Plucking a duck, especially one you have caught yourself, can be a very satisfying experience. Although it looks difficult, there are a number of tips that make plucking a duck much easier for you to do at home. Practice makes perfect, and eventually, you will find which tips and tricks work best for you. It's best to prepare the duck by removing the wings and legs, softening the feathers and skin, and pulling the feathers in the right way.
A duck should be plucked while it is still whole, before the organs have been removed. This provides a sturdier base and gives you greater leverage. Remove the wings with shears or a sharp knife as close to the main joint as possible. Poulterers also remove both legs prior to plucking, cutting them off at the first joint. Removing these parts helps to make the body more compact and manageable.
You can leave the head on or remove it according to personal taste. Once you have removed the wings and legs, be watchful of any bone ends as these can be very sharp. Plucking a duck is most easily done when it is at room temperature. Before you begin, get all of your tools ready, including a bag to dispose of the feathers. Begin by brushing the feathers against the grain in which they are growing because this helps to loosen the feathers somewhat, making them easier to remove.
Remove all of the largest feathers first. You can do this by hand, but make sure not to grab too many feathers at once, or you may cause the skin of the duck to tear when you are pulling them out. Gently hold the skin taut when you are plucking a duck, and make sure that you pull the feathers down and away from the bird. It is a good idea to wear gloves while doing this both to help improve your grip and protect your hands.
You can also scald the duck prior to plucking in order to make the feathers shed more easily. Add a small amount of detergent to the water in order to soften the feathers. Keep the water between approximately 160 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit (71 and 77 degrees Celsius) so that you do not cook or damage the skin. Dunk the duck in the water for only a minute or two at a time, repeating if necessary.
If you are using the paraffin wax method when plucking a duck, make sure that you do not leave the wax to cool for too long as it will become brittle and break. You also want to keep the water just hot enough to melt the wax but not hot enough to boil or otherwise damage the skin. Once the majority of the feathers are gone, the remaining pin feathers are best removed by lightly singeing them off or removing them with a pinning knife.