What Does Duck Taste Like?

While not as popular as other types of meat, duck is considered somewhat of a delicacy in the United States. Commonly, one of the more expensive dishes at restaurants might have you wondering what exactly duck tastes like.

Overall, duck is fatty, tender, and moist. Its skin is crispy, crunchy, and fairly hard. It tastes somewhat gamey and is flavored more closely to red meat than poultry.

That’s a quick overview of duck. However, different types of duck will taste differently. You can also change the flavors based on how the duck is prepared.

What is Gamey

Duck is often referred to as being gamey. It tastes like a goose.. But if you’ve never eaten anything that is gamey, it’s doubtful that description will be helpful. And it often comes with a negative connotation, that is somewhat unfair.

Typically, gamey is used to describe a taste that is stronger and wilder. It’s also a somewhat metallic taste because living in the wild, animals tend to have a more active heart rate. 

Part of the reason it is difficult to describe is that gamey is generally picked up by umami receptors. Umami is one of the five basic tastes that mostly pick up savory characteristics. However, it also picks up sweet, sour, bitter, and salty which makes it a taste that’s difficult to describe.

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Wild Ducks vs Farm-Raised Ducks

Based on the different lifestyles each duck lives, you get different kinds of flavors and textures from the different kinds.

Wild Ducks

Wild ducks are responsible for feeding themselves, which means their muscles are fairly overworked. An overworked muscle is tougher and means a less tender meal.

In addition, wild ducks will have a more robust diet. They will eat what they catch or find, meaning they have a stronger flavor and are gamier.

Farm-Raised Ducks

Ducks that are raised on a farm hardly need to move at all. The farmers will provide everything they need. This means muscles that are very tender from underuse.

However, while they have a better texture, the flavor might be somewhat lacking. Farm-raised ducks will have a nice layer of fat, but won’t have as complex a favor as wild ducks.

Types of Duck

Different types of duck do taste differently. Often it comes down to their diets and environments. Here are some of the most popular kinds of duck eaten and how they taste.

Pekin Duck

When you think of ducks for eating, this might be the one you picture. It’s one of the most popular ducks to eat and is common on Asian menus.

While the duck does have a nice rich, satisfying flavor, Pekin duck is mostly prized for its skin. Its skin is generally served separately from the duck itself and is extra crispy and super thin. 

Mallard

Mallard ducks are fairly common and can be tasty with a little extra preparation. 

These ducks have a somewhat coarse texture and a gamey flavor. However, if you soak the duck in brine it will help make the meat more tender.

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Pintail

Pintail ducks also have a slightly gamey taste but are tender and juicy. They are also better if brined.

Wood Duck

A wood duck is tender, juicy, and delicious. Wood ducks tend to eat a lot of acorns which can sometimes give them a somewhat nutty flavor.

Divers

Divers aren’t exactly a type of duck, but a group of ducks that dive underwater for their food. This means that because of their diet, they tend to taste fishier than some of the other ducks.

Preparation

How you prepare your duck is important for how you want it to taste.

Peking Duck

Duck prepared this way has been cooked in hoisin sauce, giving it its trademark red color.

The hoisin sauce helps to give the duck a sweet and salty flavor. In addition, the skin of the duck is stretched to make sure it is extra thin and extra crispy.

Confit of Duck

If properly cooked at the right temperature, preparing duck in this way will make it extra tender.

Since normally rendered duck fat is used as a cooking liquid, you will get a very concentrated duck flavor. Although if you are looking to change up the flavor, other fats can be used as well. 

Roast Duck

Roast duck is something most of us can make at home. When done properly, the skin is perfectly crispy and the meat is tender and flavorful.

To Sum Up

Overall, duck has a fatty, tender, somewhat gamey taste. Although it may seem unlikely, its flavor is closer to steak than chicken. However, it mostly depends on the type of duck you’re eating. 

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The mallard you’re eating might be somewhat nutty-flavored due to its diet of acorns. If your duck ate a lot of underwater plants and fish, you’ll have a fishier-tasting duck. 

If you like the idea of duck but find it somewhat too gamey for you, brine it for 12-24 hours. This will both help to enhance its flavor and help tenderize the meat somewhat.

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