In Which I Break Down Both a Whole Duck and Turkey

In Which I Break Down Both a Whole Duck and Turkey

I like meat.  Particularly, I like cooking meat in the most effective and flavorful way possible.  It’s the holiday season, so I recently had the pleasure of breaking down both a duck and a turkey.  Video below, prep tips after the jump.

Aimee and I love duck.  One bird may cost $16, but we get two meals for two out of it, so it’s fairly wallet-friendly.  Bonus points if it comes with the liver, as pâté is as easy as poaching the protein, splashing it with sweet red wine and blending smooth with a pinch of salt.

To break down the duck, I prefer a 6″ flexible boning knife and long, shallow cuts.  Never throw away the extra bones and bits!  I roll mine into what I call the “bone bundle” and freeze the blob of excess until I’m ready to make stock.

We roast the duck legs and wings under foil in a cast iron skillet at 300°F then cook them off until crispy under a high broiler — salt and pepper to taste.

The breast meat is one of my favorite proteins. I dry rub the meat with kosher salt, black pepper, and a couple dashes of nutmeg and let it sit 24 hours in the fridge.  Then I score the fat side lightly and place the breasts fat-down in a cold cast iron skillet and slowly bring them up to medium heat.  This can take 20 minutes or more.  The idea here is to gradually render the fat just until it’s almost gone, then flip the breasts and throw them in a preheated oven at 400°F for about five minutes.  They should be perfectly medium.

Turkey is a whole other beast.  It must be brined — I accept no turkey prepped any other way.  Brining ensures flavorful, moist meat.  It takes additional work, but it’s worth it.

BCP’s Turkey Brine

  • 4 Quarts water
  • 3 Cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 Cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 Cup sea salt
  • 8 Whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 6 Bay leaves
  • 3 Sprigs thyme
  • 3 Sprigs rosemary
  • 2 Teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 Cup bourbon
  • 2 ounces organic maple extract (no alcohol)

Place 2 quarts of water in a large stockpot.  Add all other ingredients except for the maple extract.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add maple extract.  Stir in remaining 2 quarts of water.

You’ll notice from the butchering video, I separate out the white meat from the dark.  This is because they need different treatments.  Typically I leave the wings on, but I wanted to try my method with the wings removed this year.  It made it much easier to handle the bird, but I prefer the way the wings hold the skin onto the breast, so I may go back to my old method.

I debone my turkey thighs, season the inside with pepper and sage, and skewer and truss them back together.  The white meat brines in the fridge for 48 hours.  Halfway through I throw in the dark meat so it gets 24 hours in the solution.

And here’s where the reassembly happens.

BCP’s Turkey Method (first adapted from Julia Child by America’s Test Kitchen)

Brush breast skin with vegetable oil, place skin-down in a medium-heat cast-iron (or other oven-safe) skillet.  Roast at 425°F for 30 minutes in the oven.  Prepare a roasting pan with unsalted, dry stuffing.  Remove pan from the oven and flip the turkey breast onto the stuffing skin-side up.  Place the legs and wings skin-side up on the stuffing and tuck stuffing beneath the meat.  Brush dark meat with vegetable oil.  Roast at 425°F for 30 minutes in the oven.  Reduce the temperature to 350°F and roast for 40 minutes.  Turkey is done when the internal temperature on the breast meat is 165°F.  Rest the meat for 30 minutes or more before carving.

Now just look at that meat.

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Perfect.  The boneless thighs are a plus because it way simplifies the serving of the dark meat.

Turkey shouldn’t be a seasonal protein.

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