How To Handle Duck from the USDA - Bella Bella Gourmet

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How To Handle Duck from the USDA


Put each duck in a disposable plastic bag (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross contaminate cooked foods or produce. At home, refrigerate duck immediately (40° F) and use within 1 or 2 days, or freeze (0° F) in its original packaging. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.


If picking up a cooked duck, or other fully cooked product, be sure it is hot when you pick it up. Use it within 2 hours or cut it into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat either cold or reheated to 165° F. It is safe to freeze ready prepared duck or goose. For recommended storage times, see the chart below.


Marinate duck in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.

Storage Times for Duck

 Product Refrigerator 40 °F Freezer 0 °F
Fresh Duck 1 to 2 Days 6 Months
Fresh Giblets (liver, etc.) 1 to 2 Days 6 Months
Cooked Duck; gumbo, stews or casseroles 3 to 4 Days 2 to 3 Months
Leftover takeout or restaurant food 3 to 4 Days 2 to 3 Months
Smoked duck breast or franks: After opening 7 Days 1 to 2 Months

Safe Thawing

Thaw a frozen duck in the refrigerator or in cold water. In the refrigerator, wholebirds may take 1 to 2 days; parts, about 1 day. Once the raw poultry defrosts cook within 24 hours.

To thaw a duck in cold water, do not remove the packaging. Be sure the packaging is airtight or put it in a leakproof bag. Defrost duck under cold running water. A whole (3 to 4-pound) duck or package of parts should defrost in 2 to 3 hours.

Safe Cooking

USDA recommends cooking whole duck to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured using a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. When cooking pieces, the breast, drumsticks, thighs, and wings should be cooked until they reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. For approximate cooking times for use in meal planning, see the following chart compiled from various resources and use a food thermometer.

ApproximateDuck Cooking Times

Type of Duck Roast Grill
Direct heat
Indirect heat*
Whole duck, 4 to 6 lbs 30 to 35 min./lb. at 350 °F Not preferred 2-1/2 hours Not preferred
Duck breast Brown skin-side down in a skillet over medium heat. Then cook in a 425 °F oven 12 minutes Grill skin side down 6 minutes; turn and grill 7 to 8 minutes. 1 to 2 hours Not preferred
Duck legs Grill legs/thighs 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.  1 1/2 to 2 hours 1 1/2 hours 


NOTE: Prick skin of whole duck roasting or smoking so fat can render.
+ Unstuffed. If stuffed, add 15 to 30 minutes additional time.
* Indirect method using drip pan.