Wonderful food, a warm welcome and a beautiful location.

Wood Fired Duck – A Quacker of a Christmas Dinner


duck with gravy

Today we’ve been cooking a Christmas meal of roast duck, roast potatoes, braised cabbage, steamed Brussel sprouts and heritage carrots. This was mostly cooked in a 60cm internal diameter insulated wood fired oven, in this case a small Bushman oven from Dingley Dell.

Our blog will tell you, step by step, how to recreate this beautiful meal in your wood fired oven.

Ingredients for 4:

For the duck:

  • 1 duck (we used a 2.8 kg (6lb) Pekin duck from Riverford farm)
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic – 6 cloves
  • Rosemary – 6 sprigs

For the Braised Cabbage:

  • 1/2 a small red cabbage
  • 2 dessert apples
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 150ml apple juice
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick

For the Roast Potatoes

  • 8 medium roasting potatoes (we used Cosmos but any floury potatoes are fine)

For the Brussel Sprouts and Carrots:

  • 24 brussel sprouts
  • 6 large heritage carrots in various colours (because they look great)

For the Gravy:

  • Giblets and neck from the duck
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 onion
  • Carrot peelings
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 level tbsp red wine vinegar

In advance:

Make sure you read through these instructions at least twice so you really understand what’s going on.

Select 2 pans and one roasting tin which will all fit into your oven at the same time.  You’ll be cooking duck, cabbage and stock together and it’s best to check they’ll all fit in before it’s happening.  You’ll also need a pan for roasting the potatoes and another (with a lid) to steam the sprouts and carrots.

Prick the duck all over with the point of a knife. Rub all over with 2 tbsp sea salt and leave at room temperature for 2 hours.

Finely slice the cabbage, onions, and apples.  Mix and place in an ovenproof pot.  Add 150ml apple juice, star anise and connamon and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil to prevent any evaporation.

red cabbage pot

Peel the potatoes.  Cut each one into 4 and parboil in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Peel the sprouts and cut in half lengthways.  Peel the carrots and cut into thin 5cm strips (julienne)

Place the duck giblets and neck into an ovenproof pan along with an onion cut into four, the carrot peelings, bay leaves and peppercorns and 1 litre of cold water. Cover well to avoid evaporation in the oven.


Light the Fire:

Now the clock is running so timing is important.  The whole process will take about 3 and a half hours from lighting the fire so work back from whatever time you want to eat to start.  Remember to make some allowance if cooking a smaller or larger duck.

The first thing to do is preheat the oven.  We made a good fire using about using about 4-5kg of dry wood.  This is sufficient to heat the oven almost completely. Allow this to burn for 1.5 hours by which time it should be reduced to just a few embers.  Push these back but leave a few in place.


While the oven heats up finish preparing the duck.  Wash off the salt by carefully pouring boiling water all over the duck.  This will tighten up the skin a well as getting rid of excess salt. Dry the duck with some kitchen paper and sit it on a rack in your roasting tin.  Push 6 cloves of garlic and six stalks of rosemary into the cavity and sprinkle some ground black pepper on the outside.

If you’d like to add a little smokiness to your duck (and we did) have ready a 5cm x 5cm x 20cm (2″ x 2″ x 8″) piece of oak or similar.

Set up a wine box reheater using about 1 kg of wood chopped small for quick burning (see picture below); just have it ready, don’t light it yet.

Start Cooking:

Once you’ve pushed back the embers of your fire (take some out if there are more than just enough to cause a stick to smoulder) let your oven settle for 10 minutes before starting to cook.  At this point your oven is really too hot to cook a duck (it’ll be around 250C/475F) but the oven will have a lot of work to do to bring the stock and cabbage pots up to the boil and that’ll take energy out of the oven, reducing the temperature quite quickly. Don’t worry but have a piece of tinfoil ready to cover the duck if necessary.

oven with embers

Oven ready to cook

We’re going to call this minute 0 and work forward from here so start your stopwatch at this point.

  • Minute 0
    • Add the piece of oak to the embers.
    • Put the stock pot into the oven
    • Put the cabbage pot into the oven
    • Put the duck into the oven breast side down, slightly away from the embers.
    • Put the door on the oven.
pots in oven

3 pots in the oven

  • Minute 10
    • Open the oven.
    • Vent the smoke (basically let it out) and check your duck.  If it is colouring too quickly (i.e. burning) cover it with foil.  Otherwise simply turn the duck through 180 degrees and put it back in the oven. Close the door again.
  • Minute 25
    • Open the oven and vent the smoke.
    • Turn the duck through 180 degrees put it back in the oven and close the door.
  • Minute 45
    • Open the door and vent the smoke.
    • Take the duck, set it aside and remove the remaining embers from the oven.
    • Pour the fat from the bottom of your roasting tin into a heatproof bowl
    • Turn the duck over so it is now breast side up. Baste with two tbsp of fat and return the duck to the oven.  Shut the door.
    • Keep the fat for roasting your potatoes later.

duck browning

  • Minute 70 (1 hr 10 mins)
    • Turn 180 degrees.
  • Minute 90 (1 hr 30 minutes)
    • Take the duck out and check the temperature with a probe thermometer.  Look for about 80c at the deepest part of the thigh joint.  If it’s not ready, pop it back in the oven.  Ours took 105 minutes (1 hr 45)
  • Minute 105 (1 hr 45 mins)  There’s a lot going on here.
    • Your duck is cooked.  Take it out of the oven, take the rack out of the roasting tin and wrap it all in foil to keep warm.
    • Note: Your duck my not be very crispy at the point because the other dishes in the oven have kept it too moist.  Don’t worry, we’ll get on to that later.
    • Pour any excess fat into your saved fat bowl and set the pan aside to deglaze for gravy.
    • Remove the cabbage and stock pans.  Keep the cabbage warm.
    • Use your wine box reheater to blast the oven temperature, ready for roast potatoes. To do this, put the reheater in the oven door, light the firelighter and push the box into the oven.  When the box has burned away push the burning wood to one side of the oven.  This should only take about 10 minutes.

wine box reheater

  • Minute 115 (1 hr 55 minutes)
    • Put a good covering of reserved duck fat into your potato roasting pan and put this into the oven.  It’ll heat up quickly so give it a turn after a minute or two. When it’s all sizzling add the parboiled potatoes and toss these to cover them in the fat.
    • Roast the potatoes under the flames turning every minute or two.

duck fat heating

  • At this point get someone to help by making the gravy.
    • Having removed any excess fat from the roasting tin set it over a medium flame and add 1 tbsp of plain flour
    • Rub the flour arond the pan to absord the juices and fat, getting right into the corners to capture all the tasty bits.
    • Add a ladle of duck stock and mix to make a lump free sauce.
    • Add a further 3 ladlefuls of stock, bring it all to a boil then pour into a clean, small saucepan through a strainer.
    • Add the mustard and red wine vinegar, simmer and taste.
    • Add salt to taste if necessary and simmer for 5 minutes, add more stock or reduce as required to get the right consistency.

roasties close up

  • Minute 130 (2 hrs 10 mins)
    • The potatoes should be cooked.  Check the insides are soft with the point of a knife but don’t worry if they are not super crisp yet.
    • Strain off the fat and set aside
    • Put your steaming pan into the oven with 1 ladle of stock.  Cover and bring the stock to the boil giving it a shake and swirl.
    • Add the sprouts, cover and braise/steam for 5 minutes with the odd shake and swirl.
    • Add the carrots, cover and braise/steam for 5 minutes with the odd shake and swirl.
    • Check all are cooked and set aside, leave in the pan with the stock to keep all warm.


  • Minute 145 (2 hrs 25 minutes).  Time to crisp up and finish
    • By now the fire should have died down but the oven will be hot enough to crisp up the duck and potatoes.
    • Push your embers to the back of the oven.
    • Place both the duck and drained potatoes into the oven away from the embers and set the door in the doorway but ajar so that any fumes can escape.
    • Pay close attention at this point. You’ll hear the duck start to crackle as it crisps but you don’t want it to darken anymore. Turn it around a few times and shake the potatoes so everything gets evenly crisped. This process should only take about 10 minutes.

Duck roasted

  • Minute 160 (2 hrs 40 mins)
    • All being well you are ready to carve and serve.  The duck has already rested so no need to rest again after the crisping.

Time to enjoy all your hard work with a celebratory glass of wine – cheers!

duck plated up