Last modified: Thursday, March 09, 2017

Other recipe: Breaded perch fillets

Colusa Duck

Recipe developed by Tom Aldrich

Calusa Duck

A mushroom cloud detonation indicates a properly cooking duck.

Photo by Tom Aldrich


  • 10 pounds of wild duck, plucked
  • 4 tablespoons each paprika, salt, pepper
  • 1 bottle Worchestershire sauce


  • 1 cube butter
  • 1 12-ounce jar red currant jelly
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

I developed this recipe in the rice-growing community of Colusa, California, in the 1970s when pintail and mallard hunting on the Colusa, Sutter and Yolo flood bypasses provided some of the best hunting in North America. It also provided necessary sustenance for a group of struggling college buddies pursuing their careers in waterfowl biology.

Unauthorized knock-offs include "Nevada Duck" and "Sam's Duck", both of which are counterfeit recipes developed by two shady characters and former hunting associates of Chef Aldrich.

This recipe requires about 10 pounds of whole wild duck, plucked (preferably mallard, pintail, green-winged teal, with abundant white subcutaneous fat). If you use fewer ducks or leaner ducks you will not get the required pyro-genesis needed to lightly char the skin, remove any remaining feathers, and aerosolize the lipids necessary to generate the "fire ball."

You also need to use a high-quality steel, kettle-type charcoal grill with functioning air baffles and sealable lid to be able to adequately control combustion rates and temperature. I use a Weber grill which will last up to 3 years before disintegrating. Aluminum, aluminum alloy, or other low-temperature metal grills will not work and may melt or slump when the grill hits the flash point during the first stage of the cooking process. Propane grills also are not recommended as the cooking system could hit critical mass and create a safety problem should you lose control of the flame.

You also need to be sure there is adequate room around the grill to avoid igniting adjacent combustible materials and to provide you with an escape route. I recommend at least 10 feet on each side of the grill and 20 feet above the grill as a minimum safety perimeter. A water hose nearby is also a good idea.

Rinse ducks and pat dry. Combine paprika, salt and pepper; add enough Worchestershire to create a thick mud-like consistency. Rub the "mud" into the skin over the entire duck — use plenty. Light approximately 5 pounds of good quality (Kingsford) charcoal, and spread evenly across the grill bottom once all the briquettes are ignited. You want the charcoal extremely hot for cooking rather than waiting for it to ash over. Place the ducks breast side down, evenly spaced across the grill, with all air baffles wide open. Do not cover. Allow several minutes for the fat to begin dripping and allow the flames to engulf the ducks.

Place the cover over the BBQ and wait for the kettle to pressurize. Once you obtain thick grayish-white smoke howling from the vents and lid seam (a couple of minutes), at arms length carefully, but quickly, lift the lid from the BBQ. If you have done everything correctly, the mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke released from the grill should now detonate.

Using long-handled metal grill tongs, reach into the inferno to turn the ducks onto their backs and re-cover the grill. It is best to have two people turning ducks to minimize the amount of singed hair and skin you will endure during this step. Cook for approximately 20 minutes until medium rare. The skin (on the duck, not your arm) should be lightly charred. Pour some of the liquid from the duck cavity to check for doneness. Liquid should be pink to mostly clear. If it is red, continue cooking. As ducks are carved, pass the cut meat through the gathered juices. Mix and heat the sauce ingredients before pouring over the carved meat.

Serve with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, rice and stir-fried vegetables.