Deboning A Duck


Duck has become a bit of a unknown protein to the home cook, as you can usually only buy it at the supermarket whole, frozen, and the thought of dealing with that for most people is a little daunting. When you do find stores where you can buy just the breast (which is the easiest to prepare) it will usually cost you a good amount. As we talked about in earlier blogs, the easier something is to prepare the more they will charge you for it; this is where knowing a butchery technique comes in handy. You can usually buy the whole duck for less than it costs you for one breast and instead of getting one single meal, you can have 7 or 8 for the same cost. The most important technique to know in the restaurant industry kitchen, is not how to make a crystal clear consommé, or roast the perfect prime rib, it is food cost. At the end of the day if you don't get things for the right price, and cost them appropriately, you will not have any customers to serve those dishes to. I treat my business and my home kitchen exactly the same, food costing is paramount.

Duck for us at Cacio Pepe is one of our more popular proteins, as we use 3 different preparations for our dishes. From the duck leg confit dish itself, to the classic French cassoulet where we use it three ways, (the duck stock, the confit leg, and the duck skin crumble we garnish the top of it with). We are duck crazy here at Cacio Pepe! This blog is meant to coincide with our chicken butchery blog right before this one, so here we will only be highlighting the differences between the two.



chicken wishbone difference between duck wishbone

The wishbone on chicken was in a V-shape that we saw, where as on a duck it is more of a U shape incision you have to make on each side.


Breast plate

raw duck carcass on cutting board

As you can see the with the shape of the wishbone, the breast plate follows suit. Instead of the steeper V shape breast plate, the breast plate on a duck is much more flat.


More clean up on a duck breast

cleaned duck breast vs uncleaned duck breast

Here we have what the duck breast looks like uncleaned (on the left) and cleaned up (on the right). Unlike the chicken breast which just needs some slight tidying around the edges, the duck has a little more work to be done. There is more fat around the outside of a duck breast. You have to be careful cutting this out, as it tends to slide and you don't want to flip the duck over realizing that you have removed too much fat and that there is not enough to cover the breast. Also on a duck there is some silver skin that needs to be removed (the white patch in the top right of the breast). This is done by just barely slipping a very sharp pairing knife underneath the silver skin, and gliding the knife away from you.


More fat

raw duck fat on cutting board

This is the beauty of duck and one of the main differences between the chicken; there is quite a bit more fat to deal with (p.s. thats a good thing). Before starting to butcher your duck you will have to trim the fat from the neck and then also some of the fat from the back end of the duck. You will have quite a bit of fat from the cleaning of the legs and breast also. Finally, you will take your knife and trim off all of the fat around the leftover carcass, as this can also be used, and you don't need it in the stock you will be making with the remains. What to do with all of this fat?!?! There are three main things to do;

One is you can lay it out on a lined baking sheet, and cook it off in a 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown and crispy, then hit it with a little bit of sea salt when it comes out, wait for it to cool, and enjoy one of the favourite kitchen delicacies that the customer rarely ends up seeing.

crispy duck skin on plate sea salt

Number two, you can render the fat to use in other cooking preparations; from confit duck leg, to cooking your potatoes in it, or anything really, let's be honest. The best way to do this is to place all of the fat into a heavy bottom small pot, and add about an inch of water, the water will help to render the fat out, without burning. As the fat cooks down, the water will evaporate from the pot and you will be left with what is considered the creme de la creme of kitchen cooking fats.

And number three is you can use it as a garnish to your duck dish. If you are feeling like shooting for the stars, and are looking for that wow factor, the best way is duck skin glass. This is a sure way to make a dish pop. Cut the duck skin into whatever shape you want the finished garnish to look like. Lay out the shapes of duck skin onto a parchment lined baking sheet, place a second sheet overtop of the duck skin, now place another baking sheet of the same size on top, along with something on top to add some weight(cast iron pan). Bake this off at 425 degrees in the oven for around 15 minutes. The finished product should look a little something like this;

duck skin glassperfectly crispy duck skin garnish


Duck prosciutto 

duck prosciutto is a classic restaurant weapon, as it’s somethinf totally easy that anyone could make it home, but makes large flavor, and a wow factor. Just by taking your raw duck breast and completely packing it in salt and any aromatics (spices, herbs, or zest) and letting it sit out at room temperature in a covered container for 24 hours. Then brushing off all the salt, wrapping it in cheese cloth, and transferring to a baking rack untop of a plate in the fridge for a few weeks. We will be coming out with a whole new section on duck prosciutto shortly, when we talk about curing, so this is more of a teaser.

duck breast salt packed cutting board 


The finished product

fully butchered duck  

If you compare this to the chicken picture, they are nearly identical. Now get out there and take advantage of those that do not know their way around a duck, and eat and cook like a chef.



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