Cuisine Fiend

roast duck with spice rub


Roast duck

Whole roast duck is a fantastic alternative to turkey – when there’s not too many of you sitting down to Christmas lunch. You can’t go wrong – it doesn’t go as dry as a turkey might, even if forgotten about for ten minutes too long, in the midst of the pre-lunch bellinis. It is fatty, which is wonderful, your roast potatoes may happily sit underneath, it can wait for the sprouts and puddings to cook without getting too cold and you can skip the carving faff – just chop it, bones and all, into portions, with poultry shears.

Duck is probably my favourite meat and it’s so versatile: thinly sliced breast cooked rare, confit legs, cassoulet, aromatic crispy in the pancakes and of course à l’orange. This one is cooked through but not overdone, moist and flavoursome thanks to the honey and the spices, and very tender. Adjust the cooking time at lower temperature if you have a larger beast: roughly 20 minutes per kilo after the initial blast, or thereabouts.

I swiped the rub – rub-a-duck! – ingredients off Tom Kerridge’s recipe from Delicious magazine, but skipped brining, the meat is moist and tender even without it.

roast duck with spice rub

Servings: 4-6Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 1 oven ready duck, about 2kg
  • 2 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 3-4 star anise
  • 1 dessert apple, unpeeled, quartered and cored
  • 100 ml runny honey
  • 50 ml dark soya sauce

Oven ready duck


Get your duck ideally a day before roasting and keep it unwrapped in the fridge (giblets removed) on a roasting rack. The drier the skin, the more crispy it will end up.

1. Grind the Sichuan pepper in the pestle and mortar; it doesn’t need to be too fine a powder. Add the remaining spices and the salt and mix well. Rub the mix all over the duck, massage it well in using your hands so the skin turns light brown all over. Don’t forget the back and legs. Insert the quartered apples into the cavity with the star anise.

Duck with a spice rub

2. Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas 9. Set the duck on a roasting rack over a baking tin and cook for 20 minutes at the highest setting. Turn the heat down to 180C/350F/gas 4 and roast for another 20 minutes.

3. Prepare the glaze: bring the honey to the boil in a small pan, when it’s bubbling furiously and has darkened a little, add the soya sauce. Brush the glaze all over the duck and bake for the final 20 minutes, basting again halfway through that time.

4. Remove from the oven, drain the juices from the inside by lifting the duck upright and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove the apples and serve alongside the meat. Carve or serve on the bone, chopped with poultry scissors into 6 or 8 portions.

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