From an early age I have loved Duck, unfortunately my favorite methods seem to have fallen out of popularity, Duck a la orange and Duck with black cherry sauce. The foodies claim these dishes are passe, and outdated. I disagree strongly. The orange or black cherry compliments the richness of the meat.

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Duck however is a wiley old bird (excuse the pun) when it comes to cooking, There are certain methods that are best avoided by the amateur. In the early 80’s I discovered the wonderful world of the BBQ, while I do love the taste that charcoal produces, I also love the convenience of the large gas grill. Experts claim that a Gas Grill will last for many years, I tend to disagree with that statement. With me at the helm a grill is lucky to survive one year.

A particularly spectacular way to shorten the life expectancy of your $300 Sears special is Duck.

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I discovered the world of the BBQ shortly after making my move to North America in 1980. Within the blink of an eye I was driving a 1979 silver T-Bird, this was the size of a city block, I could never figure out how a car that was so physically imposing could have so little actual room for people, possibly the thirty feet of engine compartment might have been a contributing factor. It also had a fairly spacious trunk, large enough to hold a $300 (some assembly required) Sears Gas BBQ.

After two frustrating days, much swearing, and the re-proposing of one or two parts, I had it assembled. I dragged the beast outside. To my dismay I discover that BBQ’s are like children’s toys, not only is ‘some assembly required’ but also batteries are not included! The battery compartment aka the propane tank was empty.

With all of the teething problems out of the way, I was all set to BBQ. It went quite well for a couple of months. But the novelty of wrecking expensive steaks began to wear thin. I needed a real challenge. A couple of days later the answer came to me, Duck. I announced to the family that the next weekend we were going to BBQ a Duck. This brought forth a somewhat cool reaction from my now, ex-wife, in fact ‘cool’ hardly sums it up. It is amazing how much information can be gleaned from an icy stare and the utterance “Hmmm”.

Undaunted, I went to my favorite Food-a-Rama and bought a good sized Duck.

In my opinion this whole culinary adventure was a walk in the park. Turn the BBQ on high, and let it heat up for 10 minutes, well that was what the books all said. Then slap whatever it was that you wanted to cook on the thing. I even heeded the warning that in case of flare-ups a spray bottle filled with water should be handy.

The house that we had just bought was brand new, so in difference I had placed the BBQ several feet away from it to prevent the smoke from coloring the brand new siding. In retrospect this was a good idea.

I set hit the ignition switch with the burners set for Warp Speed, and waited for ten minutes while it heated up.

Right about now would be a good time to talk in general terms about Duck. The meat tends to be rich and flavorful, this primarily is due to the high fat content. In high end restaurants duck fat is a much coveted item. It can be used in many dishes to add flavor and richness. Ducks fortunately have lots of it, so culling the fat is a pretty easy process. During the roasting merely take the bird out occasionally and drain off the fat.

Fat, grease, oil, call it what you will, when it gets hot enough it burns in a pretty spectacular fashion.

Anyway back to the story. The BBQ has reached Warp Speed, and using my new Sears BBQ accessories I manhandle the duck onto the grill and close the lid. By my calculations the cooking time should be around a hour, and after 20 minutes I would check on it.

The first signs of trouble started after about 5 minutes, the white smoke associated with BBQ began to change color to a more ominous black color. I just assumed that this was a duck thing, and that there was nothing to be concerned about. Of marginal more importance were the flames that started pouring out two minutes later.

My Sears BBQ Handbook had explained about occasional flare-ups and the need for that handy spray bottle full of water. Obviously now was the time.

Hindsight being what it is, I suspect that turning off the valve on the propane tank might have been the best choice. It was not the choice I made. Instead I opened the lid. I wear glasses so the damage was limited to some singing of my hair.

The duck fueled with its fat and the helpful propane source for some extra boost was now throwing flames 6 feet in the air. I tried the handy Sears spray bottle, but this just seemed to aggravate the duck.

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Unfortunately my Sears BBQ accessory kit did not include a full Asbestos Fire Fighters suit, so I had little option but watch the event unfold.

The good news was that having spent two months merrily charring whatever I could find, I had depleted the propane tank. Eventually the flames died down and the thick black smoke stopped.

The duck alas was a little overcooked. It resembled a charcoal briquette.

The BBQ also had its war wounds, it was never the same again. I am not sure that any study has been made on the subject of BBQ’s and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but I do feel there is a strong need for it.

I learned from my BBQ Duck adventure, and in part two of this tawdry tale I will share the trials and tribulations of cooking a duck in a conventional oven.

Simon Barrett

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