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Sous Vide Duck


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Hello All,

I am newly registered on the forum, though I have read a lot of material from the forum. It is a wealth of information and knowledge, so I thought I'd reach out.

I recently purchased an immersion circulator, so I am learning about sous vide techniques. I have decided to tackle duck sous vide. Before I had my immersion circulator, I followed Alton Brown's method for preparing duck (quarter, brine, steam, and sear). My favorite part of the technique was the significant amount of duck fat that rendered into the steaming vessel for other uses. Without any research, my inclination would be to brine and steam the duck quarters, sous vide cook to desired internal temperature, and crisp the skin in a blazing hot pan or via blowtorch.

When I researched duck sous vide, I could not find any recipes that included the steaming step and very few with a pre-sous vide rendering step. So I had a few questions:

1.) Would duck quarters cooked sous vide benefit from a steaming step to render out some of the excess fat?

2.) Do duck quarters cooked sous vide, without a pre-sous vide rendering step, still allow for you to gather and save the rendered fat for later use?

3.) Is there a good technique for cooking a quartered duck in a single water bath for a single meal?

Thanks a lot for any input you can give.

Edited by mercury529 (log)
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I can't address a lot of your questions, except the last:

the dark meat is cooked at a higher temp then the breast.

by 1/4 I assume you mean 2 breasts, two leg/thigh units.

If you want all this 'ready' at the same time, you need to do the legs first at a longer and higher temp, then the breasts at a lower temp for less time

or do them in advance, as you like each, rapid chill, keep in the coldest part of the refrig until needed, then re-heat at the lower temp for the breast.

If you are skillful skin the duck, save the skin and finish the skin in the oven between two (non-stick) sheets and a second jelly roll pan on to to crispy. save that fat

for the carcass, render the fat in the traditional way. there will be very little fat on the BR. and the LG/Thigh

hope this points you in the right direction.

consider the book by Baldwin "Sous vide for the home cook' worth it.

best of luck!

we ( I ) love to see pics of your experiments!

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"-------If you are skillful skin the duck, save the skin and finish the skin in the oven between two (non-stick) sheets and a second jelly roll pan on to to crispy. save that fat-----"

No, you don't need skill, you need compressed air. :cool:

Me, skinning a duck.



Edited by dcarch (log)
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I don't think there is a need to do a steaming step, but if you get successful results with it let me know. It may be beneficial for the brests as they are cooked at a much lower temp than the legs (I usually do the brests in a pan).

You will get some rendered fat in the bag but it will certainly carry the flavor of the meat and the seasonsings.

My recommendation is to save as much of the skin and fat from the rest of the duck when you break it down.

Run that reserved fat/skin and through a grinder and then put the ground mixutre in a bag and sous vide that for an hour at 180F.

Strain out the hot liquid into a container and let it cool a bit, you can then put it in the fridge to solidify the fat.

You'll have a layer of geletain under the fat that can be used in soups/sauces. You should seperate the duck fat from from the geletain as the geletain will spoil in about a week but the fat will last a very long time.

Edited by Michael L. (log)
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Thanks a lot for the responses.

Now that I think about, the sous vide provides the perfect opportunity to compare techniques. I could steam one half of the bird not steam the other half and cook in the same water bath (ensuring a controlled cooking comparison pre-sear). And if I sear in the same pan, I should get a fairly controlled result for comparison. I'll share what I find.

rotuts: Good suggestions for crisping up the skin and rendering. I'll look into Baldwin's book. I am not a picture-takey person by nature. But maybe if I convince myself it's for science, I can be :)

dcarch: What compelled you to even attempt that in the first place, haha?

Michael: I'd never heard about that grinder technique. That sounds like it might be considerably easier than the steaming method for rendering fat (no worrying about water content or burning the fat). Is that your favorite approach for rendering duck/goose fat now? I assume after separating the gelatin, can you add it in with the remainder of the carcass to make a good stock?

Edited by mercury529 (log)
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if you dont have a grinder, and do have a food processor : save all the skin / fat ( scrape it from the carcass everywhere )

then cut into fairs sized chunks, put in the freezer on a sheet pan until very firm , then pulse a few times in the processor,

rechill and do this a few times. it breaks up the tissue so then the fat can be rendered either by SV at 180 or in a pan on the stove top or a pan w lid in the oven.

if you do it the pan way, after the water boils out, heat the mash carefully to the sizzle point and you get Crispy Skin Chips

season w salt while hot and devour ! these are best not shared ! :blink:

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Shades of Eileen Lin Fi Low (I'm not sure I have her name correct; she is/was married to Fred Ferretti, who wrote for Gourmet magazine, years ago) and her bicycle pump!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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The grinder technique is from Thomas Keller's Under Pressure cook book. I find it's the easiest way to render the fat and provides a better yield than just putting the skin in the bag. I've heard of people rendering the fat in a microwave, but I haven't tried it myself.

The geltain is great for stock or sauces to add some flavor and texture.

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I'm sure the grinding method produces the highest yield, but it's not necessary to render most of the fat. I'd say one can get about 90% of it by simply dicing the skin and cooking in a small pot on the stove. That's based on preparing duck skin cracklings long before I'd heard of sous vide. Admittedly cracklings are a bit fiddly, but if one is only after the fat a covered pot will work fine and is much easier. Whereas sous vide for the skin from a duck or two seems like overkill to me. (Keller presumably is generally working with much larger quantities.) For that matter, with legs, sous vide cooking itself renders about 80% of the fat with no special treatment of the skin as such. It's mostly the breast we're talking about here.

Note that grind vs. dice and stovetop vs. sous vide are separate issues. One could do either of A with either of B.

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pbear: Absolutely, there are many ways to render fat. For me, the sous vide is pretty easy, I'm probably going to cook the duck legs in the water bath anyway. The main benefit is that once the skin is in the water bath it doesn't really need tending to. Grinding it on the other hand is a bit of a pain because of the cleanup.

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A lot of good discussion here.

Michael, any thoughts on whether you could remove the bag of fat/gelatin after sous vide, chill it, and freeze it from there for a later use? I often don't have immediate use for what I render and wouldn't mind being able to store it in the same bag.

Have you tried freezing the skin beforehand to firm it in up in the grinder? Maybe that would help with the cleaning aspect.

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I don't think freezing the skin beforehand will have any negative inpact on rendering the fat. The water bath will bring it up to temperature pretty quickly.

Freezing the whole bag post rendering may be a problem, I'm not sure how easy it will be to seperate frozen geletain and frozen fat. Seperating the two once they have solidifed in the fridge is pretty easy. As long as the fat isn't tained (i.e. you left some geletain in the container) it will last in your fridge for at least a month or more.

One word of caution when taking the rendered fat out of the water bath. The fat is extremely hot and if your bag isn't sealed well (which sometimes happens when vacuum sealing moist items) you can get burned and make a mess. Always be careful removing a bag from the hot water bath.

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If I'm using the fat for savory purposes, this is what I'll do:

Get a big pot of water boiling (this water is later used to make duck stock)

blanch the deboned trimmings in the water for 1 - 2 minutes until all the pink is gone and the fat feels firm to the touch

remove with a spider, let drain briefly, then put in a food processor

pulse quickly 5 or 6 times until fat is broken up into small chunks

put into a non-stick saucepan over high heat, stirring frequently until you start hearing the sounds of frying

adjust heat so fat stays at between 250F and 300F until bubbling stops completely

drain fat through a sieve into a measuring cup & let cool to room temperature

The fat will form two distinct layers, a solid and liquid layer (possibly with some brown sludge at the bottom)

Carefully decant the liquid layer into a bottle with a pour spout and use for general cooking, pour out the solid layer into a mason jar or other container and use for deep frying

I basically use duck fat in place of vegetable oil when I'm cooking and, when I run out, I buy two more whole ducks to process.

SV is great if you want to get a cleaner, unheated fat for baking but, IMHO, adding in the slightly roasty flavors from browning works better for savory applications. Go much above 300 and you start breaking down the fat too much and it doesn't respond as well to high heat cooking.

PS: I am a guy.

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If you're just looking for fat (and not cracklings) I'd like to suggest nathanm's idea of the "fat shake". Rough chop the fat/skin and put in a blender, covering with water. Blend until completely liquified then pour into an SV bag or you can do covered on the stovetop. Makes the most yield I've ever seen.

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I often stop at a Chinese BBQ on my way home from the Men's Mission where I work on Fridays. I noticed one day that someone was buying duck fat from them - for $1/lb. This is the globs of fat that the mom in the restaurant pulls out of the cavities of the ducks before they roast them.

For the last couple of weeks I've stopped in a brought a bit home to render down.


I put it in this stainless container, then pop that into the pressure cooker for a couple of hours.


When it cools sufficiently I pour off the fat and juices.

Then upside down in the fridge in a jar with relatively straight sides so I can open them and pour off the jelly from the top.


I don't bother to make the fat milkshake in the thermomix anymore - don't think I ever got all the tissue out of the blade I had to retire recently. I might be able to get a little more fat out if I did - but I'm not convinced the extra work is worth it.

And even better - they haven't charged me a penny for the fat I've gotten from them. I suspect it's because I'm a pretty regular customer there.

Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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""" upside down in the fridge in a jar with relatively straight sides so I can open them and pour off the jelly from the top. """


my emphasis.



It really does work amazingly well... after the confit cookoff, I had a few bunch of fat and stock after it was all said and done. I just put it into pint containers and let it chill upside down, and the disks of perfect clear stock lifted right off easily!

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Hey Everyone,

Thanks again for all the input. I wanted to update everyone on the results. I took pictures but they frankly are not terribly illuminating so they won't bring anything to the table.

So for my experiment I quartered a duck into 2 breast quarters and 2 leg quarters and scored the skin. I brined the duck for 3 hours. I then removed the quarters from the brine and patted them dry. I placed 1 leg quarter and 1 duck breast directly into a vacuum bag (individually sealed). I placed the remaining 2 quarters into a colander and steamed them for approximately an hour. After that was complete, I sealed both in vacuum bags. I prepared the duck breast the same day and saved the legs for the next day.

For the duck breasts, I followed the Serious Eats method. I set the temperature to 135 F and placed the duck breasts in for 1 hour. I removed both from their packaging directly into a cold All Clad Saute Pan skin side down. I turned the heat to high until it sizzled. I dropped the heat to medium and rendered out as much of the fat as I could. I removed the breasts to a paper towel-lined plate and rested them for 10 minutes. The fat rendered out more completely from the steamed duck breast and resulted in a slightly crispier skin. The steamed duck breast may have been slightly drier near the ends as a result of the steaming. The results for the duck legs were much the same (the same method but 167 F for 12 hours). Both the breasts and legs came out very flavorful, nicely seasoned, and at a great doneness. It was undoubtedly the best duck I have ever made. Even with a mediocre frozen grocery store duck which I got for $1 per pound, it was better than most of what I have had in restaurants.

While the steaming method yielded better results for the skin, I don't feel it was frankly worth the extra effort. But I am glad I did the experiment. The next time, I will try removing the skin and crisping it separately as suggested previously. I think that will frankly yield a more desirable result.

Thanks again for all the input.

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  • 5 months later...

Host's note:  this post and several following it were moved from the "Cooking burgers sous vide" topic.




i have not done duck breasts SV yet.   i do have a duck resting in the freezer, at some point Im going to do the two trimmed 



I've not found a way to get the best of both worlds without separating the meat from the skin. There are topics on eG about this. The meat comes out great, but gets overcooked during the rendering process. I haven't yet tried undercooking the breast SV then rendering. 

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Ill look that thread over


Id take off the skin and cook that via a pan sear. for the breasts   not the legs  confit

Ah, if you're planning to do them separate, you're golden. Just be ready for the skin to curl and warp. I hear a panini press is aces for this.

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