Should I Buy a Whole Duck or Duck Breast?

updated May 1, 2019
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Q: There are very few things I have never prepared before, but I am chomping at the bit to jump in and experiment with domesticated duck. I have cooked wild/game duck a zillion times, but oh my goodness, that is a completely different animal. Most recipes seem to feature duck breast.

Should I attempt to buy a whole duck and section it — reserving the other parts for different dishes? Do groceries typically sell duck breasts individually packaged? I haven’t done an exhaustive search yet, but I don’t recall ever seeing duck on the shelves. Thanks!

Sent by Linda

Editor: If you’ve cooked a wild duck, it sounds like you’re not going into this blindly. Buying duck breast is like buying steak. In fact, due to its hearty flavor, I always think of duck more along those lines and cook it that way too. In my opinion, a pan-fried duck breast is just as good as steak. If you cook it correctly you can still render duck fat and save it for cooking potatoes or roasted vegetables. If you feel comfortable breaking down a whole duck, you’ll have breast to pan-sear, legs and wings to confit, and the remainder to render for fat or to turn into a rich stock. If you’re looking for a weekend cooking project, try your hand at cooking the duck whole, maybe even Peking-style.

Try the breast out first. See if you enjoy the flavor of the domesticated duck and then consider going whole-bird if you like it!