How to Break Down a Whole Duck

**Quick warning before we get into the meat of the post (ha!)…if you’re squeamish, you probably don’t want to scroll further.**

Now, onto the benefits of buying and breaking down a whole duck!

  • Whole duck is a lot cheaper (usually around 1/3 the price per pound of duck meat)
  • You get to try duck wings, which aren’t usually available in stores.
  • You get the bones to make soup.
  • You get the Giblets to make some really unique meals!
  • You can cut, freeze, and cook excess skin later to render the duck fat instead of using oil in future meals, which will allow you to build some really rich flavoured side dishes.

Any fair analysis should also discuss the cons, so:

  • There are no cons.

Lastly, a little word of caution: This process takes some practice, so try not to get frustrated, and don’t expect perfection on the first try. The good news is that if you leave more meat than you intend to on the carcass, you’ll have more meat in your soup when you boil the bones later!

What you will need:

  • Large cutting board
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Paring Knife
  • Freezer grade zip top bags for storage (If you have a vacuum sealer and vacuum bags, that will work even better than freezer bags)
  • Optional: Food Grade Disposable Gloves
  • A Duck (Yeah, I almost forgot this in the list)

Instead of our normal “Method” bullet points to walk you through the process, we are going to caption each picture below with how to do the step. If anything’s unclear or confusing, please put your question in the comments, and I’ll respond and try to update the step more clearly!

Giblets:

Remove your duck from the packaging, and pull the giblets (gizzard, liver, and heart) and neck out of the main cavity. Set aside, or place directly into a zip top freezer bag. Then, cut the excess neck skin off of your duck.

Removing the Breasts:

Using a sharp knife, make an incision just down the one side of the breast bone. You want to cut through the skin and straight down to the bone.
Use your thumb to carefully separate the breast meat from the bone.
Cut the skin from around the breast, and then pull up on the meat, slicing as necessary with your paring knife to separate and lift the meat.
Repeat the same process on the other side.

Removing the Wings:

Flex the wing to see where the joint connects near where the breast was. Pop the joint, and cut through with your paring knife. Once you’re through the joint, the wing will come off very easily.
Use your chef’s knife to cut off the end of the wing.
Cut through the fat that connects the wing (where my pointer finger is), and then move the two pieces of wing to expose the joint. Separate and cut through.

Removing Legs and Thighs:

Cut through the skin that’s connecting your legs from the breast side of the duck for each leg.
Flip your bird, and make incisions through the skin on both sides of the spine.
Feel for the thigh joint, and pop it with your fingers by pressing down on it it with your thumb, and pulling the leg up towards the spine.
Push the leg back down in its natural direction, and squeeze it against the duck’s body to expose the joint where the thigh attaches to the body (think hip). Use your paring knife to cut through the joint. At this point, your leg and thigh should be free, so just cut through any skin that’s holding them in place to fully remove.
Repeat with the other leg on the other side.

Storage:

Using freezer bags of appropriate size (Quart and Gallon work best for duck), place your parts in bags. Remove as much air as you can, and seal. We didn’t have a sharpie, but we typically label the cut of meat and the date on each bag. Freeze any meat you’re not planning to use immediately. If you got enough air out, your duck should be good in the freezer for a few months before it starts to form ice crystals.

And there you have it. So, go forth, butcher, and never overpay for duck again! Also, if you’ve got other tips or tricks to share, please put them in the comments.

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