SCIENCE OF COOKING
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COOKING WITH DUCK -- WHAT TYPE OF DUCK TO USE

TYPES OF DUCK USED IN COOKING:

PEKIN, MUSCOVY, MOULARD AND MALLARD

PEKIN DUCK

In 1873 nine ducks were exported from China to Long Island, New York in the United States. The animals and their meat are sometimes referred to as "Long Island duckling". Pekin duck, or Long Island duck (Anas platyrhynchos domestica, or Anas peking, is a breed of domesticated duck used primarily for egg and meat production. It was bred from the Mallard in China. Fully mature adult Pekin ducks weigh between 8 and 11 pounds (3.6 and 5 kilograms) in captivity.

 

Pekin duck breast with a rhubarb sauce (left). Pekin duck is the most popular duck used for cooking in the United States.

The Pekin duck has meat that is tender and mild in flavor. It is can be eaten either on the rare side or cooked through as in many Asian preparations.

The tender breast are best sautéed, but its muscular legs take to braising or confit style.

 

The Pekin duck is the most popular commercial duck breed in the United States, although some farming has since relocated to Indiana from Suffolk County, New York. Around 95% of duck meat consumed in the United States is Pekin duck.

MUSCOVY DUCK

The Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America. Small wild and feral breeding populations have established themselves in the United States, particularly in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada. Feral Muscovy Ducks have also been reported in parts of Europe. They are a large duck, with the males measuring about 76 cm in length, and weighing up to 15 pounds. Females are considerably smaller, and only grow to 7 pounds, roughly half the males' size.

Muscovy duck breeds are popular because they have stronger-tasting meat – sometimes compared to roasted beef – than the usual domestic ducks which are descendants of the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The meat is lean when compared to the fatty meat of mallard-derived ducks, its leanness and tenderness being often compared to veal.

In discussing the halachic issues surrounding the species' kosher status, it was noted that the Muscovy duck was "highly controversial, due to its ban in America by the acerbic Rabbi Bernard Illowy in the mid 1800’s. As such, it is still not recognized as kosher in the [United] States today, but in Israel, no such ban ever existed."

MOULARD OR MULARD DUCK

The Mulard (or Moulard) duck is a hybrid variety of domestic duck produced by crossing a female Pekin with a male Muscovy Duck. Since the domestic Pekin is descended from the Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and the Muscovy (Cairina moschata) is a separate species, all Mulards are sterile F1 hybrids. Most are bred through artificial insemination, and are sometimes also called "mule ducks."

Duck confit made using the moulard duck leg from Hudson Valley New York. The Moulard duck leg is the preferred choice of duck.

While Moulard duck leg meat starts off tough, after slow cooking confit for several hours the meat melts off the bone.

The Moulard duck is mostly produced commercially on farms for meat and for foie gras production. White Muscovies and the Pekin are the two most common pure breeds of duck commercially, and hybrids of the two are hardier and calmer, in addition to exhibiting natural hybrid vigor. The Lola duck is "a heritage breed" of Moulard duck that is specific to certain farms. It is a cross between a Pekin and male heirloom mallard. Lola is smaller,leaner and a gamier bird than the Moulard duck.

The Moulard duck has meaty breasts, which are sold separately and labeled "magret." They are best sautéed or grilled medium-rare like a steak.

MALLARD DUCK

The Mallard , or Wild Duck, is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia.

Wild duck is best eaten rare. The juices run red, not clear, more like a beautiful juicy red steak.

The taste of wild duck is highly dependent on where that duck has been feeding. According to the Joy of Cooking, shallow water ducks feeding on local grains, like mallards, widgeons, and teal, can be very succulent, while diving ducks feed on fish, affecting their flavor. Wild ducks are much more flavorful than domesticated ducks, as their muscles are getting a constant work-out, which is also why their flesh is so red. The taste is closer to steak than to chicken.

References and Selected Readings:

How to Choose the Right Duck for Cooking

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