We all know Peking duck from trips to the local Chinese restaurant but have you ever thought about making your own? Before you get too excited, you need to know how much work is involved – this is no quick and easy 10-minute recipe.
In fact, it can take several days to make this recipe from scratch. If you are still up for the challenge, keep reading, and discover how to make this delicious treat.
Peking duck offers juicy succulent flesh underneath a crispy, golden skin. It is usually served with thin pancakes, spring onion, cucumber, and hoisin sauce.
A Brief History of Peking Duck
The Chinese have been roasting ducks for hundreds of years but, as is true with many set-piece specialities, the recipe only became famous outside of China when Chinese restaurants aimed at international travellers started to open in the mid-1800s.
Banquet dining on a large scale is an important part of Chinese culture and Peking duck is a popular course at a large celebratory meal, in part because of its amazing flavor, but also because of the long preparation involved and the rituals of service.
The ducks were originally roasted by hanging them in a pot oven, similar to a tandoor after the aromatic wood fuel had finished burning leaving a residual heat along with a touch of fragrant smoke.
A Few Handy Tips Before You Begin
The type of duck usually used in this recipe is the Pekin breed which hails from Nanjing. The skin is not too fatty, the flavour is gorgeous, and the duck itself is the perfect size. Because you will need to hang the duck, invest in a duck hanging hook from a Chinese food shop if you can.
It is just a couple of butcher’s hooks on a metal ring and handles. If you cannot get one, you can fashion one out of a metal coat hanger. You can also buy some maltose when you are there because this is the best thing to make the glaze.
This malt sugar mixture is common in Chinese recipes and it caramelizes nicely, offering a sweet, satisfying taste.
How to Get the Skin Crispy
Peking duck would not be the same if it did not have wonderfully crispy skin, and to achieve this you need to get rid of all the moisture, else the skin will not reach a high enough temperature to brown enough.
Dehydration is the first step in preparing Peking duck, and this involves air-drying the duck overnight, either hung up near a fan or in the fridge.
Blowing up the duck is also important, and that can be accomplished with a bicycle pump, air compressor, or simply by pulling the skin away from the meat with your fingers and a wooden spoon handle.
Make sure you get the skin away from the meat on the breast and around the joint where the body meets the thigh. The whole point of this is to get the fat to render off the skin because that helps it to crisp up beautifully, just the way you want it.
The following recipe shows you how to prepare and cook the Peking duck. Serve the finished duck with warmed thin pancakes, cucumber and spring onions, both sliced thinly, along with hoisin sauce (or plum sauce if you prefer).
- Whole Duck – 1
- white vinegar – 150 ml
- salt – 5g
- star anise – 5g
- fresh ginger – 5g
- orange peel – 5g
- cinnamon – 5g
- Sichuan pepper – 5g
- cloves – 2
- maltose or honey – 200 ml
- dark soy sauce – 50 ml
- rice vinegar – 50 ml
- warm pancakes – 16
- cucumber – half, cut into matchsticks
- spring onions – 3, cut into matchsticks
- hoisin sauce or plum sauce – 200 ml
- Trim the duck’s legs and wings back to the first joint and discard any fat from the cavity.
- Slide your fingers under the skin and loosen it all over with the aid of a wooden spoon handle.
- Insert a bicycle pump or air compressor to blow the skin loose if you prefer to do it that way.
- Hang your duck on a hook and bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Add the vinegar to the water then take it off the boil and plunge the duck in for 10 seconds.
- Hang the duck back up and let it cool for a minute, then repeat this process 4 more times.
- Grind the salt with the star anise, ginger, orange, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves and sprinkle this inside the duck’s cavity.
- Hang the duck in front of a fan or leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge, so the skin can dry out.
- Put the maltose, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a pan with a little boiling water until the mixture is thick and well combined.
- Paint this glaze over the duck’s skin and let it air-dry by the fan or in the fridge.
- Repeat this until the coating is dark and sticky.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Put some boiling water in a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven, and put the duck on a rack above it.
- Turn the temperature down to 160 degrees C as soon as the duck is in there.
- Cook for an hour and a half or until the duck is perfectly done.
- Let it sit for 10 minutes so the glaze can harden and the juices can settle.
- If you want to shred it Chinese restaurant-style, let it cool completely, refrigerate it overnight and reheat it in a warm oven before using 2 forks to shred the meat.
- If you prefer a more authentic Chinese serving style, serve thin shavings of skin and fat with a little meat attached.
- Serve pancakes, plum or hoisin sauce, spring onions, and cucumber on the side.
- Any leftover Peking duck can be used in a stir-fry the next day.