Brining Wild Duck ... And Other Animals

I often complain about wild duck. Rick likes it fine, but to me, it's bloody and off-putting 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 the right way-- and what is "right" is mostly personal-- 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 hardworking animals, having to fly hundreds of miles each year. Here's an interesting read on light versus dark meat in birds:

To get rid of that "gamey" taste in ducks, you have to try to leech out as much blood as you can. In the photo above, the duck was brined for 3 days, leaving a light exterior and a beautiful ruby red color inside. We've tried brining before, but it made the duck very 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 dinnertime came around, Rick exclaimed, "Wild duck-- the other white meat!" The meat no longer smelled and tasted strong. You don't have to brine for 3 whole days, as detailed below. Overnight will do just fine. It depends on the individual animal and your personal preference.

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 meat 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 because they taste delicious as is. Don't get me wrong-- duck is still richly flavored, but pleasantly so.

Even after proper field dressing and storage, and you find duck hard to eat, this is still a good recipe to use. It will greatly benefit more stronger tasting birds such as diver ducks and snow geese. 

Not only that, this has become our go-to brine for basically everything. It's great for brining lean game birds such as partridge, quail and pheasant. 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 a mature pheasant, we suggest brining for 6-8 hours. Experiment to see what works best for you.

- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- Any herbs you desire, such as bay leaves, thyme, smashed garlic, peppercorns, crushed juniper berries, etc.  
This recipe should make enough brine for the breasts of 2 ducks. Multiply ingredients as needed depending on how much meat you have.

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. 

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 cook the 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. Personally, I would not do this on good-eating ducks such as teal or mallard, but it could help with stronger-tasting birds.

Replace the brine with water when it gets bloody; we did this for three days. We did not use a salty brine after the initial soaking because we didn't want to add more salt to the meat. After three days, the meat will look light on the outside like this, almost gray. 


  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.


Post a Comment

Feel free to post any questions or comments.