roast duck on the grill with crispy skin

How to make crispy skinned roast duck on the grill

This grilled duck recipe has all the succulence of traditional whole roast duck, with the added flavor and bronzed color from the charcoal grill.

Did you ever have that one dish you always ordered out at a restaurant but never thought you could recreate at home? For me it was Chinese style roast duck. I would always order it whenever I found it on a menu, but never dreamed of recreating it in my own kitchen. Or to be more precise, my own outdoor kitchen. Figuring out how to re-create spectacular roast duck using my grill was an incredible moment for my cooking confidence, but even moreso for my tastebuds.

I discovered there were a few steps to successful home-grill-roasting of whole ducks. First, the duck itself. If you buy a tough old duck you will be pushing the cart uphill the entire time trying to get it to be tender. I have had to most success using young whole ducks which I buy online from D’Artagnan. I used Rohan duck for this recipe, but I would definitely recommend trying the traditional Pekin duck, too. The Pekin is slightly leaner, which can make it easier to achieve crispy skin (since there is less fat to render out).

d'artagnan whole duck for grilling

Though the duck is going to be cooked on the grill, there is another cooking step required for ultimate crisping. I set up a large stock pot of boiling salted water, and lowered the bird in for 3-5 minutes, then flipped it over and boiled a further 3-5 minutes. This step does two things – first, it shocks and shrinks the skin up against the meat, and also starts to soften and render away some of the fat, giving it a head start. I know I keep talking about getting “rid” of fat, and obviously a huge part of what makes duck so delicious. BUT: for the same reasons we trim down the fat cap of a  brisket, too much subcutaneous fat will not “melt” properly. And in duck, this is even more significant, because having that fat layer be too thick will stop the skin from getting crispy. And, let’s be honest, you chose this recipe because it makes crispy skin!

boiling a duck before grilling to shrink skin

The tightening of the skin also allows you to pull out any loose feathers which may have been left behind – it’s not a huge deal, but I managed to pluck 5-7 larger ones. After the quick boil, you can also stuff the cavity before tying up the legs. I used some super juicy oranges and lemons which definitely added a citrus note to the finished meat. You could also add some herbs and aromatics like garlic, too. Tying the legs up using butchers twice is an optional but recommended step. It helps to create a more streamline shape for the heat to waft over. At this stage I also used a scalpel-like knife to pierce the skin in the fattiest areas. I take extra care not to pierce the flesh, and using this particular knife helps tremendously because I can just press it in parallel to the skin without worrying about cutting the meat.

trussing a duck before roasting

Next up – the grill set up. Another make or break to getting this recipe right. You want to set your grill up for two zone cooking. I have a detailed instruction on it here, but basically, it’s where you set your coals or heat up to one side only. This means we can cook the duck in indirect but hot heat, so it can truly roast without burning. I love using my PK grill for this set up, because the rectangular shape really lends itself to this type of cooking. I definitely suggest you also place a water pan underneath where you will be cooking the duck – it’s important for two reasons – it’ll help regulate the heat and stop it from being too harsh, but more importantly it’ll collect the copious amounts of fat which will drip off the bird.

whole duck on the grill

The recipe takes about 2 hours of active grilling time, but really since the heat is indirect it doesn’t need much babysitting at all. You may need to add additional coals once or twice to keep the high heat level, but I think you’ll be surprised about how easy it is to actually roast this duck to perfection.

perfect whole roast duck on the grill with crispy skin

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roast duck on the grill with crispy skin

How to make crispy skinned roast duck on the grill

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  • Author: Jess Pryles
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 people 1x



1 x whole young duck (I get mine online here)
1 x small orange
1 x small lemon
kosher salt


  1. Remove duck from packaging, and remove giblets from the cavity. Remove the neck. You can save and freeze the neck and giblets to make stock or gravy another time.
  2. Use a sharp knife to gently pierce the skin over the fattiest parts, about 10 times total. Be careful not to pierce the meat.
  3. Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to boil. Add 1-2 tablespoon of kosher salt to the water.
  4. Once boiling, gently lower the duck in to the water, and turn after 4-5 minutes to boil the other side.
  5. While the duck boils, heat up a grill for high heat two zone cooking. Keep the coals to one side of the grill, and place a foil pan filled halfway with water on the indirect side.
  6. Remove the duck from the water, and pat dry with paper towel. Slice the orange and the lemon in half, and insert into the cavity. Secure in place by tying the legs to the tail with butcher twine.
  7. Season the duck generously all over with kosher salt.
  8. The grill should be at least 450f-475f the entire cooking time. Once the grill is at temperature, place the duck over the water pan, breast side up. Close the lid, and allow to start roasting.
  9. Add more coals as needed to maintain the temperature during the cooking process.
  10. Roast for 120-135 minutes, until skin has completely crisped.


  • You will need butchers twine to tie up the legs. You can get it from Amazon here.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Category: Main

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