Basically identifying when duck is cooked is the same as for chicken: the internal temperature of the thickest part of duck should be 75° when tested with a meat thermometer, cook at the temperature and the time period recommended on the packaging or the juices run clear and no blood should be apparent.

The difficulty is that duck meat, unlike chicken, may still appear red or deep pink even though it is safely cooked. The reasons for this vary as marinades or other additives suggested in duck recipes are generally stronger flavours and often more highly coloured than those suggested for chicken. Duck meat is much redder than chicken to begin with because ducks, even when bred for cooking, are birds of flight which chickens are not. Flight requires lots of oxygen in the muscles, and the myoglobin, which holds the oxygen, provides a deep red or brownish colour. Similar deepening of colour, giving a brown meat, can be seen in the legs of chickens and turkeys.

When buying fresh duck:

  • make it the last item on the shopping list and pick up just before going home
  • avoid cross contamination by ensuring the duck juices are contained and do not drip on other items even those which are well packaged as the juices will get on hands, and may be spread from item to item, benchtops when groceries are unpacked, children’s cheeks, your own mouth, etc
  • refrigerate (5° or below) duck immediately and use within 1 or 2 days, or freeze in its original packaging. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

The best methods to defrost frozen duck are in the fridge or the microwave – never on the benchtop, sink or in other locations. In the refrigerator, whole birds may take 1 to 2 days or longer; parts, about 1 day. Once the raw poultry defrosts, it will be safe in the refrigerator for another day or so before cooking. When microwave-defrosting a duck plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present may not have been destroyed.

Marinate duck in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Boil used marinade before brushing it on the cooked poultry, uncooked it’s a scary, microbial soup. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.