This post is indirectly sponsored by my friends at Maple Leaf Farms. They commissioned me to take pictures of duck on the grill for their website; the beer can duck was so good that I had to share the recipe.
Or, as my inner 13 year old likes to call it, Beer Butt Duck. [Heh. Heheh. Heh.] The trick to beer can duck is a 16 ounce can.1 Thanks to pint cans of Irish beer, they’re easy to find nowadays. 2 Once you have a big can, dispose of 2/3rds of the beer – gotta keep the cook lubricated – then proceed with the recipe.
As I’ve mentioned before, roasted whole duck is not for people who want medium-rare duck breast. The legs have to be cooked long, to make them tender and shreddable. The breast meat will be well done by that point. Now, don’t get me wrong, the breast will still be tender and juicy thanks to all the melting duck fat. But, in the end, the legs make the (whole) duck.
1 whole duck, giblets discarded, skin around the neck trimmed
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons fine sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 (16) ounce "tall boy" beer can, 1/3 full of beer, a couple extra holes opened in the top with a can opener.
Season the duck: Unwrap the duck, remove everything from the cavity, and pat dry with paper towels. Trim the neck skin just below the nub of the neck left on the duck. Poke the duck skin all over with a paring knife, so the fat can escape. Poke through the skin, but not into the meat – I poke with a very flat angle so I stay away from the meat. Sprinkle the duck with the salt and pepper, inside and out. (If you have the time, refrigerate uncovered, overnight to 48 hours, for a dry brining effect.)
Sit the duck on the beer can: Spray the beer can with a fine coat of cooking spray. (This will make it easier to pull the can out of the duck when it is done cooking.) Set the partially full can of beer on a cutting board, and lower the cavity of the duck onto the can. The duck should sit all the way down on the can, with good posture – spine pointing straight up, and the tail and the knobs of the drumsticks touching the cutting board. (If the duck isn’t sitting all the way down, grab the can and the duck and wiggle them around – the edge of the can is probably caught on the spine of the bird.)
Set the grill up for indirect medium heat Set the grill up for indirect medium heat (350°F), with a drip pan under the duck. For my Weber Summit, I remove the grate and a couple of burner covers in the middle of the grill, and put the drip pan so it rests on the burner and is wedged between the remaining burner covers. I put the grill grate back, preheat the grill with all the other burners on high for 15 minutes, then turn off all the burners except for the two next to the drip pan, which I leave on high. This gives me an internal temperature of about 350°F. (Summary: Burner 1 on high, drip pan replacing burner covers over burner 2, burner 3 on high, other burners in the grill off.) Finally, I brush the grill grate clean with my grill brush.
Cook the duck: Carefully transfer the duck to the indirect heat part of the grill grate. (If you have help, ask them to walk with you to the grill, carrying the sheet pan while you hold on to the duck. Then have them hold the pan while you lift the duck and can on to the grill.) Close the lid and cook until the duck reaches 185°F in the thickest part of the thigh and leg, about 2 hours for a five pound duck.
Carve and serve: Transfer the duck and can to a clean cutting board, then lift the duck off of the can and set the duck on the cutting board. (I grab the can with one set of tongs, the backbone on the top of the bird with another, and lift the bird while pulling down and twisting the can.) Discard the warm beer and can. Let the duck rest for fifteen minutes, then carve and serve.
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If your duck tips over because you tried a 12 ounce can, pull the can out, pour the beer out of the duck cavity, rinse it out with cold running water, and pat it dry with paper towels inside and out before trying a 16 ounce can. Um…not that I tried to get away with a smaller can that I had in the fridge already…↩
If you can find a pint can of hard cider, even better. Apple and duck are a great combination.↩
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