The duck is a bony, flat-breasted bird, whose meat is found primarily found on the breast and legs. It has an excellent flavour, with a richness and succulence that makes it a delicious treat.

The meat is dark in comparison to that of a chicken or a turkey, with the leg meat darker and somewhat fattier than the breast meat. There is a layer of subcutaneous fat between the skin and the meat itself, which may be rendered out for use in cooking as a substitute for oil or butter.

The Aylesbury and Gressingham are the most famous breeds in the UK, whilst the Long Island (or Pekin) duck is the popular North American variety. These are all descendants of the Chinese Imperial Peking duck, bred for its succulent meat and thin skin, and once reserved for the Emperor alone.

In France, the very best ducks are the small Nantais and the larger Rouen. However, the Rouen is perhaps somewhat of an acquired taste; when it is killed, it is suffocated to retain the blood so that its flesh stays dark and retains a strong flavour. The Barbary (or Muscovy) duck, is also a favourite of the French, with a strength of flavour between the Rouen and the Nantais.

Moulard ducks (a cross between the Nantais and the Barbary) are raised and fattened for foie gras. As a result of this fattening process, the Moulard develops an exceptionally plump, meaty breast, called a magret, said to be the best tasting duck breast there is.


Once used as a term to describe birds under 2 months old, duckling now refers to birds under the age of 6 months. Although duckling may be more tender than more mature birds, they have rarely had chance to develop enough meat to be worth eating. However, the best eating age and weight varies with the breed, so it may be possible to find duckling that's worth the effort of cooking and carving.