Today's domestic ducks are all descendents of either of two species -- the mallard or the muscovy duck. The Chinese are credited with being the first to raise ducks for food. Since most ducks are marketed while still quite young and tender, the term "duck" and "duckling" are interchangeable. Broilers and fryers are under 8 weeks old and roasters are no more than 16 weeks old. Fresh duck is available from late spring through early winter. About 90 percent of the ducks that reach the market are frozen and available year-round. The USDA grades duck quality with the classifications A, B and C. Grade A is the highest grade and is usually what is sold in markets. Grade B ducks are less meaty and well finished. Grade C ducks are used for commercial purposes. Although higher in fat than other domestic birds, duck is a good source of protein and iron.
Choose a duck with a broad, fairly plump breast. The skin should be elastic, not saggy. If frozen, make sure the packaging is tight and unbroken.
Fresh duck can be stored, loosely covered, in the coldest section of the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Giblets should be removed and stored spearately. Frozen duck should be thawed in the refrigerator. Do not re-freeze duck once it has been thawed.
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