Cooking Wild Waterfowl

A duck hunter practices all summer on his versatile moving targets and metal spinning targets from Jumping Targets. As autumn approaches, he/she is ready to tackle waterfowl hunting season.

The benefit of waterfowl hunting is that typically hunters return home with more than one catch. Many hunters wonder how to prepare this dark-meat bird at home. Hunters should remember, however, wild duck does not compare to the luscious corn-fed, buttery, confit goodness of restaurant-quality birds. If a hunter recognizes the difference between farm-raised and wild meat, he/she will not be disappointed. Wild meat has a rare, distinct flavor that is unique and cannot be duplicated by farm-raised diets. Many wild ducks are located near bodies of water, such as swamps, rivers, sloughs, ponds, lakes, dikes or coastlines.  Simply: this flavor imparts into the meat due to the waterfowl’s unique diet, surroundings and environment.

In America, there are number of varieties of geese and ducks that are readily hunted, including mallards, pintail, ruddy duck, harlequin, Canadian geese, snow geese, redtail, canvasback, gadwall, red-breasted merganser, hooded merganser, wood duck, black duck, blue wing teal, green wing teal, shoveler, bufflehead, goldeneye, widgeon, oldsquaw, scoter and eider duck. In contrast, commercial duck is generally Peking, Muscovy or Moulard.

So … how does a hunter prepare wild duck? First, as with any animal, most of the unwanted gamey flavor is in the fat. All fat should be trimmed before cooking, which will help eliminate any strong unwanted flavors. Duck, in contrast to chicken and turkey, should be cooked medium rare. Hunters should remember that fish-eating ducks will likely have a strong fishy taste. The saying “You are what you eat” definitely applies to wild waterfowl.

Below are some additional tips to ensure that your wild waterfowl catches become sizzling culinary masterpieces.

  • Always clean wild birds thoroughly, as everything should be removed from the body’s cavity.
  • Some hunters recommend soaking the meat in milk and onions overnight, helping to reduce mineral blood and gamey tastes.
  • Meat should be at room temperature before cooking.
  • Always pat the meat dry with a paper towel before cooking.
  • A general rule of thumb when cooking duck: hot and fast or low and slow. This is not interchangeable.
  • Medium-rare is recommended for roasted ducks and grilled breasts.
  • Allowing the bird to rest for approximately five minutes when done cooking allows the juices to recirculate throughout the meat.
  • Carcasses and excess scraps are excellent for flavoring stocks, sauces or gravies.

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