How to Smoke Duck [Dry Brine, Best Wood & Recipe]

Perfect smoked duck, cooked low and slow over maple wood for juicy and tender meat. From barbecue times and temperatures to best meat prep, learn how to smoke a duck with our full meat smoking recipe.

carved duck dark meat resting on chopping board

If you’re craving smoked poultry that packs in more punch than chicken or turkey, look no further than duck. The best thing about this beautiful bird is that it has more dark meat and fat than its poultry contemporaries. This gives it an incredible amount of moisture and flavor.

If you cook it right on your backyard smoker, you’ll finish with delicate fall-off-the-bone meat contained in a delicious case of crispy skin.

One of my favorite things about duck is that it’s mostly breast meat. This doesn’t just make it easier to carve, but it also makes it easier to cook more evenly. Your resulting smoked dark will be juicy, tender, and easy to serve up.

barbecue smoked duck resting on kitchen shopping board before carving

What wood is best for smoking duck?

Sweet and fruit hardwoods are best for smoked duck, including apple, pecan, cherry, and alder. For this recipe, we are using maple. It strikes a delicate balance between sweet and smokey without overpowering our meat.

How long does it take to smoke duck?

Smoked duck will need about 4 hours to cook at 225°F (107°C) for it to reach a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Other factors like smoker setup and meat quantity will affect this, so use a smoker thermometer for the best results.

Quick Tips

The good news is that duck is much easier to smoke than it might seem. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your smoked meat.

Pierce the duck skin

For this recipe, we’ll penetrate the skin of the bird with, ideally, the sharp end of a skewer, or a sharp chef’s knife. Importantly, we only want to pierce the skin and not the meat. This is important because it allows us to work the seasoning into the duck meat without damaging it.

Rememeber to dry brine

Apply kosher salt to the raw duck, and allow it to rest for at least eight hours in the refrigerator. This is called dry brining, and is a process that helps meat retain flavor and moisture when it’s cooked. This is particularly important with barbecue, where meats are exposed to high temperatures for hours and can be prone to drying out.

Don’t forget to baste

Smoking can be a fine balancing act, where we try to expose meat to low temperatures without allowing it to dry out. Duck is no different. One of the best ways around this is to use a glaze while we smoke. This allows us to keep the meat moist during the cooking process while also enhancing the flavor. For this recipe, we’re going to use simple honey, balsamic vinegar, and orange juice mix. If this sounds too sweet for you, try swapping out the honey for something else. Be creative!

Aluminum foil

If you struggle to get your meat temperature up to 165°F, try covering it in aluminum foil for the final hour of cooking. This should help to lock in heat and moisture, and speed up the cooking process.

barbecue smoked duck recipe
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5 from 2 votes

Smoked Duck

Beautiful smoked duck, cooked low and slow over maple wood for juicy and tender meat. Perfect for holiday dinners, winter warmers, and year-round meals!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Dry Brine 8 hours
Total Time 12 hours 30 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Water Pan
  • Wood chips, apple or maple

Ingredients

  • 1 whole duck usually about 5lbs

Dry Brine

  • ½ cup kosher salt or coarse salt
  • cup black pepper

Basting Liquid

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Instructions

  • Prepare your duck by piercing the skin of the bird with the sharp end of a skewer or a very sharp chef’s knife. Only pierce into the skin and not the meat.
  • Season the duck with Kosher salt and black pepper. Work it all over the skin, including the underside of the bird. Transfer to your refrigerator and leave overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
  • Heat up your smoker. If you are using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect grilling. Aim for a cooking temperature of 225°F.
  • Once your smoker or charcoal grill is at 225°F, transfer the duck to the grates. Place it breast side down so that the fat can render and enhance the flavor in the other parts of the bird. Close the chamber door and smoke for 3-4 hours.
  • While the duck smokes, prepare the baste by combining the ingredients in a small bowl. Apply the baste to the duck after it has been cooking for 2 hours, and then again an hour later. Use either a basting brush or just trickle it on with a tablespoon.
  • Remove duck from smoker once its internal temperature has reached 165°F. Move it to a serving platter or chopping board, and rest for 10-15 minutes. Carve by removing the breast portions, followed by the legs and thighs.

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