When you have your breast meat on the cutting board, slice the halves apart through the skin that attaches them (3F). Now remove the tenders, which are only lightly attached to the breast. They need to be taken off, as they get in the way if you are searing the breasts by themselves.

So if you choose to hang your birds, hang them between 45°F and 55°F for at least a day and no longer than a week. It does not matter if you hang from the neck or feet, though I always hang from the neck. You must hang your birds with their feathers intact. Hanging a plucked bird will dry out its skin to the point where the bird will become inedible. The oils in the feathers help keep the skin supple as the bird ages, so wait to pluck until you’ve hung the bird as long as you plan to. As for gutting the bird before or after hanging, science is on the fence in terms of whether it affects the flavor of the aged bird.

In fall and winter, markets are starting to sell fresh birds, too. A fresh duck will have a better texture than one that has been frozen, so definitely buy fresh if you can. Also, look to your local farmers’ market for high-quality ducks. Small farmers are beginning to raise ducks for meat more often, and if you can find one, cultivate a relationship. Chances are good that these will be the finest ducks around. Finally, you can always shop online. Purveyors such as D’Artagnan sell some of the highest-quality ducks and geese in the world.

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