Certain breeds of duck have been domesticated for centuries. What are they? Water fowl bred for their dark meat and their eggs, the yolks of which have a deeper and richer flavour than those of chicken eggs. When are they in season? Fresh wild ducks are only legally available during hunting season (usually autumn and winter). Domesticated ducks are available year-round but because the birds are fatty, they are most often eaten in cooler weather. What are the differences? Wild ducks have a gamier flavour and tougher meat because their muscles are better developed than domesticated breeds. The taste and texture of domesticated ducks varies according to breed; some have larger, meatier breasts while others are leaner. What else? In France, the US, Hungary and other countries, ducks are often raised specifically for their livers; the birds are force fed, which enlarges their livers and makes them fattier. Known as foie gras de canard, the livers have a fat content similar to that of butter. Force-fed ducks also have larger breasts, known as magret, and higher amounts of fat, which is rendered and used in cooking. The legs, necks and giblets of these ducks are often made into confit or rillettes (see recipes, left). Duck eggs are often used to make haam dan, or Chinese salted eggs. How to use? In Chinese cuisine, ducks are almost always cooked whole, usually by roasting, although they can also be stuffed and braised or steamed, boned then fried. The famous Peking duck, which is eaten primarily for its crisp skin, is made by pumping air into the duck to separate the skin from the flesh, scalding it to tighten skin, coating it with maltose and seasonings then air-drying. The bird is roasted and the skin ceremoniously carved off and eaten with thin pancakes. The meat is usually served separately and the carcass is made into soup or congee. An easier dish for the home cook is whole duck stuffed with barley, dried mushrooms, chestnuts and Chinese sausage or ham, then braised in stock. Unless you're cooking a whole duck, the legs and breasts should be cooked differently. The breasts taste best when cooked quickly using dry heat and are delicious grilled over hot coals (beware of flare-ups from dripping fat). The legs need to be cooked longer to avoid toughness; they benefit from gentle braising or poaching. Braise until tender in duck stock, red wine, garlic, onions and other aromatics.