Wild Food: Smoked Duck in Late Winter

I recently found out I’ll be having a bit more free time in the evenings. At least, for a month or two. When that happens, I like having more time to actually cook rather than eat cold sandwiches at 9pm because I got off work late and so did Matt. So, today, I made something rather ambitious, which I hadn’t done in a while. I decided I wanted to smoke some duck.

Something about snow on the roof and a fire inside

The old grill hasn’t been touched since probably early October.

So, last Fall, Matt and I took on both of our first waterfowl seasons. Duck and Canada Goose. There was definitely a learning curve. I never did shoot any birds, as my shotgun is completely unmodified. It’s a little grouse hunting gun. So my pellet spread is… wide. I think I took maybe three shots in three months of bird hunting, knowing I wasn’t going to hit anything. It worked great with a slug for deer hunting. Not so much with bird shot. Matt, however, borrowed, and then bought, a very nice 12 gauge from someone he knows. He put a full choke on it, and actually hit a couple birds. I think in total we got 4 ducks, 2 geese, and maybe 5 or 6 coots. Not bad for first timers on their own, hunting literally within city limits.

Anyhow. I’d made the first two ducks we got right away- two little green-winged teal. They’re small birds, a little smaller than the cornish game hens you can buy at the grocery store. They were great. And I made the bigger of the two geese when my dad came to visit. No one told me goose, particularly wild, does not need to be cooked to 165F like chicken and turkey. It was… dry. And chewy.

So, today, when I was deciding what to do with my ducks, I opted to go for the way I’d first had duck ever: smoked. A friend of my dad’s when I was little was a big sportsman. My dad only hunted deer, but this guy hunted everything. Much like me and Matt. He brought us some smoked duck and goose, and it was heavenly.

Gettin' 'er goin'

Gettin’ ‘er goin’

So, I stuffed my feet into some snow boots, tromped on over to Menard’s, and picked up some lump hickory charcoal and apple wood smoker chips. I came back home, got the grill set up, and the charcoal chimney lit. I came back inside, and started to prepare the ducks.

Here's the rub.

Here’s the rub.

I mixed up a rub to go on the duckies. I am horrible at measuring when I’m winging things and not baking. So, it was a good deal of sea salt. Maybe 1/8 inch of it in the bottom of that little white container you see on the counter. Plenty of black pepper, plenty of red pepper flakes, a few (2-3) half-spoonfuls of minced garlic (I use the stuff in a jar because I’m lazy, and I can only fit half of a spoon in the mouth of the jar), and then a good spoonful of Thai/Vietnamese garlic chili sauce. The hot stuff that’s like chunky Sriracha. I also put in a touch of dry rubbed sage. I mixed all that mess up into a paste, and I added 3-4 spoonfuls of “robust” molasses. I mixed that together and then set it aside. While that sat and kind of melded, I took some more salt, probably a teaspoon poured into the palm of my hand per duck, and rubbed it into the skin of the ducks to dry them out a bit faster. Ducks and geese have a lot of fat in their skins- more than chicken- and drying out the skin and salting it will help make it crisp.  Then I set them aside too, and went to check the grill.

Salty birds

Salty birds

After I dumped the now-white-hot coals, I rubbed the rub into the ducks, and let them chill out some more while the grill got hot.

Rubbed up ducks

Rubbed up ducks

Once everything was going the right temp on the grill- about 200-250, I set the ducks on the grill to cook for about 2-2/12 hours.


I checked the grill every 20 minutes or so to make sure it was the right temp. The birds were to one side of the heat so it was indirect. Which was good, since I couldn’t keep it below 300F. After about an hour, at 120F, they looked like this:



I had to spread the coals out a bit to cool it down from 350, then I left everything go some more. I came in and put together a potato to bake for Matt, a sweet potato for me, and some pasta salad. I left them go for another hour to hour and a half. And then. Then.

Delicious smoked ducks

Delicious smoked ducks

The skin didn’t crisp as much as I’d hoped, but they were done through, and I learned the hard way not to over cook wild fowl. It was delicious. Duck and goose both are all dark meat. Which on birds is my favorite kind. The longer, slower cooking process really let the fat in the duck skin render out into the meat, keeping it pretty moist. And it was tender.

With the breast sliced out.

With the breast sliced out.

There’s still a good deal of meat on the carcass. I like to keep small carcasses like this to make soups and broth out of. Duck noodle soup is excellent, especially in winter. These were two mallard drakes that we got in October and early December respectively, that we plucked and cleaned, then froze. They’re mid-sized as far as ducks go, but we never did see any of the bigger ducks, like pintails or canvasbacks. So mallards are about as large as we’d get here.

Have you ever had duck or goose before? Much less wild fowl?





5 thoughts on “Wild Food: Smoked Duck in Late Winter

  1. This is just the ticket! My Deerslayer will love it. (Me, too.) Did you turn the ducks during the smoking process? I love noodle soup with pheasant, myself. I need to send my Deerslayer (duckslayer) out for some! Thanks, I’m loving your blog.

    • I put them on the grill breast up, and left them that way. I rotated them neck end to butt end by quarter turns so the tops of the breast and the sides got equal access to the heat. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Pingback: Dispatches from Amber’s Toybox (Toolbox?) | Play Outdoors

  3. Pingback: Wild Food: Smoked Goose | Play Outdoors

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