1 Pat the duck legs dry with paper towels.
2 Prick the skin of the duck all over: Find a needle or a very pointy knife and prick the skin of the duck all over. Focus on the skin that covers fat. Do your best to avoid piercing the meat itself by pricking the skin at an angle over the drumstick and the center of the thigh.
You are doing this to give the fat that lies under the skin a place to seep out. If you don’t do this, it will be far more difficult to get crispy skin.
3 Salt the duck legs and let rest at room temp: Salt your duck legs well, more than you think you ought to, actually. Let them rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine.
4 Put the duck legs in a small casserole, skin side up. How small? You want it just big enough to hold the legs. Put a thin sheen of oil or melted duck fat on the bottom of the casserole, then place the duck legs in close together but not overlapping.
5 Slowly heat the duck in the oven: Put the casserole in the oven and heat it to 300°F (150°C); if you have a digital oven, you could even go down to 285°F (140°C). Do not preheat the oven. You want to cook the duck as gently as possible.
Walk away and watch football, go shopping, read a book or something. How long? Every duck has a different level of fat, so I can’t tell you exactly. But it will be at least 90 minutes, and two hours is better. After 90 minutes, check the duck: It should be partly submerged in melted fat and the skin should be getting crispy.
6 Turn up the oven heat to brown the skin: When the skin is starting to look crispy, turn up the heat to 375°F (190°C). Check after 15 minutes. You’re looking for a light golden brown. If you missed some spots with the needle and there are places where the skin won’t crisp that’s OK—better that than burnt skin elsewhere.
7 Let cool and strain the fat: Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before eating. Save the accumulated fat for cooking vegetables, other meats or for keeping your skin shiny. I strain the fat through cheesecloth, but you really only need to do this if you are saving the fat for several weeks or months; strained, it will keep for 6 months tightly covered in the fridge. Well wrapped, the duck meat itself will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
What to do with your lovely duck legs? Why eat them. You can just gnaw on the legs and let the luscious fat dribble down your chin, or pick off the skin and eat it—it is hard to re-crisp it later—and then strip the meat from the bones and use it in a salad, with beans or rice, or in with pasta.
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