Grilling, Sunday dinner
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Smoked Duck (On a Kettle Grill)

Smoked Duck (on a Kettle Grill)


Thank you to my friends at Maple Leaf Farms for the ducks used in this post.


A duck, some smoke, salt, and pepper. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? How about rich duck meat, with a layer of smoky duck fat, topped with crispy duck skin? Does that sound better?

Smoked duck is a revelation – there’s a reason tea smoked duck is a Chinese classic. Long, low, and slow cooking melts the layer of fat under the duck skin, leaving just enough fat behind for lip-smacking goodness. (Duck is not what you’re looking for if you eat low-fat. And, you have my sympathy – you are missing out.)

If you have a barbecue smoker, use it.1 I’m between smokers right now, so I’m using my Weber kettle grill as a smoker. The trick is the Minion Method, stacking a pile of unlit coals and smoking wood on one side of the grill, then topping it with a few lit coals, and controlling the fire by controlling the oxygen with the grill vents.

The dry brining may seem like extra work – and it is – but it has two big advantages. The time in the refrigerator air dries the skin, helping it crisp up in the grill. The salt has time to penetrate deep into the meat, seasoning the duck all the way through. Take the time to dry brine. You won’t regret it. That said, if you don’t have the time, rub the duck with the salt and pepper right before it goes on the grill.

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Browned duck on a grill, with coals behind it

Smoked Duck (On a Kettle Grill)


  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 27 hours
  • Yield: 1 duck 1x

Description

Smoked Duck on a kettle grill


Scale

Ingredients

  • 5-pound duck (preferably a Long Island Pekin from my friends at Maple Leaf Farms)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh peppercorn blend
  • 2 fist-sized chunks apple smoking wood

Instructions

  1. Dry brine the duck: Unwrap the duck, remove everything from the cavity, and pat dry with paper towels. Trim the neck skin just below the nub of the neck left on the duck. Poke the duck skin all over with a paring knife, so the fat can escape. Poke through the skin, but not into the meat – I poke with a very flat angle so I stay away from the meat. Sprinkle the duck with the salt and pepper, inside and out. Set in a baking dish, and put it in the bottom of the refrigerator, uncovered. Refrigerate at least overnight, preferably 24 to 48 hours.
  2. Set the grill up for indirect low heat (250°F): Set your grill up for indirect low heat, 250°F, with a drip pan on one side of the grill and the fire as far over on the other side as you can get it. In my kettle grill, I open the bottom vents a crack, with the blades of the ash sweeper covering 3/4 of the rectangular holes. I make a tight pile of 80 unlit coals on 1/3rd of the charcoal grate, about three coals deep. (3/4 of a charcoal chimney full.) Nestle the smoking wood in the coals. Next, I light 10 coals in my chimney starter; when the coals are lit and covered with gray ash, I pour them on top of the unlit coals. Then I set the drip pan on the other side of the charcoal grate, add my grill grate, and brush it clean. I put the lid on the grill immediately and set the top vent to half open.
  3. Grill smoke the duck: Put the duck on the grill grate over the drip pan, breast side up, and close the lid. Adjust the top vent to stabilize the temperature at roughly 250°F; let the temperature settle for fifteen minutes between vent adjustments. Once the temperature settles down, check the grill every hour and tweak the vent if necessary – a little more open for higher heat, a little more closed for lower heat. (The grill temperature is going to move around a lot; 250°F is my target, but I expect it to bounce around between 225°F and 300°F. And, keep the lid closed as much as possible – every time you lift the lid, heat will escape and the air you let in will cause the coals to heat up.) After an hour and a half, rotate the duck so the other side is facing the fire. The duck is done when it reaches a temperature of 175°F in the deepest part of the thigh, about 3 hours.
  4. Serve: Remove the duck to a platter and let it rest for ten minutes. Carve and serve. (I cut the breasts and legs away from the body, slice the breasts crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices, and serve each diner a sliced breast and a leg.)

Notes

  • If you have a barbecue style smoker, use it instead of the kettle. It will be easier to level out the temperature. Set the temp to 250°F and smoke the duck. I know 250°F is a little higher than traditional barbecue temperatures – we want the higher temp to crisp up the duck skin a little while it smokes.
  • Inspirations for this recipe: Tea Smoked Duck and How to Make Smoked Duck

Tools

  • Grill (I love my Weber kettle)
  • Drip pan (9“ by 13”, and a deeper is better because the duck will release a lot of fat.)
  • Probe Thermometer (Optional, but makes it easy to tell when the duck is done)
  • Category: Sunday Dinner
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: American
Whole duck sprinkled with salt and pepper, in a baking pan on a cutting bvoard, with a second duck still in the packaging next to it

Duck ready for dry brining

Kettle grill with coals on one side and charcoal chimney on the other.

Setup for smoking – coals on one side, and a small amount of charcoal in the chimney to start the fire

Kettle grill with lit coals on the left and a duck over a drip pan on the right

Ready to smoke – coals on one side of the grill, duck on the other over a drip pan

Duck on grill with thermometer probe stuck in it, and coals in the background

The duck is done. (According to the probe thermometer – you can see it poking out)

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Browned duck on a grill, with coals behind it

Smoked Duck (on a Kettle Grill)

Related Posts

Rotisserie Duck with Honey Glaze and Drip Pan Potatoes
Pan Grilled Duck Breast With Duck Fat Paprika Potatoes
Bbq Pulled Pork on a Kettle Grill

My other Grilling and Smoking Recipes

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  1. There are dozens of different smoker styles, and I assume that you know how to use yours, so I’m not going to give specific instructions for them. They’re much more “set it and forget it” than a kettle grill. ↩︎

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Filed under: Grilling, Sunday dinner

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Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

16 Comments

  1. Chris says

    I did this last night. It was less trouble than setting up the rotisserie, and the duck turned out just as good if not better. It took my duck more like 4 hours to get to 175. The longer cook allowed more fat to render than with a high heat cook on the rotisserie. I think I will lower the heat for either method from now on and let the fat have plenty of time to melt.

  2. Michael Ament says

    Question – is the skin from the smoked duck as crispy as we get from the rotisserie?

  3. Michael Ament says

    Just a suggestion that if you want the skin dry all over, put the duck on a rack over the pan in the fridge. As the duck skin dries, the juices keep the bottom of the duck soggy without a rack. I followed your rotisserie recipe for duck a couple of weeks ago and the rack I used was even a little low, and the skin stayed soggy on the bottom.

    I usually rotisserie my ducks, but I plan to try this in a couple of days to try for a little more smoke. Thanxalot for all I have learned from you, especially aboutthe advantage of rotisserie cooking for poultry

  4. Tim says

    Sounded good on paper. I have exact same Weber kettle grill. Followed instructions to a letter. 30 minutes in and temp is climbing over 300 degrees. Removed nearly 1/2 of briquettes. Finally sort of stabilized at 260. I guess Kingsford burns hotter. Spent 15 minutes losing heat and smoke which will likely add to overall cook time. Have phone number handy for pizza shop.

    • Tim, sorry to hear that. I hope it worked out for you. Yes, the heat will spike – close down the top vent and be patient. Most of the time, the heat will will come down. (I use blue bag Kingsford). Also, cooking at 300°F isn’t the end of the world – it will go a little quicker, but it will work.

  5. Nora Macon says

    This looks awesome! We’re going to try it this weekend for the holiday.

  6. Chris says

    Beautiful! I love duck and have one in the freezer that I need to cook. I’ve roasted them on the kettle with the rotisserie in the past, but I may try this approach and slow it down to get a little more smoke flavor.

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