duck trendlines cafe gibbes

House-cured North Carolina duck breast with crispy applewood bacon, local arugula, creamy havarti, herb aioli, and house pickles on an EVO bakery brioche at Cafe Gibbes. Michael Pronzato/Staff

Meet smoked duck

Like other kinds of poultry, meat and fish, duck can be cured and cold-smoked, or hot-smoked. Cold smoking involves pumping flavoring smoke into a compartment that’s kept at approximately the same temperature as the average American living room. Hot smoking, by contrast, cooks the duck by burning enough wood to bring the bird’s surrounding temperature up to at least 140 degrees.

Learn its backstory

The Lowcountry has a long history of enjoying duck for dinner: Well into the 20th century, wild ducks appeared regularly on area banquet and restaurant menus. Tourists expected to eat duck in South Carolina, where canvasbacks and buffleheads reveled in the rice fields.

Generally, though, high-class duck was roasted, not smoked. In the 1900s, cooking duck over an open fire (or in the vicinity of one) was considered more outdoorsy than opulent. Smoked duck was on the menu in 1964 when Ron Santo and three fellow Chicago Cubs took a hunting trip to Idaho, served alongside elk Swiss steak and moose loaf.

Even today, smoking duck remains a pastime for many hunters in December and January. Cookbook author Hank Shaw yearly makes confit, salami and prosciutto from geese and ducks, but says, “Smoked ducks are my favorite way to save our hunting season’s bounty.”

Shaw’s allegiance makes sense in light of the amount of fat on ducks: He refers to them as “avian pigs.” Fat absorbs more smoke flavor than meat, so ducks are obvious candidates for the technique. And smart chefs are sharing the preparation with diners who don’t own a shred of camouflage: Last year, Adam Hayes of Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers, North Carolina wowed Charleston Wine + Food attendees with a smoked duck-and-feta empanada.

Perhaps because of duck’s local history, the flavor seems to resonate especially loudly around here: Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in 2016 rolled out smoked duck ramen.

And order it here

Cafe Gibbes, Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St., 843-203-6751, (Smoked Carolina Duck Club, $12)

— Hanna Raskin

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.