Best Wood for Smoking Duck: tips & recipes

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 28, 2020

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If you like to get adventurous with meat, it’s likely you have had duck more than once.

Often served in Chinese cuisine, Peking duck is a popular dish but certainly not the only one to feature this somewhat exotic poultry.

This article will look at the best wood for smoking duck and other fun culinary facts about eating duck and smoking meats in general.

Smoked duck woods and recipes

In fact, there are a variety of ways you can enjoy duck and many choose to eat it smoked. Smoking the duck will give it a great rich flavor and it will also make it delightfully tender.

Eating Duck

Duck meat primarily consists of meat taken from the bird’s breasts and legs. Although it is darker in color than some other meats, it is considered white meat.

Duck is often grilled but it can also be roasted, cooked in a hot pot, and of course, smoked. It has a taste that is not dissimilar to that of chicken.

  • Many people think of duck as being high in fat. However, this depends on whether or not you leave the skin on and what section of the duck you are eating.
  • And even though duck may be high in fat, it is a healthy unsaturated fat that is high in omega-3s. In addition, the meat is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • It is known to boost the immune system, support thyroid health, protect bones, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • It can also be used as a healthy substitute for butter and other animal fats.

Best Woods for Smoking Duck

Because duck has a taste that can be compared to chicken, most woods that are recommended for chicken will work well with this poultry.

Here are a few that you may want to try:

  • Alder: Alder wood is mainly recommended for seafood but it can also be used on poultry dishes. It gives meals a complex flavor and works well when mixed with applewood.
  • Applewood: Applewood provides a terrific fruity flavor that goes well with pork. However, it is mild enough for poultry and provides a mellow taste and aroma that can take duck to the next level.
  • Cherry: Cherry is a wood particularly recommended for duck. It provides a fruity flavor which is just slightly tart.
  • Peach: Peach wood gives white meats a sweet, fruity taste and enhances the existing flavor of the meat.
  • Orange: Orange wood provides a sweet, citrusy flavor that is ideal for poultry.
  • Pecan: Pecan is another wood highly recommended for duck. As its name would suggest, it provides a nutty, sweet flavor. As a general rule, woods that go well with nuts will go well with poultry.
  • Oak: Oak provides a nice, neutral flavor that goes well with almost any meat. It’s also great for mixing with other varieties of wood. Maple: It should come as no surprise that maple provides a sweet taste much like maple syrup. It adds a bit of sweetness to poultry and other meats as well as veggies and cheese.

My favorite woods for smoking duck are:

 
 

Check out the BBQ smoker products I use in all of my cooking here in my recommended products list.

If there are any woods you want to stay away from when smoking duck, mesquite would be first on the list.

Mesquite has a strong flavor that can easily overwhelm white meat. If you do attempt to use it, you will want to keep an eye on the grill to make sure you don’t overdo it.

Hickory is a safer bet but it definitely wouldn’t be the first choice.

It has a strong flavor and, while it can be used to smoke poultry, it’s best to start with small amounts so you can be sure to get the right intensity.

Of course, when it comes to woods you can use for smoking duck, there are also several, exotic varieties you can try.

For instance, camphor laurel is a type of evergreen tree whose wood is often used to smoke duck in China. It is said to give the meat a unique, exotic taste.

Preparing Your Duck for Smoking

Now that you know what woods are best for smoking, here are some tips for the preparation.

Many people that eat duck on a regular basis hunt their own. If this is the case, you will want to start by removing as much of the fat off the bird as you can.

However, the fat should be saved later for cooking.

Next, you will want to prick the duck all over with a needle. Make sure to just prick it lightly and avoid piercing it. This will help the fat escape.

Here are some other pointers:

  • Avoid smoking sea ducks. These can be eaten but they are not best when smoked.
  • Be sure to pluck the duck as opposed to skinning it. A skinned duck will have a tough texture.
  • Smoke ducks whole. They will come out juicier this way.
  • Big ducks smoke better than small ducks.

Should I Add Brine when smoking duck?

Brining can help ducks retain moisture. However, this step is not absolutely necessary unless the duck is very lean.

Brining will also help preserve the meat if you plan to keep it a while before cooking it. It will let you smoke it longer without drying out the meat.

If you plan to brine your duck, here’s how you do it:

  1. Mix ¼ cup kosher salt with 4 cups of water. Submerge the duck in the mixture and leave it overnight.
  2. If you are planning on doing a cold smoke, a long smoke or want more of a raw cook, add ½ -1 tsp. of pink salt, or sodium nitrate, to the mixture.
  3. When duck is brined, take it out of the mixture and pat dry. Then leave it out to dry for a few hours. You can accelerate the process by blowing a fan on the meat. It’s important not to skip this set as wet meat will not smoke properly.
  4. If you decide to skip the brining, be sure to dry the bird completely before putting it in the smoker. This will help the smoke adhere to the skin. Flavor the Meat

You can flavor the meat with the spices of your choice. Salt and maple are great for producing a sweet and savory flavor.

Some people like orange or orange juice flavors. In fact, some recipes call for stuffing the duck with oranges before smoking it.

If you prefer more of a kick, you might opt for a Cajun rub, chili flavorings or something that gives it an Indian taste.

Other options that work well include

  • salt and pepper,
  • coriander,
  • all spice
  • or soy sauce.

Time and Temperature

It is recommended to smoke duck at 250 to 275 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours. This will get rid of the fat and get the skin nice and crispy.

If you want the skin to be extra crispy, turn the heat up to 500 and check on the meat every five minutes or so.

You definitely don’t want to leave the meat in at this temperature for more than 15 minutes.

How you place the duck in the smoker doesn’t really matter. You can place it upright using a can to prop it up or place it breast side up.

You will need to put a drip pan under the bird to catch the fat.

Duck smoking over a large fire

Smoked Duck Recipe

Joost Nusselder
Here is a recipe for smoked duck that is highly recommended. It only requires a few simple ingredients and the bird should come out delicious.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large duck
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Instructions
 

  • Salt duck inside the cavity, then paint with maple syrup. Salt outside of duck as well.
  • Place in smoker with drip pan underneath. Smoke at 200 – 225 degrees over apple wood for 4 hours. Baste duck with maple syrup every hour.
  • When duck is smoked, remove from smoker, allow to cool completely and carve. Duck can be served as cold cuts or as an entrée or appetizer. You can also carve the breast whole and sear in the pan.
  • Serve with the side of your choice.
Keyword BBQ, Duck
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Sides That Go Well with Duck

If you are not sure what to serve with your duck, here are a few recommendations:

  • Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables are simple to make. Just coat with oil, put them in a pan and cook for 10 minutes. Carrots, celery, onion and garlic are all delicious veggies to serve (or even smoke!) with duck.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Whether you make them from scratch or from a box, mashed potatoes will make a great side for duck. Add caramelized or smoked onions to elevate the taste.Mashed Pumpkin: A healthy alternative to mashed potatoes, you can make mash pumpkin yourself and add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste.

If you enjoy eating duck, smoking it can give it a terrific flavor that will elevate the dish.

Now that you have a useful recipe and recommendations for the best woods to use, how will you be preparing your delicious meal?

Also read: Electric smoker vs. Green Egg | Which one to buy? Let’s compare

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.