Duck Breed Guide

Duck Legs

Duck Anatomy

Duck breasts are a fast cooking cut, but you need to render out their fat first.

Chefs typically score the skin to expose the fat. They then put the breasts in a pan, skin-side down, over Medium Low heat. They slowly rendering out much of the fat, until the skin has crisped.

Excess fat that collects in the pan should be drained off & saved – it’s one of the most delicious cooking fats known to man.

Once the fat has been rendered, the breast can be quickly finished in the pan, on the grill, or in the oven.

Duck breasts are also delicious smoked.

duck fat

Duck legs are very flavorful, but must be slow cooked in order to become tender.

The most well-known application is cooking them submerged in their own fat (“confit”), which imparts flavor and helps keep them moist. They can also be braised, roasted or cooked sous vide.

duck cooking times

PEKIN DUCKS

Anas platyrhynchos

Synonyms: Peking Ducks, Long Island Ducklings, White Pekin Ducks, American Pekins

Benefits: Classic “Mild” Duck Flavor, Easiest to Find, Used in Most Recipes

Pekin ducks are a Chinese breed that was the first one commercially raised in the US. Fast growing, fertile, and efficient, they are a farmer favorite and represent over half of all ducks raised for meat in the US. Consequently they are the duck breed you’re most likely to encounter on restaurant menus or in the grocery store.

Pekin duck meat is tender, with a comparatively mild-flavor that most Americans think of when they think “duck”. They carry a lot of flavorful surface fat that can be rendered & saved for other recipes.

Whenever a recipe calls for duck without specifying a variety, it is usually safe to assume they’re calling for Pekin.

MOULARD DUCKS

Synonyms: Magret Ducks, Mulard Ducks, Mule Ducks

Benefits: Large Cuts, More Flavor than Pekin, More Surface Fat than Muscovy

Moulard ducks are the sterile offspring of breeding a male Muscovy duck and a female Pekin duck. They’re highly prized in southwestern France, Canada, and the US as the breed of choice for foie gras production.

Magret/Moulard cuts are large and offer bolder flavor than Pekin duck, but more surface fat than Muscovy ducks.

Some chefs Muscovy/Moulard cuts best of both worlds because they offer a synthesis of both breeds. Plus, more fat on the surface than Muscovy means more can be rendered off in the pan and saved for use as a cooking fat in other dishes.

MUSCOVY DUCKS

Cairina moschata

Synonyms: Barbary Ducks

Benefits:Stronger Flavor, Less Fat, Larger Cuts

Muscovy ducks are a larger breed native to Mexico, Central & South America. They have a bolder flavor than the quintessential Pekin duck. Their cuts are also larger, providing heartier servings.

Muscovy ducks carry a lot less fat (surface fat and in the meat) than Pekin or Moulard ducks. Compared to Pekin ducks, their breasts have 50% less surface fat, and the meat itself is 99% lean.

If you love duck, but want more of its quintessential deep flavor, Muscovy is the breed for you. Its larger cuts also make for more impressive, hearty servings.