 minutes. You want the thigh to be 180*F to 190*F. It should take an hour and a half to two hours to finish cooking. Remove from the grill and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
*This is not the recipe you want if the only way you’ll eat a duck breast is medium rare. The legs will be so tough as to be inedible if you don’t cook them to well done, and you won’t get the wonderful crispy duck skin that is the high point of this recipe.
To cook the legs to where they need to be, and to render enough fat to make the skin crisp up, you need to cook the whole duck to well done. The breasts are a little dry this way, but as long as you get some of that wonderful duck skin with it, you’ll enjoy it.
*Also, this is not a recipe for big eaters, unless you’re eating alone. There isn’t a whole lot of meat on a duck, and it’s also very long. I can fit two of them across on my jumbo gas grill, but it looks like I can only fit one on my kettle grill skewer.
*Rotisserie potatoes as a side dish. Potatoes + duck fat = heaven. Trust me – cook some potatoes in the duck fat and drippings!
*Duck has a LOT of fat on it, so don’t do this if you have any fat phobias. I want to try to rig up a drain rack next time – I’m going to nest two pans, and punch holes in the top one so the fat can drip onto the potatoes, then drain into the lower pan.
*Charcoal notes: A full chimney of charcoal gave me a starting temp of 450*F; after an hour the temp was down to 375*F, and after an hour and a half it was down to 275*F. This is one of the advantages of charcoal. You get quick, high heat at the start, and the temperature moderates as your cooking time progresses. This makes it hard to overcook the duck.
Questions? Suggestions? Ideas? Leave them in the comments.
Steven Raichlen’s Rotisserie episode of “Primal Grill”
|Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.|
Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
It’s a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!
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