Tender pieces of roasted duck with thin, crisp skin served with cucumbers, scallions, and sticky sweet hoisin sauce sandwiched inside of a steamed bun. The original method of making Peking duck is labor intensive. I came up with a simplified technique that replaces the need for a dry ager and wood-fired oven!
What is Peking duck?
Peking duck (Beijing baked duck, 北京烤鸭, Běi jīng kǎo yā, běijīng tián yā) is a gourmet cuisine that dates back to the imperial era. It is characterized by a duck seasoned with a five spice glaze and baked with a glassy appearance like that of burnished sand. It is served like a burrito or taco with soy wrappers, Chinese-style tortillas, or plain steamed buns with duck meat, cucumbers, scallions, and hoisin sauce.
How is Peking duck made?
The original method of cooking Peking duck at a restaurant is labor intensive. Its preparation typically involves sourcing ducks from farms that breed a very specific type of duck with the perfect fat to protein ratio. The ducks are also hung on a meat hook and stored it in a meat locker that is set to a precise temperature and humidity for dry aging.
How do I make the skin on my duck crispy?
Most home cooks prepare Peking duck by hanging the seasoned duck on a meat hook at home overnight before cooking. To practice food safety, I am instead leveraging the natural dry aging characteristics of a refrigerator. Although a professional dry aging refrigerator is ideal, a standard refrigerator is a fine substitute. To ensure that the duck dry ages uniformly on all sides, I place the duck upright using a wine bottle that has been covered with a zip lock bag. I allow the duck to rest for at least 24 hours before seasoning it with my five spice and maltose glaze. The use of the bottle also makes the act of glazing the duck a breeze.
What is maltose?
Maltose (mài yá táng, 麦芽糖) is a sweet syrup created from fermenting pure malt, rice, and water. It is commonly used throughout Chinese cuisine. It can be consumed directly, soaked in water, cooked, or baked. It has the properties of light corn syrup which is used to make homemade ice cream however, maltose has a higher viscosity and half of the sweetness of white sugar. Due to its thick texture, maltose may be challenging to use at room temperature. To make it more usable, zap the unsealed container in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
What is five spice powder?
Five-spice powder is a fragrant blend of spices that adds a complex and unique flavor to dishes. Its aroma is warm and inviting, with hints of sweetness, spiciness, and earthiness. The powder typically consists of five key ingredients, including star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Szechuan peppercorns. Its complex flavor profile makes it a versatile ingredient that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can be used to add depth and complexity to meat dishes such as pork or fish. It can be added to fish dishes to remove strong odors. This is due to the presence of star anise, which has a natural deodorizing effect and a licorice-like flavor.
It’s important to note that there are many different brands of five-spice powder available, and the potency and quality can vary greatly between brands. Some blends may include additional ingredients or use different ratios of spices, resulting in a different flavor profile. It’s always a good idea to experiment with different brands and find one that suits your taste preferences.
My family has been using the multi-flavored seasoning powder from Wang Shou Yi Dry China brand, for decades. This brand is known for its robust flavor, meaning only a small amount is needed to add flavor to dishes. Additionally, their product is a thirteen-spice blend, which includes the five spices that make up five spice powder in addition to additional spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom, creating an even more complex and nuanced flavor. I always substitute this seasoning for five spice powder in my recipes.
- 1 5-6 lbs duck
- 1 gallon water boiling
- 2 tbsp maltose
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp five-spice powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 5-6 lbs duck
- 1 English cucumber julienned
- 1 bunch scallions trimmed, halved, julienned
- ½ cup sweet bean sauce for Peking duck or hoisin sauce
- 1 pack of frozen guabao steamed
- Duck | To prepare the duck, you will need to start by boiling water in a kettle. Once the water is ready, take the duck out of the packaging and set it in the sink. Discard the giblets and allow any excess liquid to drain out. Slowly pour about 1/3 of the water onto the skin of the duck on both sides, making sure to cover the entire surface. The skin should tighten as it comes into contact with the hot water. Repeat this process 3 times.Next, set a bottle of wine on the center of a large dinner plate. Cover the bottle with a 1 gallon zip lock bag. Take the duck and skewer the cavity on the wine bottle, making sure that the legs are facing down. Push the duck down onto the bottle until the tip of the bottle reaches the neck of the duck.Once the duck is prepared, refrigerate it overnight, uncovered, to allow the refrigerator to dehydrate the skin. This will help to create a crispy texture when the duck is cooked.
- Sauce | Add maltose to a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for 10 seconds. Then, mix in oyster sauce, five spice, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Using a pastry brush, brush the sauce all over the duck, including the cavity. Allow the sauce to dry for 15 minutes, and repeat this process 3 times. When you are almost ready to cook the duck, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare the bottom rack for baking.
- Bake | Wrap a half sheet baking tray with heavy duty foil and place a rack over the tray. Transfer the duck on the rack, breast side down, and bake for 45 minutes on each side until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Once the duck is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Then, using a knife, remove the drumsticks and slice the breast meat into desired portions. Use your hands to peel off any remaining meat from the carcass. Save the carcass to use for making homemade duck stock, which can be used to create a delicious duck noodle soup.
- Assemble | Serve the sliced duck on a steamed bun with scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce.