Duck with Plum Sauce

Preparing a duck with plum sauce is the perfect special occasion meal. Make this dish for the holidays, an anniversary or birthday celebration.

Duck with plum sauce is easy to make for a special occasion.

How to Prepare a Roast Duck with Plum Sauce

Deciding how to prepare your duck can be a little tricky, but this recipe will break if down for you.

First, allow your duck to completely defrost if you picked it up from the grocery store frozen. If you have the time, let it sit in the fridge uncovered overnight to allow the skin to dry out. This will help when it comes to crisping the skin. After you duck is defrosted, you are ready to dress and tress it.

When preparing a duck to roast, you can take off the wing tips. It’s usually a good idea to take off the tips so they don’t burn during the long roasting process.

Also, if you take the wing tips off, you will be able to freeze them and use the tips for a bone broth or to flavor other broths or stews.

Remove the wing tips from your duck to prevent burning
Remove the wing tips from your duck to prevent burning

Stuff the duck with a garlic clove, and half an orange and a half a lemon. There are many ways to tress foul, but I will show you the two main ways.

Tressing isn’t entirely necessary when roasting a duck, or any foul really. The reason we tress is to reduce air flow in the air cavity which will dry out the bird faster.

Tress the duck by starting at the legs and ending at the head.
Tress the duck by starting at the legs and ending at the head.

Way 1: Start by making a loop and putting the legs through it. Bring the twine up towards the wings and bring them close to the body and tie the twine where the neck would be.

Way 2: Start by tucking twine behind the bird and pulling the wings into the body and finishing by tying the legs together.

One leg will be slightly on top of the other.

Another way to tress duck is to start behind the back and tie at the legs.
Another way to tress duck is to start behind the back and tie at the legs.

After the duck is tressed, poke it all over with a knife so that the fat can render. The holes will act as an outlet for fat as it roasts. If there is no place for the excess fat to drain, the meat will end up being greasy and somewhat inedible.

How Long to Roast the Duck

Roast the duck before adding the plum sauce.
Roast the duck before adding the plum sauce.

Deciding how long to roast any protein in the oven can be anxiety-inducing. You don’t want to overcook your bird, leaving you with a dry and unpalatable foul. And at the same time, you don’t want to undercook your animal. You want your duck to be that perfectly rosy-hued centerpiece on your dinner table.

So, how long should you roast duck for? I’m so glad you asked…

The good news is that all ducks are approximately the same weight, usually between 5 and 6 pounds, so you generally won’t have to scale times and temperatures to the weight of your bird like you would a turkey.

You’ll be cooking your duck in the oven for a total of 3 hours at 300 F. When roasting, divide the time your duck in in the oven into 3 quarters:

  1. 0 – 40 minutes: Roast breast side up
  2. 40 – 80 minutes: Flip the duck and roast breast side down
  3. 80 – 120 minutes: Flip back to breast side up. Cover the duck with the glaze during this point in roasting.

The duck is finished when it has reached at least an internal temperature of 135 – 140 F. Check the temperature by using a meat thermometer for optimal precision.

If you find that there is a lot of grease splatter in your pan, turn your oven temperature down and cover your bird with foil. Since duck is the fattiest foul, expect there to be at least a little grease splatter. If the grease gets out of hand, throw some flour onto it. This will calm the grease splatter.

To Score or Not to Score When Roasting

While it’s common practice to score a duck breast when cooking it in a pan, what about when you are roasting a whole duck in the oven?

Scoring is done by using a sharp knife to cut into the fat and skin of the breast of the duck. Take care not to cut into the meat of the duck. When it doubt, make shallower cuts rather than deeper cuts. These cuts allow the fat from the duck to render down easily. You should only score the duck when it is cold and firm.

I’ve seen full ducks that are roasted in the oven scored and also not scored. Scoring them makes it easier for the extra fat to render down, while not scoring will make it a bit more difficult for that fat to render off, making the skin a bit less crisp.

I am in favor of not scoring the breasts of the duck when roasting the whole bird. Specifically because the presentation will not be as neat when it is taken out of the oven and cut off the bone. Even though those cuts are not made, the fat will still be able to render out. Instead, you can prick the duck to allow the fat to run out as well as rotate the duck every so often when it is roasted to ensure even cooking and crispiness.

What Temperature Should My Duck Be?

Generally, poultry should be cooked to 165 F. But duck is actually considered a red meat and is closer to lamb or beef than it is chicken, and can be eaten rare or medium-rare, unlike chicken.

If you like to eat your meat rare or medium-rare, aim to cook your duck to 135 – 140 F. If you prefer to eat it well done, aim for 165 – 170 F. Check the temperature by using a meat thermometer for optimal precision.

Plum Sauce for Duck

Duck with plum sauce is a favorite for any special occasion.
Duck with plum sauce is a favorite for any special occasion.

One of my favorite condiments for this duck dish is making a plum sauce to go with it.

There are a couple ways to make this plum sauce, but I made it by staring with the plum jam I had stored back from the summer. If you don’t have plum jam, you can either buy some from the store or you can use fresh plums.

You can make a French-style duck sauce (outlined below) or you can make a Cantonese-style duck sauce for your freshly-roasted bird. Check out the recipe for a Chinese style sauce.

Finely dice your shallots and add them to a tablespoon of hot oil. Take a cup of plum jam (or about 5 plums, washed and quartered) and add to a medium saucepan. Add in 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and stir. Add in half a cup of red wine and reduce. Taste and add sugar and salt as needed.

Serve your plum sauce with the duck on the side so your guests can help themselves. Or you can serve the sauce directly on the duck, whatever the chef prefers.

What to do with Duck Drippings

There are many different ways to use the duck drippings. Duck fat is a coveted ingredient in the kitchen.

Use the duck fat to cook a side of veggies such as asparagus or brussel sprouts or make a gravy or pan sauce out of the drippings.

Another option is to make a duck gravy from the pan drippings. Especially if you are making a duck instead of a turkey or goose for a holiday event, you will need gravy to go over those mashed potatoes!

How to Break Down a Duck

Now that you have your duck roasted and rested out of the oven, how are you going to carve it?

It’s actually not too difficult to break down a whole foul, as long as you have a sharp knife and a large cutting board.

  1. Take your knife and make cuts into the “leg” joint. Use your thumb and pop out the drumstick and thigh. Take your knife and follow the joint that is popped out and cut through the meat, skin and fat that you can see.
  2. Once the drumstick and thigh is separated from the body, separate the drumstick and thigh from each other. Set aside.
Make a cut to separate the drumstick from the body.
Make a cut to separate the drumstick from the body.

3 . After both drumsticks and thighs are separated, move onto the breasts.

4. Move the duck so that the cavity is facing you. Make a vertical cut down the breastbone of the duck and then follow the cut under the breast of the duck, removing the breast from the ribs.

Now it's time to take off the breasts.
Now it’s time to take off the breasts.

Duck with Plum Sauce

5.0 from 3 votes
Recipe by Sarah
Course: EntreeCuisine: American, FrenchDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time








  • Duck
  • 1 duck whole and defrosted, 5 to 6 pounds

  • 1 orange

  • 1 lemon

  • Plum Sauce
  • 1 cup plum jam OR 5 plums quartered

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • 1/2 yellow onion finely chopped

  • 1 tbsn neutral cooking oil

  • 1 tbsn balsamic vinegar

  • Duck Glaze
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 cup orange juice

  • 2 tsp cornstarch

  • pinch salt


  • Roast the Duck
  • Take defrosted duck and stuff with quartered lemon and orange. Tress legs together and poke the breasts all over with a sharp knife so the fat will drain. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • For the first hour, roast the duck breast side up. Then rotate to breast side down for 40 minutes. Then rotate and brush with glaze every 10 minutes for the 120 minutes. Take out of the oven when the internal temp. reaches at least 135 degrees.
  • Allow the duck to rest for at least 15 minutes.
  • Duck Glaze
  • Make a cornstarch slurry out of the cornstarch and orange juice. Whisk in brown sugar and salt. Set aside until needed.
  • Plum Sauce
  • Heat the tablespoon of cooking oil to a medium saucepan and add the onion. Allow to fry until fragrant.
  • Add the dry red wine and reduce by half – about 7 minutes. Add in the fresh plums or plum jam. Then add in the vinegar, sugar and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Set aside and use when duck is ready to serve.


  1. The question is, is it better to have the sauce on the side or on top?

    • I think it’s better to serve the sauce on the side so guests can serve themselves. It’s up to you and your guests and family!

Leave a Reply