One thing’s for sure about duck: you can’t eat it raw! But how do you know when it’s cooked all the way through in the middle?
Duck is delicious! Preparing it takes patience, but rewards the cook and the hungry diners on the table generously.
But if you’ve never prepared duck before, you’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s cooked all the way through. After all, you don’t want everyone to end up with a bad stomach ache or, worse, food poisoning after eating your meal.
Some cookbook recipes will tell you to look at the color of the duck when cooked. But how reliable of an indicator is the color of cooked duck for its doneness?
Duck has a natural pink color that doesn’t go away even when fully cooked. However, color shouldn’t indicate whether your meat is cooked through; you need to check its internal temperature. As long as your duck is at least 165°F (74°C), the duck is done and safe to eat.
The rest of this article will tell you everything you need to know about cooking duck to doneness, so you never have to worry about its safety again.
Is Pink Duck Undercooked?
Undercooked duck can be pink in the middle. But so can duck that’s cooked fully through. Simply put, the interior color of cooked duck isn’t a good indicator of its doneness.
In fact, you can err in both directions. If you rely solely on the color of the protein, you might fool yourself into thinking it’s cooked when it really isn’t… and you might as well overcook it because you can’t really tell when it’s done.
To make sure that your duck is completely cooked, you must measure its internal temperature. This is the only way to know for sure whether the duck is safe to eat or not.
How to Measure Duck’s Internal Temperature
The best way to measure the internal temperature of the duck is by using a meat thermometer.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, it’s probably a good idea to buy one. This way, you will always be 100% certain that your duck (and any other meat you prepare) is cooked thoroughly.
Related: The Best Meat Thermometers
To use the meat thermometer, all you have to do is stick it into the thickest part of the duck and wait 2-3 seconds for an accurate reading. This will ensure that you are finding out the lowest temperature that the duck has.
If you were to place the thermometer in a thin part of the duck, it may say that it’s the right temperature even when a thicker part is not as hot. After putting the thermometer in the thickest part, just wait a few seconds for it to give you the reading.
As long as it’s 165°F (74°C) or over—the minimum internal temperature recommended for all poultry and game birds by the USDA—the duck is safe to eat.
Related: The Minimum Internal Temperature for Every Kind of Meat
Should You Rest the Duck Before Serving?
Letting duck rest isn’t required for any safety reasons.
But seasoned cooks recommend that you do it nevertheless.
Letting any meat sit after being cooked will help the fats and juices settle in and disperse evenly. This means that when you cut the meat, there shouldn’t be as many juices pouring out.
Letting your duck rest contributes to the tenderness and juiciness of the meat, and it just makes it more flavorful all around. So though resting isn’t necessary, it’s definitely helpful in creating really tasty meat.
All you have to do is let the duck rest on a plate for about 10-15 minutes after cooking, then you can cut into it and eat it. Just don’t rest it too long; meat, whether raw or cooked, shouldn’t sit out for more than 1-2 hours.
Is Undercooked Duck Safe to Eat?
Undercooked duck is NOT safe to eat.
Some people say that it could be as much of a risk as eating undercooked chicken, which we all know is not a good idea.
Eating undercooked duck could give you a variety of foodborne illnesses, but the most common is the bacteria campylobacter. This can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and/or fever. If you don’t want to risk experiencing this, then you should definitely stay away from any undercooked duck.
Always play it safe when it comes to the food you put on the family table.
According to the CDC, 48 million Americans contract foodborne illnesses every year. 128,000 get hospitalized and 3,000 die. Clearly, you don’t want yourself or your loved ones to be anywhere near the statistic.
Our Tips for Preparing Duck
Preheat, preheat, preheat:
Meat cooks best when it comes into sudden contact with a hot pan or grill, or when it’s slid into a properly preheated oven.
Take the time to preheat your cookware or cooking appliance and you will be rewarded generously. As a general rule, pans and pots should be preheated for 1-2 minutes; grills and ovens for 15-20 minutes.
You want the appliance or vessel to radiate heat and make the duck sizzle as soon as it touches it.
Cook it with the right amount of heat:
Thin cuts warrant medium-high heat and quick cooking. Thick cuts, because the interior of the duck takes longer to get up to heat, require medium-low to medium heat and slow cooking.
Duck breasts can go in the hot pan or under the preheated broiler, whereas whole birds should be roasted gently so they can cook fully through on the inside without burning on the outside.
Baste the duck meat:
Duck is fatty and decadent. And this one technique that we’re about to tell you will make it crispy and even more delicious.
As you cook it, a lot of its fats will render and much of its moisture will drip into the pan. Pick up those drippings with a spoon every now and then and baste the meat with them.
Just because your duck is pink, this doesn’t mean that it’s undercooked. You should always make sure to measure the temperature of your duck when you’re checking if it’s fully cooked.
Just remember: As long as it’s 165°F (74°C), it should be completely safe to eat.