Before we get started I will admit that this is solely my opinion. Depending on what part of the country you live in, I may have this list backwards.
At the bottom of my list lies the fast flying Scaup, AKA “Blackjack, ” AKA “Dos Gris.” These birds have saved a many slow day due to their willingness to hit a decoy spread. They are a sporty bird to shoot but preparation of the Scaup requires intensive labor. I recommend a 3-day salt-water brine, lots of garlic, and use in gumbos only. Dark, coarse, and gamey.
9. Northern Shoveler
The Shoveler, AKA “Spoonie” is just a step above the Scaup. Although I’ve heard rumors that rice fed Shovelers are edible, I have not experienced this for myself. 3 day brine, garlic, us in gumbo. Tender but musty.
AKA “Poule D’Eau.” Now I’m sure there are plenty of people that are thinking, “Why in the world would he have a coot on this list? It isn’t even a real duck!” Point taken, I completely understand. But a good Cajun friend of mine will whole heartedly disagree. On a trip to the marsh, I was served coot gizzards without knowing and I have to say I will take that over a Scaup or Shoveler any day of the week. Firm, livery taste. Marinade and deep fry.
7. Blue Winged Teal
Blue Wings are most definitely a sporty bird to harvest but for dining I would describe them as a miniature Shoveler. Once again I’ve heard that depends on their diet but I have seen no such evidence. Tender morsel but musty and earthy. Gumbo only.
I would describe the Canvasback as a larger version of the Scaup as far as dining goes. The big, fast flying duck makes for sporty shooting but lacks some on flavor. Dark and coarse, almost as gamey as the Scaup. Gumbos only.
The Gadwall, AKA “Gray Duck” is the first on our list that I would consider a grilling duck. The only wildcard is that sometimes Gadwall enjoy feeding on sewage ponds and if you kill a fresh sewer duck that will bump him down the list a few places. Other than that he is good to go for the grill. Tender, slightly gamey. 1 day brine, good for grill or gumbo.
The most sought after duck on our list, the mallard provides a good amount of meat but requires a little preparation. I recommend cutting the breast in half and put them in a saltwater brine for at least a day. Coarse texture with a slightly gamey taste. Great gumbo duck and good fried or grilled.
The Pintail, AKA “Bull Sprig”, gets us more excited that any duck we hunt. There’s nothing quite like working a group of sprigs and getting them in close especially in the woods. When that happens it seems that all is right with the world. As far as dining goes, the pintail reminds me of a smaller, tenderer mallard. Once again I recommend at least a 1 day brine or marinade. Slight gamey taste, tender and juicy. Great in gumbos, good grilled or fried.
2. Wood Duck
The Wood Duck, AKA “Woodie, ” is most definitely in the grilling duck category. Some even compare its flavor to that of prime rib. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a fine piece of meat. Butterfly the breast, stuff it with cream cheese and jalapeño’s, dust with your favorite rub, wrap in bacon and cook him over a hot fire. You won’t be disappointed. Tender and juicy, no wild taste to speak of. Great in any application.
1. Green Winged Teal
At the top of my list lies the Green Winged Teal. Unlike his cousin the Blue Wing, the Green Wing has absolutely no wild taste about him. I’ve been to many places in this country where people let them land in their decoys and fly away. I found that interesting. I thought “Would I pass on a rib eye on the chance that a hamburger might come by?” Absolutely not! The Green Wing is such a fine morsel that I would put him up against a tender filet of beef. So next time you feel the need to pass on a group of Teal don’t give in to the pressure.