Duck Poultry without white meat because of the “slow twitch” muscle use of flying, which brings more oxygen to the breasts than in chickens or turkeys. Duck can generally be divided into two categories:
Domesticated Duck is that which is available to the average cook. The vast majority of domesticated ducks consumed in the US are Pekin or “Long Island” Duck, though Muscovies (aka Barbary) and Moulards are becoming more popular. In the UK, the Aylesbury duck, which is now almost entirely lost, and the Rouen have also historically been enjoyed, and in France the latter is generally considered to be one of the two best ducks to cook with, along with the Nantes. Duck is a high protein food which is a good source of several minerals. Domesticated duck is high in fat and is best enjoyed in moderation or as just a lean skinless duck breast, which is easier now as modern breeding has produced leaner ducks. The Muscovy duck is a large bird with less fat than most other breeds, and the breast meat is usually firm. Nantes are smaller and more tender, with a delicate flavor. Pekin and Aylesbury ducks have a rich, deep flavor and are fairly fatty, and the Rouen has a more gamey taste.
Wild Duck is available to hunters or those who know a hunter. It is less fatty than domesticated duck, which means that on occasion some fat may need to be added when adapting a recipe that calls for domesticated duck. Mallard is the most common and largest of wild ducks, with an intense flavor that makes it especially good for roasting. Inland ducks will generally be more palatable than those taken from salty water, as the latter often taste of the fish they eat and their flesh will be more oily. The cleaning and preparation of wild duck will make a big difference in the enjoyment of the meal, as some people are turned off by wild duck entirely due to the way the skin is dealt with in their first exposure. Brining can be important for cooking over high heat. There’s no reason to waste any portion of a well-shot bird, as the carcass can be made into a delicious stock for soups and stews, and duck fat is delicious, quite expensive, and among the healthiest of animal fats—though this is not to say it’s good for you, it’s better than butter but not as healthy as olive oil. Aside from Mallards, other wild duck breeds include the highly prized teal, as well as the widgeon, pintail, pochard, canvasback, and gadwall. Young birds are usually tender, but as with all wild game the older birds can be quite tough and may need long slow cooking methods.
All types of duck benefit from roasting, which crisps the skin, and are used in cuisines around the world. Other traditional cooking techniques include poaching, use in soups, and smoking. Foie gras is sometimes taken from a duck, but usually from a goose.
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