Ducks were domesticated in China thousands of years ago.

They were not yet domesticated in other ancient civilizations, but kept in captivity and eaten. They were force fed in Egypt, then in the Roman Empire and Greece (like geese).

It was not until the 15th century that ducks would be domesticated on other continents.

Ducks were first raised in English and Spanish farmyards, then in those of South America. It appears that ducks arrived in France with the Spanish princess who married Louis XIV.

Ducks are now farmed throughout the world. 75% of duck farms are in Asia, where this bird is especially popular.

However, wild ducks, migratory birds, can still be found. They are considered game birds and their hunting is regulated.

The breast should be rounded, the skin soft and dry with a waxy appearance, abundant flesh, white fat, flexible wing tips and beak, shiny legs.

Ducks weigh from 2.5–3 kg and are 11–12 weeks old.

Young ducks and ducklings weigh from 1.5–2 kg and are less than 2 months old. Young females are always tastier, with finer bones and more tender flesh.

Fresh, whole, plucked, cleaned or only gutted, or not.

Frozen whole.

As magrets: fillets from ducks fattened to make foie gras. Whole or smoked and cut into slices and vacuum packed.

As confit pieces in duck fat.

The fat is sold in jars. 

Grilled, pan-fried, braised, roasted, confit, and as salmis and dodine, duck lends itself to a great many preparations with fruit (orange, cherries) or vegetables (turnips, peas).

It is evidently cooked in many parts of the world.

Arroz con Pato in Peru (duck, cilantro, dark malt beer, pepper, rice), Fesenjan in Iran (a traditional dish: duck, pomegranate syrup, sugar, walnuts, onions), etc.

China: Peking duck is the famous dish originating in what is now Beijing. The skin is separated from the flesh by inflating it, then glazed with honey. The duck is subsequently hung up to dry in the open air. The skin is then roasted, its flesh cooking inside it by means of a water spray system. It is normally presented in two courses: the crisp skin is served in a small wheat pancake with onion, and the meat in a soup accompanied with vegetables. Shao ya is Cantonese-style roast duck.

Duck eggs are particularly popular throughout Asia. Chinese 100-year-old eggs (Pidan): the eggs are preserved for a few months in a mixture of saltpeter, tea leaves, clay, etc. Salted duck egg: the duck eggs are left in brine. They are tinted red in the Philippines. Balut (South Asia, Philippines) is a boiled fertilized egg. The broth around the embryo is sipped first.

Store in the cool room or refrigerator (0–4ºC) or in the freezer (-18ºC), but never in contact with other food (due to risk of salmonella contamination).

Like other kinds of poultry, duck is rich in protein, but it is one of the highest in iron.

The composition of its fat is close to that of olive oil (predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), making it beneficial for the cardiovascular system.

Crossbreeding has resulted in a large number of domesticated duck breeds, descendents of two ancestral species: the Muscovy duck, native to South America and domesticated by the Incas in Peru, and the mallard, from which the Pekin duck and other breeds are descended.

The best-known species of duck are:

. Mallard: wild, migratory duck, a semi-domestic species because it settles easily wherever there is water. It is found throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

. Muscovy duck: the most common species (descended from the wild Muscovy duck that is still found wild in South and Central America), introduced to Spain from Peru by Christopher Columbus.

. Challans or Nantais duck: the result of crossing wild ducks from the marshes of Vendée and ducks introduced by the Dutch or Spaniards in the 17th century. This is the variety of duck that is strangled to make the famous pressed duck at the Tour d’Argent.

. Duclair duck: farmed in Normandy, this bird is black with a white dewlap

. Moulard duck: sterile hybrid of Muscovy and Rouen or Pekin ducks, it is used for the production of fattened ducks.

. Pekin duck: this descendant of the mallard, domesticated in China 4,000 years ago and introduced into America, is large (3–4.5 kg) and white with a yellow beak.

. Rouen duck: bred from the mallard to improve the species, the Rouen duck is a French breed that is unfortunately endangered. Its flesh is particularly tasty.

There are many other breeds of duck in different countries.

Premium subscription

Gain unlimited access to 1,000 recipes from the greatest chefs

1,000 recipes from the greatest chefs, with step-by-step illustrations and videos

Tips and tricks from
30 top chefs

Interactive videos make it easy to recreate dishes and master techniques at home

Subscribe now
Cancel anytime