Monday, February 1, 2010

Duck Jerky - A Culinary Experiment

I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of duck meat. I like it as stew meat when it is cut up into small, bite-size portions, but cooking the entire duck or even the breast as a whole doesn't have much appeal to me. (I'm not saying it is bad, I'm just saying it isn't my favorite.)

I kept thinking of different ways I could cook the duck meat from my last hunt so that it might be a little tastier and not quite as gamey. One of my coworkers suggested that I make jerky out of it. I've never made jerky before, and that sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to give it a try.

The duck meat I was using had been cut off the breast into filets before it was placed in the freezer. So the first thing I did was thaw the meat out and I sliced it longways into thin strips. (Like you would butterfly a steak, except thinner.) I tried to cut the strips as thin as I could by hand, and I would guess they were about an 1/8" thick.

Next I mixed up a marinade. I searched on the internet and found a few different recipes, and all of them had the same basic ingredients. Here is what I used:
- soy sauce
- worcestershire sauce
- tabasco sauce
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- black pepper
- crushed red pepper
- mesquite flavored seasoning
- meat tenderizer
- brown sugar

I placed all of the meat in a ziplock bag and poured in the marinade. I made sure all the meat was completely covered and then I sealed the bag. I then placed it in the regrigerator to allow the meat to marinate for about 24 hours.

After reading up on the different ways to make jerky, I decided I would start mine off in the smoker for an hour or two, and then allow it to finish drying in the oven. So, the next evening I got a fire going in the fire box with some mesquite wood.

I placed the thin strips of marinated duck meat on the top rack in the smoker and then closed the lid.

My smoker has a thermometer built into it, and I tried to keep the temperature between 150 and 175. This was by far the most challenging part of the process because keeping the fire burning steadily at the same intensity is almost impossible to do. I did a pretty good job keeping the temperature in the range I wanted it, but occasionally it would creep up into the 175 - 200 range. I stayed with it and checked the fire often for about two hours.

Toward the end of that two hours it was about time for me to help get my daughters to sleep, so I wasn't able to tend the fire quite like I should have, and I noticed the meat was starting to look like it was about done. I taste-tested it and it seemed like it was about ready, so I decided not to use the oven and I left it on the smoker for about another half hour.

The end product didn't quite turn out as I had hoped, but for my first try it will do. The flavor was actually really good, but a few of the pieces got a little bit crispy. It was also just a tad spicier than what I would prefer, but it is still edible. Some of my friends at work asked to try some of it, and a couple of them even asked for another piece. (I don't know if they really liked it, if they were really hungry, or if they were just being polite.)

Some lessons learned from this first batch:
- Make the strips just a little bit thicker to keep them from getting crispy.
- Use less tabasco sauce.
- Keep the temperature at a more constant level.

In my opinion, this is a really good alternative for cooking duck meat. There was no gamey taste at all, and it really was pretty tasty. It would make a great snack to take in your backpack when you go out into the woods to hunt or for a day of fishing. I will definitely have to make some more!


Bill said...

I've never eaten duck in any form but this sounds good. I make a lot of deer jerky with a similar recipe, minus the tabasco sauce.

Rob said...

Bill, you should give it a try with some duck. And if you do decide to use some Tabasco, make sure it is less than what I used!

Steve Killam TMTL said...

I'll have to try this. I am not a big duck fan either, but I love jerky.