Duck Gets a Leg Up

With a bit of creativity, virtually any dish is fair game for a duck makeover.
Lettuce wraps with dipping sauce

A fine-dining superstar has migrated from the silver platter and onto menus of all kinds.

“There’s a growing trend in duck,” says Sarah Cooper, Gordon Food Service Category Manager for Seafood and Poultry, U.S. Distribution. “Sales are increasing, and it’s a trend that’s continuing to grow.”

Duck appeals to consumers seeking distinctive ingredients and a bit of indulgence with their casual fare. It’s also favored by chefs seeking cost-effective ways to satisfy diners. The good news is that, with a bit of creativity, virtually any dish is fair game for a duck makeover.

More Duck for the Buck

In October 2015, Mintel Food Analyst Randy Hofbauer reported that poultry has enjoyed steady sales increases since 2010. And duck is showing some of the strongest growth within the segment.

While duck-leg quarters are more expensive than their chicken counterpart, Cooper reports they’re less costly than duck breast, whole duck, and beef—and that makes them a good choice as a protein option. Even better, a little goes a long way. “There is so much more rich flavor with duck that you may be able to use less of it,” she says.

The Down Low on Duck

Some of duck’s appeal, Cooper points out, coincides with the rise in demand for poultry dark meat—an outgrowth of consumer cravings for bigger, richer, and more satisfying flavor experiences. In addition, the collective consumer paradigm shift away from obsessing about fat—one of Mintel’s trend forecasts for 2016—further opens the door to menuing duck.

“People recognize that fat provides richness, satiety, and flavor,” Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC, says. “Diners gravitate toward duck because they don’t have it that often. They’re looking for a treat—and duck is flat-out delicious. Plus, people don’t want to cook duck at home.”

Preparations Make it Perfect


Versatility and easy prep, Ludwig says, make duck-leg quarters a top choice. Meaty, firm-fleshed, and somewhat tough, duck-leg quarters benefit from long, slow-cooking methods. But those methods don’t require much tending, so labor’s not stretched thin. Try:

Salt Curing

“Salt-curing concentrates and enhances the flavor of the meat,” Ludwig notes. Rub them down with sea or kosher salt, cure for a day or two, and then place on a draining rack over a hotel pan to catch any moisture that leaches out—though that should be minimal. “You don’t have to worry about it being dry—it will be some of the most moist, tender duck you can serve.”


Rub duck meat with ground spices and slowly braise it immersed in duck fat. “You get a richness you can’t acquire any other way,” Ludwig says.


Season and slow-roast at a low temperature, then finish at a high temperature to crisp up the skin.


Just before serving, finish pre-roasted duck portions briefly in the deep-fryer for a crackly, crunchy, craveable mouthfeel. 


Hand-pull and shred roasted or braised duck meat or leave in large portions. Season or sauce for multiple applications. 

These methods yield delectable duck meat that’s at the ready for quick turns on orders. Examples:

  • Bar snacks with pulled duck.
  • Fillings for tacos, quesadillas, empanadas, pirogi, ravioli, and steamed dumplings or Chinese bao buns.
  • Toppings for poutines and entrée salads.
  • Sandwich proteins. 
  • Entrées featuring a duck-leg quarter draped luxuriously across a plate or board.

Just dipping into duck? Run limited-time offers that add a distinctive twist to familiar appetizers and sharing plates already on your menu. And consider using those duck-leg bones for duck or mixed-poultry bone broths.

The opportunities, Ludwig proclaims, are virtually limitless. “They all really speak to the versatility of duck meat.” 

Duck on Menus

Duck Nachos

Brie cream, tomato concasse, duck confit, caramelized onions, and duck cracklins’ with citrus—Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Duck Board

Roasted and deep-fried duck leg, duck-liver mousse, cherry mustard, pickled cauliflower, and rye bread—White Oak Tavern & Inn, Chicago.

Hot Pasta in a Jar

Duck confit, creamy Dumbarton Blue-cheese sauce, foraged mushrooms, foie torchon, anise hyssop, and pasta, shaken together in a jar at tableside, then served a heated plate—Siena Tavern, Chicago.

Learn More

Ask your Customer Development Specialist about:

  • Our Kitchen-Tested Recipes for duck.
  • Special-order duck-leg quarters.
  • Special-order duck fat—an excellent way to add flavor to fries and other fried food.

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