Brining Wild Duck

I often complain about wild duck. Rick likes it fine, but to me, it's bloody and gamey and makes my nose curl whenever I eat it. I guess it's to each his own, but I was very determined to like it-- some way, somehow. If prepared correctly, I think anything can taste good. 

Wild duck is extremely dark, as you can see in the photo to your right. The color is almost purple or blue and this is due to the fact that ducks are very bloody. To get rid of the "gamey" taste, you have to try to leech out as much blood as you can. In the photo above, the duck has been brined for 3 days, leaving a very light exterior and a beautiful ruby red color inside. We've tried brining before, but it made the duck really salty. So this time around, we used a combination of a light salty brine and just cold water. We also extended the brining time, because it does takes more than a day to get all that blood out. When it came around time to cook, Rick said, "Wild duck-- the other white meat!" The meat no longer smelled and tasted "gamey." You don't have to brine for 3 whole days, like we did. Overnight will do just fine. It also depends on your own taste. 

Update 10/27/2014: Since posting this recipe, we have since started hunting and cleaning our own birds. To our delight, there was a big difference in taste from the birds we cleaned ourselves and the stuff that was given to us by other hunters. Comes to show how important it is to follow basic field dressing rules and storage for the final product to taste good. I no longer have to brine ducks before I eat them-- they taste good as is. 

If you find duck "gamey," this is still a good recipe to use. It will greatly benefit more stronger tasting birds like diver ducks and snow geese. Not only that, this is also our go-to brine for brining smaller birds such as partridge, quail, pheasant, etc. We also use this brine for pork-- you will be amazed by how juicy and perfectly seasoned your meats come out. For smaller "white-meat" birds and pork, brine for just 4 hours. For pheasant, we suggest brining for 6-8 hours.

Ingredients: Should be enough brine for the breasts from 2 ducks, but multiply ingredients as needed depending on how much meat you have. 
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar 
- Any herbs you desire (bay leaves, thyme, smashed garlic, peppercorns, etc.)

1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Then add kosher salt and brown sugar. Mix until dissolved. Turn off heat and allow brine to cool.  
Our duck breasts were cut up into big chunks. You can do the same or keep them whole. 

See how dark they are?
2. Move the breasts to a nonreactive bowl.
3. Submerge the duck breasts with cooled brine, covering completely. It is important that you let the brine cool completely. Adding hot/warm brine will ruin your meat and encourage bacterial growth. 
Cover and store in the refrigerator. Brine overnight. After brined to your liking, rinse meat under cold water, pat dry with paper towels and cook after meat has come to room temperature.
4. This step is optional, and will depend on your taste: replace the water when it gets bloody. We did this for three days. We did not use a salty brine b/c we didn't want to add more salt to the meat. Water works fine. After three days, the meat will look light on the outside like this, almost gray. 

Look for our Inside-Out, Brown Sugar Glazed Jalapeno Duck Poppers and Philly Cheesesteak Duck Rolls in the next few days!


  1. great tips, im going to try this..i'll post results

  2. excellent have tried similar a soak in milk for a couple of hours is good too

  3. Thanks for checking us out, Rodney! Buttermilk works well.

  4. i like this post very much. everything are enjoyable Arkansas duck hunting leases

  5. Did you post about what you are doing for "basic field dressing rules and storage"?

    1. Hi Mike, we are releasing a book on basic field dressing and storage in July 2015. It is called Hunting for Food. Hope you get a chance to check it out!

  6. Duck breasts aren't dark because ducks are bloodier than other birds.Duck breasts are dark because of myoglobin. The more a muscle is used the more myoglobin is deposited over time. That's why your heart is a darker shade of red. Unlike chicken and turkey, ducks can fly , they use those muscles more.


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