Not everyone is feeling so festive right now. If you’re planning to stay in and have a simple Thanksgiving dinner for two this year, consider grilling a duck. While duck may seem like more of a Christmas meal, it’s a perfectly acceptable stand-in for turkey. Plus, it’s a lot easier to cook.

THE MEAT: Duck is often served around the holidays. That’s why most butchers and grocery stores start carrying it in abundance around this time each year and should have them in stock until at least Christmas. Look for a fresh duck, but if you can’t get that, a frozen one will do (just make sure you have time to thaw it).


THE METHOD: Two distinct phases of this recipe help ensure the finished product is perfect. First, the duck gets boiled in a salty and spicy liquid. This keeps it moist and it will infuse the meat with great flavor. Then the duck hits the grill. This step crisps the skin and adds another layer of flavor. (And if you really want a really crispy skin and have the time, pause after boiling the bird and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for 6 hours to fully dry out the skin.)

You’ll want to add cross marks to the skin (but not the meat) to render the fat. We did this before boiling, but learned it’s actually easier to do after the boil. Either time is fine, as long as you do it before you grill.

And to find out how much water you need for boiling, place the packaged duck in the Dutch oven or pot you’ll use for boiling, then fill it with enough water to fully cover the duck.

THE MEAL: Serve with all the traditional Thanksgiving sides, or really put a twist on the holiday and serve it with steamed buns, extra hoisin and scallions.


Grilled Duck for Two
1 duck (about 5 pounds)
Water for boiling
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup hoisin sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced

Boil the water and add the salt, peppercorns, anise and cinnamon. Carefully lower the (unpackaged) duck into the boiling water and allow it to boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and pat the skin dry with paper towels.

Combine the hoisin sauce and the garlic cloves and divide in half.

Prepare your grill for indirect grilling (but you want it hot, like around 450ºF). Place the duck on the grill and allow it to cook for 30 minutes. Using a grill brush cover the duck’s skin with half of the hoisin and allow to cook for 10 more minutes.

Remove the duck from the grill and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Carve the duck and serve with the remaining hoisin on the side.