How to Quarter a Duck

Quartering a duck is a simple process that can be accomplished with just a cutting board and a set of kitchen shears. One of the most advantageous reasons to quarter a duck is that the light meat of the duck, such as the breasts, has a different cooking time than the dark meat portions like the thighs or wings. Taking the time to quarter a duck will ensure proper cooking times for all pieces and help prevent overcooking. Pre-butchered duck breasts often cost almost as much as a whole duck, so purchasing a whole duck and taking the time to quarter and butcher it yourself will ultimately get you more poultry for your money.


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    Remove all innards and giblets and the neck of the duck from inside the duck’s body cavity.
    • The organs and neck can be discarded or saved for future cooking purposes.
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    Rinse the duck all over in cold water.
    • Remember to rinse the inside of the duck’s body cavity too.
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    Pat the duck dry inside and out with paper towels
    • Drying the duck will prevent it from slipping when you quarter it and also prep it for storage after butchering.
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    Place the dried duck breast-side down on a clean cutting board.
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    Remove the duck’s wings by twisting them in the sockets to disjoint them.
    • Use clean kitchen shears to cut the skin and finish removing the wings from the duck.
    • Set the wings aside for later storage
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    Use your finger to locate the duck’s backbone.
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    Use the kitchen shears to cut alongside the backbone from the tail end to the neck.
    • You can also make a cut halfway down the body from the neck, then rotate the duck and cut from the tail to the middle to complete your cut if this is easier for you.
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    Repeat this lengthwise cut on the other side of the duck’s spine, then remove the spine from the body.
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    Turn the duck over so that the breasts are facing up.
    • Spread the legs out on either side of the body.
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    Use a sharp, small-bladed chef’s knife to cut along the intersection of each thigh and the body.
    • Remove the legs from the body and set aside for later storage.
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    Locate the bone between the breasts, called the keel bone.
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    Make a very shallow cut from the neck along the keel bone, following the curve of the breast.
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    Use your fingers to gently pull the breast away from the body.
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    Use the tip of your knife to cut down the breast in short increments and slowly separate the breast meat from the ribs.
    • Cut in 1-inch increments and gently separate the meat from the ribs with your fingers as you cut. This will give you more control over the meat and keep it from tearing.
    • When you have cut along the whole length of the breast, it should pull free.
    • You will have two duck breasts along with the legs and wings, giving you four duck quarters.


  • As with any raw meat, raw duck should be handled safely to avoid contamination. Clean all utensils and cutting board thoroughly with antibacterial soap when finished and wash your hands thoroughly before handling any other food.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen shears
  • Chef’s knife
  • Storage container or freezer paper

Article Info

Categories: Food Cutting Techniques