I love duck. I have always loved duck. I keep duck breasts in the freezer for when the craving hits, and little tubs of duck fat for roasting potatoes. If I go to a restaurant with duck on the menu, I’m hard pressed not to order it. My husband, in one of our very first communications ever, answered the ubiquitous question of “Who do you invite and what do you cook at your perfect dinner party?” with the perfect gathering of interesting conversationalists and specified duck as the entrée. Forget having me at hello—he had me at medium-rare Muscovy breasts.
Recently, in the egg section of my local Whole Foods, I spotted a raffia-lined basket full of large eggs. Turned out, duck eggs are becoming more of a thing around me. Much like quail eggs did in the late 1990s, I’m seeing more and more duck eggs appearing on menus and the moment you can buy them in the grocery store, that starts to feel a bit mainstream.
Looking at the pale ivory orbs it occurred to me that for all of my love of the duck, I have never cooked nor to my knowledge eaten a duck egg. Which of course made me a bit curious as to how they stand up to chicken eggs.
Turns out, there are pros and cons to the duck egg/chicken egg debate. A lot of it has to do with how you want to cook them. Duck eggs actually have less water and more albumen than chicken eggs. This makes them amazing for baking and pastry work, since that magic combo will make cakes fluffier and egg breads even more delicious than your standard chicken egg. They are richer than chicken eggs, with twice the fat. This means custards made with duck eggs are creamier and they would be glorious for scrambled eggs, omelets, quiches, and the like. A sabayon made with duck eggs is supposedly even more ethereal. And some pastry chefs swear that meringues made with duck eggs get better volume and are more stable.
But that lack of water makes other types of cooking, where the whites and yolks retain their independent nature, problematic. Any type of fried egg, hard- or soft-boiled, or poached, the whites can get very rubbery.
From a nutrition standpoint, they are also different. A large chicken egg is about 50 grams, and a duck egg about 70. But despite only a 20-gram difference in weight, a duck egg is twice the calories, twice the fat, and three times the cholesterol of a chicken egg, albeit the good kind of cholesterol.
As with chicken eggs, if you are being careful about your diet you can make scrambles and omelets with one whole egg and an added white or two for bulk. Duck eggs have more Omega-3s, and stay fresher longer due to a thicker shell. They are also much more expensive, often as much as $1-$2 per egg, depending on your source. The flavor and how different it is or isn’t from a chicken egg is entirely dependent on the diet of the duck, so if you want to use duck eggs in a cooking application where the flavor is egg-forward, you might want to do a test scramble of one egg to see if they are more intense than you might prefer.
If you have a good source for duck eggs near you, they are worth seeking out, especially for desserts. Whether the juice is worth the squeeze, price-wise, for your regular breakfast is very much up to you. But you can bet that now that I know all the benefits of duck-egg baking there is a duck-themed dinner party in my future.