If you love duck but feel too intimidated to cook it at home, this recipe is for you. And if you don’t think you love duck, but enjoy a good roast, this recipe is also for you. The key is to know how to prep your bird. Here, we encourage the duck to render its precious fat by gently poking it all over with a fork prior to patting it down with a simple dry brine consisting of salt, sugar, thyme, and citrus zest. The overnight rest (yes, a full 12 hours) in the refrigerator dries out the skin, helping us achieve that coveted crisped exterior. When it’s nearly done roasting, the duck gets a sweet, salty, tangy lacquer, which doubles as a dipping sauce at the table. Don’t let those drippings go to waste: The duck fat basmati rice can be made while the bird rests (it needs at least 30 minutes, pre-carving).
Pekin (also known as Long Island) duck is the most common variety, and its size makes it great for roasting. Many purveyors stock these birds frozen, so pick them up a few days before cooking so they have time to defrost.