Duck a l’orange

Windows video (small)
mp4 video (small)

Go to the recipe (duck breasts)
Go to the recipe (whole duck)

When I found whole duck on sale at our local supermarket, I got very excited. And I remembered that we had an episode up our sleeve not yet launched on the wider Crash Test Kitchen viewing public.

Friends and family were coming over for dinner this week and I had planned to do a simple roast chicken – but I had never cooked a whole duck before, and I want to have one next Christmas. So this would be the trial run.

It might be a tad retro, but duck a l’orange remains synonymous with birds that swim. A while back we did a show for the Word of Mouth blog that involved duck breasts and a recipe by Stefan Reynaud. Recipe-wise, what I’ll detail here is how we did the breasts-only version shown in the video, and how I handled the whole bird – a Gressingham duck in our case.

There is a bit of variation in the orange sauce, but in both cases its basic ingredients are the pan juices of the duck and fresh orange juice. These are not complicated recipes – I’m just being as detailed as I can.

Duck a l’orange recipe (breasts only)
Adapted from Stephane Reynaud’s recipe
Serves 6

4 duck breasts
4 oranges
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs honey
200ml soy sauce
50g butter

Zest two of the oranges. Juice three of them, and take the peeled segments from one. When segmenting that last orange, don’t just break it apart by hand – try to cut between the membranes, as shown in the video.

Slash the fatty side of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern, through the skin and fat so the flesh shows through – best to do this while they’re still chilled as the firm flesh makes it easier to slice neatly.

Mix the orange juice with the zest, cinnamon, honey and soy sauce. Place the duck breasts in a dish, skin side up, pour over the sauce. Chill for 24 hours.

Pan-fry the duck, skin-side down, for 10 minutes on a gentle heat (the fat needs to melt and brown). Drain off the fat and return the meat to the pan, other side down. Add the orange segments, half of the marinade, and allow to reduce for five minutes.

Remove the meat and whisk in the butter to make a sauce. Slice breasts attractively as in video – don’t just serve them whole.

Best not to keep the leftover marinade – it’s had raw meat sitting in it for 24 hours. Though you could probably get away with marinating something else in it if used straight away.

Duck a l’orange recipe (whole duck) with crispy fat-roasted potatoes
As devised by Waz based on Joy of Cooking
Serves 4-5

1 duck approx 2kg/4lb, giblets removed
Good roasting potatoes, peeled, enough for everyone
Greens of choice (cook to your liking)
Soy sauce (optional)
Orange marmalade, a spoonful (optional)
Juice of 4 oranges
1 cup white wine that you like

– Preheat oven to 125 degrees C (approx 250 F).

– Get a toothpick or other precision skewer and prick the duck’s skin all over but NOT STICKING THE SKEWER STRAIGHT IN – go almost parallel with the skin, through it and into the fat but not the flesh. This will let the fat drain out during cooking, which is crucial. Remove any fat around the duck’s openings – this may already have been done.

– Rub the duck all over with good salt. Then lay it in a baking tray breasts-down. Yes, breasts-down.

– Give the duck 3 hours in the oven, checking every hour or so that the fat is still draining OK (if not, re-prick). If blood leaks out into the fat, don’t try to pour it off or otherwise disturb it. Just let it congeal/cook in the fat and then fish it out as a lump. This will keep your fat and juices clean for later use.

– When the duck’s had 2 hours, boil your peeled potatoes until they are on the brink of falling apart, then drain them. You could scratch them up with a fork before boiling if super-keen.

– After the duck’s had 3 hours, drain off the fat into a heat-safe container: preferably one of those jugs used to separate fat and juices, and preferably see-through. Turn the oven up to 180 C (350 F) Return the duck to the pan, breasts UPWARDS this time, and pop it back in the oven for 45 minutes.

– Separate the fat and juices, reserving both. Use your special jug, or get a turkey baster and suck the juices from under the fat. Or just pour off the fat carefully.

– Get your potatoes in an oven tray that’s deep enough and drizzle the fat over them. Shake them around to coat. If you’re out of trays or oven space, you may have to fit them in with the duck. Put the potatoes in the oven – after about 30 minutes give them another basting and turn them over.

– Once that 45 minutes is over, get the duck out – it should be looking brown and crisp. Check for the usual signs of uncookedness (highly unlikely unless you’ve messed up the temperatures). Cover the duck with foil and rest it on a plate. Give the potatoes more time if they don’t look golden-brown enough for you.

– Now for the sauce. In a saucepan combine the duck juices (not the fat), orange juice and white wine. The optional bits: marmalade adds a bit of tartness, and soy sauce will darken the sauce and make it a bit more salty. Bear in mind that you salted the duck before cooking, and this will come through in the juices. I’d lean towards leaving the soy sauce out.

– Simmer the sauce fairly rapidly until it reduces and becomes a bit syrupy. Do this to your liking. While reducing, don’t panic about the duck and potatoes going cold – they’ll be fine. You could pop them back in the switched off but still-warm oven if you are that worried or have messed up the sauce and need to buy time.

– Get your greens going – if you’ve chosen broccoli, snow peas, asparagus etc. they won’t take long.

– Carve up the duck to your liking – look at all that lovely, rich, brown meat. It’s nice to separate off the joints, and remove the breasts whole then slice them up retaining a bit of skin on each slice. Adorn each plate with a selection of cuts. Add the lovely golden-brown potatoes and your greens. We served the orange sauce in a small teapot and let the guests pour it over themselves.

– Waz

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32 Responses to “Duck a l’orange”

  • Basmati Rice with roasted almond slivers. May father used to cook this as a sidedish for this.

  • Spaghetti Squash.

  • I’d go cooked greens and polenta as a side dish. Chard, perhaps, with a sort of vinaigrette dressing.

  • Yay! I can finally watch this episode on an ipod! What about rice, or mashed potatoes like Lenny suggested?

  • I kept saying ‘au gratin!’ throughout but Lenny correctly realises at the end that I mean ‘dauphinoise’, though she still knocks me down on it. What do others think?

  • What about a nice simple risotto? Maybe with a bit of orange zest for a background note to tie them together?

  • Dauphinoise:
    The name of a potato gratin with lots of cream and garlic, all topped with Gruyere cheese.

    Au Gratin:
    Covered with bread crumbs and sometimes butter and grated cheese, and then browned in an oven: potatoes au gratin.

    I got these from a few websites, and I don’t that they’re that different. I agree with Waz :)

  • Michael and Alexis

    Second on the risotto idea – the orange zest sounds good (as above) or perhaps a risotto with squash? I think this would give the creamy texture without bringing dairy into it.


  • I would use those wonderful potatoes you cooked, but give them a rustic mash, add a tiny bit of the duck juices as you saute them…hmmm sounds really good to me. But then again, I’m a potato kind of gal!

  • Duck is my favourite meat! I made confit de canard on the weekend where you cook slowly in olive oil for 2 hours. Comes out extra tender. I served with mash pototoes and green beans.

    Great post guys.


  • Ya know, I’ve never had duck, but your photo alone has enticed me to put it on my “must try list”. I like your blog. It’s an excellent find!

  • I had duck a l’orange recently in France and it was served with potatoes Dauphinoise. They went very well together.

  • I dont eat duck.
    And I think the addition of the orange is…. Uhm.
    Too.. Citrus-y?
    But anyways.
    Looks yummy. 😀

  • I love your vlog! this is another terrific post!

    have you two thought about putting together a Facebook page?

  • Hi there Rose,

    So someone finally asks about facebook! We decided a while back to just stick with our own site. We know some people practically live on facebook, but there is a whole world (wide web) outside it! And it would be just another page/site that we would have to maintain, in addition to CTK and Waz’s other projects, like

  • Yes, I agree with Lenny… I think mash’ is better. I would say brown rice as a side, or perhaps a veggie mix of some sort? Good upload, thanks!

  • What a fantastic site, you guys! I love it! I am a cooking fanatic, and love that you talk like real people. I am cooking duck for my partner Boxing Day, and the tips you give for piercing the skin are crucial. And he loves roast potatoes. So glad you are not going into facebook, by the way. I only use it to contact friends and family and love checking out other sites.

  • I decided to cook duck a l’orange for Christmas this year and went on a web search and found your Crash Test Kitchen site – what a joy to hear Aussie accents – very unexpected.

    Anyway, love the site, love your recipe which I cooked today with great success – we all enjoyed our Duck Christmas Dinner. Many thanks, I will visit often.


  • I’ve decided to use this recipe today for my first attempt at duck. Seems relatively simple, actually. It’s in the oven as we speak (first stage – draining fat). We’re just serving it with potatoes called for in the recipe, and some mixed veggies. Not sure how I’ll prepare them… And veering away from salt since there is a good amount on the duck already. Hope it turns out as good as in the video!

  • What a terrific recipe for duck. I had 12 people for lunch today so cooked three ducks. Everyone enjoyed it and the orange sauce was terrific. Thanks Lenny and Waz.

  • I have cooked this duck recipe several times and still get asked to cook it for family events. I normally serve it with rough mashed potatoes and green beans. the mashed potatoes allow one to soak up the sauce if desired.

    Question… what is the best kind of orange to use?

  • Hi Ginger, I don’t think you need to be too fussy about what kind of orange to use. I’d just make sure they’re nice and orange and ripe, not pale and dry.

  • g’day guys. I’m an Aussie living in Montreal now(sigh-long story). Just bought a duck, checked the web and there you were! I’m up in the mountains North of Montreal in my girlfriends place on a frozen lake and there’s 3 feet of snow ouside and a roaring fire inside. Looking forward to that duck. I’ll let yiou know how it goes.

  • Merv, glad we could help mate. We had duck for Christmas again ourselves. Turned out great as always!

    Have one for me and Lenny at L’Express over there in Montreal if you get the time.

  • Did your guests get a little sticky when they did this:
    “We served the orange sauce in a small teapot and let the guests pour it over themselves.”

  • All jokes aside, I made this tonight and the family raved about it. Pricking the skin with a toothpick ensured the duck was super crispy and my only regret is that my wife got to the leftovers before I did :-(

  • Nice one Tony. I can’t believe I let that wording slip through! Debating whether to change it, or leave it there for the yuks.

  • My best buddy and I were in the grocery store and spied frozen ducks. We searched the web for a recipe and found yours. I have never even cooked a turkey or whole chicken, but this recipe was foolproof! The duck was amazing – one of the best meals I have made. I did the roasted potatoes as well.

    Please leave in the wording about the ‘guests pour it over themselves’. It gave me a huge giggle, and I did put the sauce in a teapot and waited with anticipation. Alas, no takers darn it.

  • Nan, perhaps you should have given your guests a demonstration of sauce pouring method. Glad you liked the duck. It’s always a favourite in our house, and recently Lenny even made Chinese-style pancakes so we could have Peking duck.

  • Wild rice would be the best I think.

  • Based on your movie I’m trying the duck tonight, u guys obviously love your cooking, well done. For a side I’m going to do rocket for some peppery zing with chilled orange segments, lime juice, grapes halved, baby Roma tomatoes with a splash of Stephanie Alexander verjuice, maybe a hint of ketjap manis too. I give the rocket a light spray of olive oil for both asthetics (nice sheen) & ….. Well. I just love decent olive oil :)
    Cheers, AP.

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