Why It Works
- Slowly rendering duck fat and skin on the stovetop with a little water ensures the cracklings don't stick and scorch in the saucepan during cooking.
- Duck cracklings are a delicious byproduct of fat-rendering that get a boost from crunchy coarse sea salt and tart, herbaceous za'atar.
- Seasoning the cracklings while they're hot allows the spice mixture to adhere and coat them all over.
Rendering the excess duck fat and skin from breaking down whole ducks gives you two delicious things at once. First off, you get a batch of rendered duck fat, perfect for making confit or duck fat–fried potatoes. And you also get a bonus of crispy duck skin cracklings, which make for the perfect cook's snack, especially when tossed with bright and herby za'atar and crunchy coarse sea salt.
- 2 pounds (900g) duck skin and fat (from 2 whole ducks), cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 1 tablespoon (8g) store-bought or homemade za'atar spice blend (see note), plus extra as desired
- Coarse sea salt
In a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, combine duck skin and fat with water and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with rubber spatula to prevent skin from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, until mixture begins to simmer and bubble rapidly, and liquid is cloudy, 10 to 15 minutes.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is fully rendered and turns golden and clear, and bubbles begin to subside, 25 to 30 minutes. Continue to cook until duck skin pieces are golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. You can line the strainer with cheesecloth if you have on hand. Strain contents of saucepan through the prepared strainer.
Immediately transfer duck skin to a medium bowl, sprinkle with za'atar and season with sea salt to taste. Toss to evenly coat cracklings with spice mixture, adding more za'atar if desired. Transfer cracklings to a serving bowl, and serve right away. Transfer rendered duck fat to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months or freeze for up to 1 year.
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture most often made with sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and oregano. Store-bought versions often have varying amounts of added salt, so be sure to taste it before seasoning the cracklings with sea salt. Za'atar can now be found at many well-stocked grocery stores as well as online.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Duck cracklings are best enjoyed immediately. Rendered duck fat can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 6 months or frozen for up to 1 year.