Smoked Dry-Aged Duck

  • By: Jack Mancuso

Smoked Dry-Aged Duck - Cuso Cuts

Smoked Dry-aged Duck is one of those recipes you can serve to guests and see them look at you with awe. Mind you, my recipe takes a considerable amount of time and attention, so their appreciation makes it so worthwhile. I do suggest working with two ducks at a time so you can get the most out of your effort. 

Just the Facts, Jack: Ask your butcher about air-chilled ducks. They have far less water weight (about 10%), meaning the air-chilled ducks will give you crispier skin.

Your butcher may break down your ducks, but if you have to do it yourself, you’ll need a cleaver, which is more suited to cutting through bone than your average kitchen knife. Place the duck on a cutting board. Carve away all but the two breasts and wings (attached to the rib cage). By so doing, you help protect the duck meat from drying out. 

Smoked Dry-Aged Duck: What you’ll Need

There are a lot of things you’ll need for this recipe that may not be in your home currently. For example, you’ll need space in your refrigerator, so air surrounds the duck on all sides. Some people buy a separate unit for this (hey, it can hold beer later, or use it for dry-aging beef!). 

Make sure your unit is one with a metal grate-style shelf so you can hang the duck easily. By the way, simple S hooks work fine for hooking the duck onto the grate with heavy-duty kitchen twine. Also, to make your life easier, put parchment paper on the bottom of the unit to catch drippings. 

High PriorityIt is vital that you give the entire refrigerator a good wipe-down. Bacteria is happy to grow wherever it has a chance. In dry aging, that’s a disaster. 

Pat dry both ducks, then attach a piece of twin at the top of the neck. The other end of the twine attaches to the S-hook. Put a tag on each with the date you hang them. Make sure they’re evenly spaced so they get air at all sides.

Watch & Wait

You know how you want to eat a roast right out of the oven? But you know you have to let the roast rest for the best results. Well, now you have to be patient with the duck. You do not want to open and close the door too often. Maintain your refrigerator at a temperature of 35-39 degrees F. 

Over the first three days, the duck will drip some. It’s part of the dry-aging process (you want moisture OUT). Other than that, just watch for any signs of mold or off-putting odors. If you suspect your duck has gone bad, toss it out and start over. 


  1. Set up your smoker for 225 degrees F.
  2. Lightly salt the duck, then put it on the grill.
  3. Watch for the internal temperature of the duck to reach 135-160 degrees F.
  4. Punch up the heat for the last few minutes for extra crispy skin.
  5. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  6. Slice, using a good Chef’s Knife.
  7. Serve as desired.

You can use this as a main dish, or as a salad topper, but you don’t want to mess too much with perfection!


You can add more flavor to your bird by brushing it periodically in a sauce blend. On day four, consider brushing one of them with light soy sauce and malt syrup. Wait for day seven to repeat, and again on day ten. This way you can have taste testing after smoking to see which way you like best. 

Pit Master’s Memo

Why go through all the trouble to dry-age meat? One reason is cost. Doing it at home saves you considerable sums vs. meats served in a restaurant. Another reason is flavor. Dry aging is one of the favorite approaches to beef because of the rich, distinctive taste.

Then there’s that crispy skin bite (people fight over this, folks!). Beyond the surface lies moist, juicy meat. You’ll have a hard time keeping yourself from nibbling before serving.

Smoked Duck Side Dishes

Duck fat fries (you HAVE to try them)

Feta spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Spiced sweet potato slices

Baby glazed carrots

Turnip with apple

Butter roasted chestnuts

Marinated mushrooms

Roasted beets

From The Bar

Belgian or Amber Ale




Old Fashioned

Orange brandy

Pomegranate fizz

Elderflower tea

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