Honey-basted duck with fondant fennel

Honey-basted duck with fondant fennel

Grill Smoke BBQ
Kris Kirkham

Is it me, or has a whole roast duck become little more than a distant memory from the 80s? Chinese restaurants excluded, you rarely see them now – it always seems to be breasts and legs cooked separately – but, for me, there’s nothing like a glistening, mahogany-lacquered bird with crispy skin and succulent meat. I think it’s the fattiness that scares some people; however, if you render the fat properly there won’t be an excessive amount, and it will be balanced by the meat and skin. The aniseed note of the fennel helps to cut the richness, and is a match made in heaven.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 2.5kg oven-ready duck
3 quantities see method for ingredients
2 medium fennel bulbs
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
100ml runny honey
sea salt
black pepper


  1. Place the duck in a non-reactive container and pour over the brine. Cover and leave to cure in the fridge for 5 hours.
  2. Lift the duck out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Using a roasting fork or a skewer, prick the skin of the duck all over – this will help to release the fat from under the skin during cooking, resulting in crispier skin.
  3. Light the barbecue and set for direct/indirect cooking. Place the lumps of wood onto the ashen coals to start smoking.
  4. Trim the ends from the fennel, then cut each bulb lengthwise into quarters. Place the fennel in the roasting pan and sit the duck on top. Season with salt and pepper, then pour about 250ml of water around the fennel and add the star anise and bay leaves. The water will help to cook the fennel and steam the underside of the duck, keeping the meat moist and creating a delicious gravy. Very useful!
  5. Place the pan in the direct heat zone and close the lid of the barbecue (the temperature inside the barbecue should be about 220–230°C). Cook the duck for 20 minutes, then brush with honey and cook for a further 20 minutes, still with the lid down. Transfer the pan to the indirect heat zone and cook for 20 more minutes, topping up the water as necessary to keep about 200ml in the base of the pan.
  6. When it’s ready, the duck should have a crisp, mahogany skin, the fennel should be very tender and glazed, and the fatty juices in the pan should have started to reduce. To be on the safe side, use the temperature probe to check the internal temperature of the duck, which should be around 60°C. At this temperature, the duck meat will still be pink; for well done, cook the duck for another 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from the barbecue and leave to rest in a warm spot for 20 minutes. Place the duck on a chopping board, transfer the fennel to a serving dish and keep both warm. Strain the cooking juices through a fine sieve into a small saucepan and place over medium heat on the stovetop. Carefully skim off the fat with a ladle and, if necessary, simmer the juices for a couple minutes to reduce to a gravy consistency.
  8. Serve the duck and fennel with a jug of gravy alongside.


  • You’ll also need a temperature probe, 2 lumps of hardwood and a roasting pan large enough to hold the duck and fit in your barbecue!
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