What Does Duck Taste Like? What You Need to Know

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Duck meat has been popular in China for years, but it is beginning to catch on with the rest of the world. The meat is usually considered to be a delicacy, and if you’ve ever tried it, you know why. But if you haven’t, you probably want to answer a key question: what does duck taste like?

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Where Do People Eat Duck?

Though lots of people find duck delicious (more on that in a moment), roasted duck isn’t a common food in many parts of the world. Duck is a traditional meat in China — it has been consumed at least as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Duck is also often eaten in nearby India. There, it is a common choice among both tribal and non-tribal people. It is sometimes eaten in the UK and in the Americas, but it isn’t a meat you can reliably find in any grocery store. Still, even in areas where you don’t often see it, duck is considered to be a delicacy. But why? What does duck taste like?

What Does Duck Taste Like?

Duck flavor is a little hard to explain. If you assume duck tastes like chicken, you aren’t alone. But you might be surprised to hear that duck is darker meat with a much richer flavor. In fact, most people seem to think that duck actually tastes more like steak or other red meat.

Duck has a fattier texture than chicken. When it is prepared well, the fat sinks into the meat like it does with a good steak. Duck is often served skinless, as duck skin is both fattier and thicker than chicken skin. If you do serve duck with the skin on, you’ll want to make sure it is cooked long enough that it is crispy.

However, if duck is overcooked or prepared poorly, it won’t be as pleasant. Since chicken is a lighter meat, it will usually become dry when overcooked. The dark meat of a duck will become rubbery, and there’s an unpleasant taste to go with the unpleasant texture.

Of course, as we will see in a minute, the exact flavor of duck will vary based on a few different factors. Farmed duck and wild duck have different tastes, as do different duck breeds.

If you’re planning on cooking duck, you might want to know that a duck usually has much less meat on it than a chicken. For a whole family or for a gathering of more than a few people, you might need to prepare two or more ducks instead of one.

Is Farmed or Wild Better?

If you know anything about duck meat, you know that you can purchase duck meat at a store or eat wild duck. Neither one is definitively better than the other, but each has it advantages.

As you might guess, farmed ducks have much more tender, succulent meat. Farmed ducks don’t have to forage for food, so their muscles aren’t likely to be overly tough. They also aren’t as active. That results in a higher overall body fat percentage, which becomes tender meat with higher fat content.

If you’re eating duck hunted in the wild, you should still experience a rich taste. But in some cases, the meat may be a little tougher. When a hunter shoots a duck, there’s no way to know if it’s a young adult or 10 or more years old. Wild ducks need lean and strong muscles to survive, and stronger muscles usually equate to tougher meat. Older wild ducks have the toughest meat of all.

Wild ducks will usually have leaner meat and fewer calories overall. Most of this might make wild duck sound unappealing, but most duck experts believe that wild duck is unparalleled when it comes to flavor. Often, it’s a distinct and smoky flavor that sometimes reaches into “gamey” territory. This may be a weird taste to some. But if you don’t like this taste, you can always brine the duck first to create a milder flavor.

Whether you go for wild or farmed duck is up to you. But if you buy duck meat wisely, either one should be delicious!

What Does Duck Taste Like?_alices kitchen

Are There Different Types of Duck?

When it comes to wild ducks, their diets and ages play a role in shaping the taste. But if you’re looking to purchase fresh duck meat at a store, you might want to know about the more common breeds of duck used for meat. Most labels will specify what type. Here are the three main varieties:

Muscovy duck — The Muscovy duck is one of the larger varieties. So if you’re looking to purchase a whole duck, you might need to pay a little more. Muscovy ducks have deeper red meat than other varieties, so it should be easy to identify if you’re looking at it next to other varieties of duck.

Long Island duck — Most experts suggest that people new to duck meat go for Long Island duck. Though this variety has a delicious taste, its flavor is milder than that of other types of ducks. If you’re somebody who prefers meat with a milder flavor, Long Island duck is a great choice.

Moulard duck — The large Moulard duck is often considered to be the most flavorful. So if you like meat with its own distinct flavor, you might find this to be the best-tasting duck! Moulard ducks also tend to have the highest fat content, so their meat is especially rich.

Nutritional Value of Duck

Now you know the answer to “how does duck taste?” But if you’re health-conscious or just curious, you might want to know a little more about the nutritional value. Here’s a basic breakdown of half a duck breast:

  • Total Calories: 255
  • Total Fat: 21.46 g
  • Total Protein: 14.37 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g

And here’s one for a leg (drumstick and thigh):

  • Total Calories: 185
  • Total Fat: 15.53 g
  • Total Protein: 10.4 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g

Some people avoid duck because of its high-fat content. But in many recipes, the meat is cooked so that rendered duck fat is removed. The remaining meat is leaner, and the rendered duck fat can be used as cooking oil.

This fat isn’t quite as good for you as olive oil or vegetable oil, but it’s a healthier cooking option than butter, lard (pork fat), or tallow (beef fat). There is a definite duck fat taste, though, so it might not be the right choice for all recipes.

However, keep in mind that most of the duck fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are “healthy” fats whose health benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks.

Duck meat also has a lot of saturated fats. These are not among the healthy fats. A little saturated fat in your diet is ok. The American Heart Association recommends that you don’t make more than 5% to 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat. Consuming too much can raise levels of unhealthy cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.

But duck meat is incredibly nutrient-dense, and it certainly has the potential to be a healthy choice. Here are some of the health benefits you can expect:

It’s a great source of selenium — Most servings of duck meat contain 50% of the recommended daily value of selenium. This mineral supports thyroid health. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and prevent cell damage.

It’s high in iron — Duck contains almost as much iron as red meat. Iron has several health benefits; it can reduce fatigue, boost immunity, and help facilitate more restful sleep.

It’s full of healthy fats — Duck is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are crucial for heart health — they can lower blood pressure and help prevent the hardening of the arteries. Thus, they can also reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Omega-3s can also improve mood and support healthy skin and eyes.

It’s a good source of copper — Copper isn’t quite as talked about as some other nutrients, but it has a whole host of health benefits. Copper aids in the absorption of iron, and it also facilitates many enzymatic reactions in the body. It also is essential for maintaining the health of connective tissues and the skin. Some research has shown that copper can also have anti-aging effects.

It’s high in B vitamins — B vitamins are extremely helpful when it comes to energy. But they also help regulate blood sugar, process carbohydrates, and reduce your risk of heart disease.

How Do You Cook Duck?

There’s no single correct method when it comes to cooking duck. Just like with chicken or beef, there are lots of ways to prepare it. Here are some of the main ones:

Duck Confit

If you want rich, flavorful meat, the decadent duck confit might be worth trying. usually, a confit only involves cooking the leg. Duck legs are fully submerged in some form of liquid fat. Depending on the recipe, this might be rendered duck fat or oil. Cooking in duck fat will help lock in maximal flavor.

If you want to cook duck confit, allow plenty of time. This dish usually needs to be cooked at low heat in order to ensure the duck is cooked through. The end result is meat that is remarkably flavorful and tender. Duck confit is best served with mashed potatoes or green salad.

If you want to try making this classic, check out this video showing you how to make duck confit. It’s surprisingly easy!

Roast Duck

If you have some fresh duck you’d like to cook at home, roasted duck is probably the easiest method. Roasting a duck is a little more involved than roasting a chicken; you’ll need to get the duck skin crispy enough.

You’ll also need to “score” the skin with small knife cuts so the skin does not swell outwards as the roast cooks. Enough fat comes off the bird in the oven that it needs these small slits to escape, too. Of course, if you wish, you could save the leftover duck fat to use for cooking at a later time.

So what does roast duck taste like? If it is cooked well, it will be a lot like most other poultry roasts; the skin will be satisfying and crispy, while the meat on the inside will be tender and juicy.

Peking Duck

If you want to cook duck the way it’s been done in China for centuries, Peking duck is a great idea. When placed on the table, Peking duck has a distinctive look: the skin looks smooth and kind of inflated. It’s also bright red-orange in color.

The “inflated” look is intentional; traditional recipes involve filling the duck with air to make the skin separate from the meat. The red color comes from hoisin sauce, a traditional duck sauce used in cooking roast duck.

How to Reduce Gamey Flavor

Is duck gamey? That depends on whether it’s wild or farmed duck. It also depends on how sensitive you are to gamey taste.

But if you’re worried that the duck meat taste will be overwhelmingly gamey, there’s something you can do to reduce it: brine the entire duck. Brining will make the meat saltier and lighter in color, but it will taste significantly less gamey. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Heat up 4 cups of water, 1/2 cup pickling spices, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup salt in a large saucepan or pot until both the brown sugar and salt dissolve.
  • Take the mixture off the stove and pour into a large bowl filled with 4 cups of cold water. Let it cool completely.
  • Once the entire mixture becomes cold water, fully submerge the duck and let it soak for 2.5 hours.
  • Remove the duck, dry it off, and rub with oil before preparing.

Where Do You Find Duck Meat?

Depending on where you live, duck meat and goose meat may not be found in typical grocery stores. Often, the only type of store duck can be found in is a specialty meat store. Some companies also sell duck meat products online.

If you live near a rural area, you might also be able to find someone who raises ducks for meat or who hunts them. That way, you can find out how duck tastes while still supporting people in your community! And if you want to try duck eggs, anyone who raises ducks should be able to sell you some.

Adding Duck to Your Diet

If you’re like most meat lovers, you probably like to try various types of meat. And if you live in an area where duck isn’t too common, you might want to treat your taste buds to a whole new experience with this delicious and decadent meat!

Duck FAQ

Still have some questions on duck meat? Here are some common questions about this decadent meat:

Does duck taste gamey?

Often, duck does have a somewhat gamey flavor. Wild duck tends to be gamier than farmed duck, although the breed of the animal also influences its taste. If you want to reduce the gaminess of duck, brining it before cooking can help.

Does duck taste fishy?

It depends on the type of duck. “Diver ducks,” or those that primarily eat fish they catch by diving underwater, can taste somewhat fishy. That taste is often concentrated in the fat below the skin. And if you find that duck eggs taste like fish, they probably came from a diver duck.

Is duck meat tastier than chicken?

A lot of people who haven’t had duck wonder about the duck vs chicken meat taste. And though both are considered to be poultry meat, duck has a distinct and strong flavor that is a lot different from the milder taste of chicken meat. Since duck is a darker, fattier meat, it tastes more like red meat than chicken. In short, some people think it’s tastier; others don’t.