Why It Works
- Turning bones left over from breaking down whole ducks into stock is an easy way to turn kitchen scraps into a valuable pantry staple, saving money and reducing waste.
- Roasting the duck bones and vegetables produces deep, complex, roasted flavor for a brown stock that can be used as-is in a variety of recipes or can be reduced further for sauces like rich and savory duck jus.
My desk at Serious Eats HQ is adjacent to that of our resident office dad and ramen whisperer, Sho Spaeth. From where I sit, I can turn my head to three o'clock, as I am doing right now, and survey the curated chaos of his workspace, which looks like a staged freshman college dorm room.
I'm not talking about the perfectly neat, aspirational model rooms you are shown on college tours, outfitted with basics like the extra-long twin sheets and collapsible mesh laundry hamper from Bed Bath & Beyond (don't forget to grab the free move-in essentials checklist on your way out!). No, Sho's desk has finals-week dorm-room vibes, with his computer surrounded by a stockpile of instant ramen cups, stacks of books, and half-drunk cups of coffee. A perimeter of opened shipping boxes at the foot of his desk completes the look, but sadly, none of them are filled with care-package cookies.
All of this is a front though. Despite his best efforts at projecting an undergrad aura, Sho is the grumpy but lovable, great-cook grandparent we all wish we had. All the trademark grandparent qualities are there: He makes us bowls of soup, shouts at his computer screen, and goes on rants about how everyone should always buy whole chickens at all times.
I admire Sho's commitment to whole-bird utilization, and I love hearing about the chicken nuggets he whips up from scratch for his daughter or the chintan ramen broth he casually prepares as if it's not a massive project. But I don't live by the same code. Sure, I'll buy a whole chicken for roasting on a Sunday, but I'll also pick up a package of bone-in thighs or a container of store-bought stock for a weeknight dinner.
My Big Duck Project, however, is not a weeknight meal, and I knew that I would be doing Sho proud by breaking down whole birds and putting all of the parts to good use for a number of recipes, starting with rendered fat and homemade stock.
While you may not buy whole birds all the time, when you do, you should definitely take the time to turn the bones and scraps into stock. When working with duck bones, I like to make a brown stock, which involves roasting the bones and vegetables before simmering them in water with tomato paste and aromatics. I find that roasting the bones intensifies their flavor, which is important because there aren't a ton of them to begin with here (dry-aging the duck breasts on the cage means there's a lot less carcass to initially turn into stock).
How to Make Brown Duck Stock
The process for making brown duck stock is nearly identical to that for brown chicken stock, but in this case, I have gone with a stovetop cooking method to accommodate those who don't own a pressure cooker. However, if you do own one, you can easily adapt and speed up the cooking time for this duck stock recipe by following Daniel's method for brown chicken stock.
Step 1: Roast Bones and Vegetables
Start by cutting the larger pieces of duck bone (necks and backs) into manageable chunks and coating them, along with the reserved wing tips, in oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast them until they begin to brown. Add mirepoix (diced aromatic vegetables like carrot, onion, and celery) to the mix and roast the bones and vegetables together until well-browned.
Step 2: Transfer to a Stockpot and Deglaze Roasting Pan
Move the roasted bones and vegetables into a stockpot and then deglaze the baking sheet with red wine, scraping up the browned bits of fond stuck with a spatula or wooden spoon. If you don't have any wine to spare or prefer not to cook with alcohol at all, you can use hot water to deglaze the roasting pan.
Add a spoonful of tomato paste to the mix, and stir everything together on the baking sheet before pouring the mixture into the stockpot with the bones and veggies. Toss in a few sprigs of thyme and parsley, a couple of bay leaves, and some whole black peppercorns.
Step 3: Simmer the Stock If You Have Time, or Hold Off
At this point, you can either go ahead with the cooking of the stock if you're going to be kicking it at home for a few hours, or if you have other stuff to do, you can stop here, pop a lid on your stockpot, and transfer it to the fridge until you're ready to continue.
Putting together this stock "kit" makes your life a lot easier; when you're ready to cook, all you need to do is fill up the pot with water, and get it simmering on the stove. Cover the bones by a few inches with water, bring it to a boil, skim off any scum and foam that rises to the surface, and then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Let the stock simmer away for a couple of hours until it's a deep reddish brown, very flavorful, and has reduced by about a third.
Step 4: Strain, Chill, and Skim
Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. To maximize yield while keeping the stock as clear as possible, I prefer to tap the side of the strainer with a ladle rather than pushing down on the solids caught in the strainer basket to get more liquid out.
At this point, the stock is ready to go. You can cook with it right away, or cool it down before transferring it to the fridge. There will be some fat that accumulates on the surface of the stock; it can be skimmed off with a ladle while warm. Or you can make life easy by chilling the stock completely, which will harden up this layer of fat, so it can then be easily removed with a spoon.
You're left with a delicious, homemade brown duck stock that is great as-is for a variety of recipes, but for this Big Duck Project, we will reduce it down into a silky, rich duck jus.
Bones from breaking down 2 to 3 ducks (2 to 3 pounds; 900g to 1.4kg), cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces
Vegetable oil, for coating
1 large (9-ounce; 255g) yellow onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 carrots (4 ounces; 115g), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs (4 ounces; 115g), cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup (240ml) dry red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon (15ml) tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon (2g) whole black peppercorns
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) with rack set in middle position. In a large bowl, toss duck parts with oil until lightly coated on all sides. Then arrange in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan; don't clean out bowl. Roast, turning bones once or twice, until beginning to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss onion, carrot, and celery with oil in now-empty bowl until lightly coated all over. When step 1 is complete, scatter vegetables over and around bones on baking sheet in as even a layer as possible. Continue to roast until bones and vegetables are well-browned, about 30 minutes longer. Set baking sheet aside on counter to cool slightly.
Transfer bones and vegetables to a stockpot, and pour off any accumulated fat from the baking sheet (fat can be strained and reserved with other rendered duck fat if desired). Add wine (if using) and tomato paste to baking sheet, and use a wooden spoon or metal spatula to scrape up any browned bits. If not using wine, deglaze baking sheet with a cup of hot water instead. Pour off contents of baking sheet into the stockpot (see notes).
Add thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns to stockpot. At this point, stockpot can be covered and refrigerated until you are ready to make stock (keep in mind that stock will simmer for about 3 hours). When ready to cook, add enough cold water to stockpot to cover bones and vegetables by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer. Simmer, occasionally skimming off foam and fat that rises to surface with a ladle, until stock is well-flavored, deep reddish brown, and reduced by about a third, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Let stock cool slightly, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof container; discard solids. Use immediately or cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating or freezing. (When chilled, fat on the surface of stock will solidify, making it easy to remove with a spoon).
Rimmed baking sheet, stockpot, fine-mesh strainer
This recipe is designed to use bones left over from breaking down whole ducks using the method outlined here.
While this recipe employs a traditional slow-cooking stovetop method, it can be easily adapted to a pressure cooker by following the method from our pressure cooker brown chicken stock recipe.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Duck stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||5%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||8%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|