Duck legs, like many other legs from birds, contain connective tissues that make the meat a bit tough. Therefore the chef needs to convert these tissues into smooth tasting gelatine using the right cooking process. In general there are two ways: 1. marinating the raw legs in a mixture of acid containing sauce, followed by a slow cook in the oven;  2. poaching the raw legs in either a broth or in fat.  When poaching in broth, a short grill may follow to brown the flesh. Here we use a marination, followed by a slow cook to create duck legs from the oven. But in another recipe we discuss how to make duck confit: duck legs poached in duckfat.

The art of making duck legs from the oven

Here we use soy sauce as the acid in the marination together with freshly roasted herbs. As soy sauce has lots of umami flavour, this goes well with the star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper in the herb mix and with fruit.

Also spend time on roasting the spices and freshly grinding these as it will certainly contribute to taste. Marinating the duck legs in the refrigerator takes a minimum of 2 hours, but 1 day is preferred. And then let the oven do the rest, cooking the meat very tender, and providing a nice brown skin on the duck legs. Feel free to vary the spice mixture, however, the addition of (dried) fruit to this dish is preferred.

Keeping these simple instructions in mind, cooking this dish cannot go wrong and will gain praise from your guests or partner for making duck legs from the oven.


Special equipment

  • spice grinder or mortar and pestle
    Duck legs from the oven ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

    Duck legs from the oven

    Duck legs are marinated and then oven cooked during 2-2.5 h
    Prep Time 16 hours
    Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
    Total Time 18 hours 30 minutes
    Course Dinner
    Cuisine French
    Servings 4


    Ingredients to make the marinade

    • 3 inch cinnamon bark
    • 1/2 tsp cloves
    • 2 tbsp star anice
    • 1/2 sichuan pepper
    • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
    • 4 tbsp soysauce

    Ingredients to make the duck legs

    • 4 duck legs
    • 2 chilli peppers seeds removed for less spicy
    • 16 plums halved and pitted (may be dried)
    • 2 tbsp cane sugar or brown sugar


    Instructions to make the marinade

    • Take the cloves, Sichuan pepper and fennel seed and keep separate. Also take 1/2 tsp of the star anise and 1/2 inch cinnamon bark. Please all these in a roasting pan and heat until fragrant. Let cool down
    • Grind the above mixture in a small kitchen blender or a mortar and pestle. In the latter case shred the cinnamon stick on a shredder.
    • Keep the remaining herbs and spices with the soy sauce ready.

    Instruction to make the oven cooked duck legs

    • Dry the duck legs with a kitchen paper towel and cover them with all the whole and ground spices and the soy sauce.
    • Place the covered duck legs in a re-sealable plastic bag and marinate for a minimum of 2 h and a maximum of one day.
    • Then before the oven cooking, pre-heat the oven to 170 C.
      Duck legs after marination in soy sauce and spices ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh
    • Take a broiling pan and mix the chilli peppers, the plums and the sugar first in the pan. Then add the duck legs (skin side up) with the marinade.
    • Place without a lid on, in the oven for 2 - 21/2 hour. Check that the skin will not get too dark. Otherwise cover with some foil.
    • Serve. Goes well with potatoes or rice and cooked vegetables.
      Duck legs from the oven ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh


    Method: no heat treatment
    Food allergy & intolerance information: soy
    Keyword duck legs, marinated, oven cooked


  1. One can use fresh plums or the dried versions.   Also nice with apricots!

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