The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Just Ducky - Pt 2

Around the 4th of July weekend I went from never having done duck on the grill (or anywhere else for that matter) to making it three times in under a week. I’ve already described the duck breast on the grill in the blog JUST DUCKY- PT 1. This blog entry will describe making a duck on the rotisserie. There were a couple issues I had to deal with, one was known ahead of time and the other had to be dealt with on the fly, but overall things went well and a delicious duck was the result.

This picture shows several aspects of the prep. At the top left you can see the wood chips soaking. In the bowls in the middle left you can see the match stick slivers of garlic & ginger which go in four places in the skin, plus the body cavities. You can see some garlic & ginger at the base of the thighs of the duck. Lastly you can see the carving fork which will be used to pierce the skin.

Success cooking a duck boils down to one important factor: How to get rid of the duck fat in a timely manner before it starts causing you problems. Now as I mentioned in the first part of this blog entry, JUST DUCKY- PT 1, the first time I made duck breast I had massive flareups because the fat hadn’t been removed before I put the breast on the grill. Silly me, I actually followed the recipe to the letter but that is a story for another blog - JUST DUCKY- PT 1. Doing a duck on the rotisserie is a little easier. You just have to make sure you get rid of the duck fat by the end of the cooking time. In fact a slow timed release is good because the duck fat helps baste the bird while it spins slowly on the rotisserie. This results in a moist but fat free bird and a crisp crackling skin on the outside. To that end the recipe I was making, Rotisserie Peking Duck from Stephen Raichlen’s Primal Grill TV show had you take several steps. The first was to trim any and all excessive fat, particularly around the neck and rear cavities. Next you made four 1/2” (1.25 cm) long slits on the underside of the bird where the wings and thighs met the body. You added a matchstick sized sliver of garlic and ginger to each of the four slits. Additional slivers were added to the two cavities to help flavor the bird while cooking. Next you took a two pronged carving fork and made a series of holes in the duck skin to help with the fat drainage issue. Instead of poking the fork in perpendicular to the meat you come in almost parallel to the skins surface. This way you puncture the skin and not the meat below. After that you trussed the bird and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

When I went to put the duck on the spit I received my first surprise of the day. The ducks body shape was such that only one of the four forks would fit in the meat. I had to tie the duck onto the forks at both ends .

Having easily dealt with the fat drainage issue, I was a bit surprised when another issue reared it’s head. When I trussed the duck and tried to put it on the spit I found the forks would not go into the duck. They were too far apart for the shape of the duck. Only one of the four forks would go into the duck, while the other three missed or barely penetrated. I wasn’t quite sure what to do here, but I decided to make sure the one fork was really in good and I tied the duck onto the spit with butcher’s string. I used slip knots so I could tighten the strings down real good. I also wrapped the string in a loop around several of the exposed tongs in an attempt to make a string cradle that would help keep the duck centered on the spit. You always want to try to balance what you put on the rotisserie. If the load is too far off balance the motor will lug while lifting the heavier part of the load. When it gets the heavy load over the top it will suddenly accelerate as gravity pulls the heavy load downward. This will sometimes fling off the fats that are supposed to be self basting the meat. Besides an uneven baste, this puts a real strain on the motor and can shorten it’s lifespan. I spun the spit around in my hands to see if the load was balanced and the duck was secure. While it seemed to be ok, I planned to make extra trips out to look in on things.

My second surprise of the day was the duck cooked faster than I expected, probably due to the extra heat from having burners 1 & 6 on for the smoker drawer. This turned out to be fortuitous, since it meant I could only glaze the duck for the last 15 and not 30 minutes of the cook. As you can see the glaze was just starting to burn at the 15 minute mark.

It was off to the grill were the infra red rotisserie burner had been preheated and I was ready to go. I planned to use some smoke with this cook so I’d soaked some cherry wood chips for an hour. When I went out earlier to preheat the infra red rotisserie burner I also lit burner 1 under the smoker drawer and set it to high. To balance things off I lit burner 6 on the opposite side and also set it to high. The last thing I did before starting the motor was to put a shallow foil drip pan under the duck to catch all of the dripping fat. I’d seen many suggestions for what uses you could put the duck fat to. Several times I’d seem in referred to as golden nectar. All I know is I didn’t want that all over my grill grates and flame tamers. At several points along the way I was beginning to worry if my choice of pan was too shallow. I was certainly getting the fat out though.

The duck was carved like my last turkey. The legs & thighs plus the wings were cut off first and can be seen on the left side of the platter. Then both breasts were cut off whole and were then cross cut into slices.

With the duck on the rotisserie it was time to make the sauce. It used honey, Hoisin sauce, Mirin, fresh ginger & garlic. A sticky gooey sweet and tangy sauce if ever there was one. Because of the high sugar content you don’t put it on till almost the end or it will burn. The recipe said put it on with 30 minutes left. Not having made rotisserie duck before I had no ides of the total time to know when 30 minutes before was. Sure the recipe had a time estimate, but I have found that 9 out 10 times the rotisserie burner on my grill seems to take longer than the times described in the recipes. In this case I was caught a bit by surprise when my first temperature check with an instant read thermometer showed that things had moved along faster than I would have expected. In retrospect I am sure it was due to having burners 1 & 6 lit to use the smoker drawer. I didn’t want to have unbalanced heat inside the grill, so if I use burner one on high for the smoker drawer I light burner 6 to even things off. Even tough these burners were over a foot away form the bird, the extra heat probably sped things along. This is something I can use to my advantage in the future. But in the present I quickly started basting with the sauce. I worried that there were only 15 minutes left and not the 30 minutes the recipe had called for. It turned out the less time saved me because the sauce was actually starting to burn a little at the 15 minute mark. If I’d had it on there for 30 minutes I would have had blackened duck on my hands. So it was a happy accident that the bird cooked a little fast so I didn’t have the sauce on longer.

I like it when you find out a meal that costs a lot in a fancy restaurant can be brought home most easily and for far less money. Plus it’s more fun when I get to cook it.

Once back in the house I took the duck off the spit and gave it a 5 minute rest. It was carved just like a small version of the last turkey I made, which used a new-to-me carving method. The wings were cut off, then the leg and thighs. Lastly the entire piece of breast meat was cut off on both sides. Once off the carcass it was cross cut into slices. An electric knife makes quick work of this task and seems to do a better job, particularly with the skin, than my very expensive Wusthoff carving knife. I think part of it is the serrated blade. Just like a serrated blade works better on crusty bread, I think it also has an easier time getting through poultry skin. Then there is the speed of the electric knife. I don’t care how fast you are you are not going to match the stroke speed of an electric knife. With the meat cut it was time to dig in. I was extremely pleased and couldn’t have asked for more for my first rotisserie duck. There were zero leftovers, always a good sign. The Peking Duck had a cracklingly crisp skin courtesy of the self basting in the the duck fat via the rotation of the rotisserie. The sauce gave it a great Asian flavor, the meat was moist (also a hallmark or rotisserie grilling) and the fat had been successfully drained off as far as I could tell. So as you can see with a little extra work a duck is no different than doing a chicken and the rich taste is well worth the little bit of extra effort. Now I think I may need to do some measurements to see if my rotisserie burner is long enough to do two ducks at once


Here is the link for the Blog Entry and Picture Entry for the first duck I made earlier in the same week plus the Picture Entry for the Rotisserie Peking Duck.

  JUST DUCKY- PT 1 Blog Entry
  ROTISSERIE PEKING DUCK Poultry Picture Entry


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