finger-sucking roasted beer duck

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IF YOU CAN POUR YOURSELF A HOT SALT BATH, THEN MOVE INTO SAUNA TO SIT STILL,

YOU CAN ROAST THIS DUCK


TODAY, I’m here to answer the question that has long infected the everyday-home-kitchens, with unending fatigue and boredom.  The underlining puzzle that, as a result, has put the other undeserved, pale and bland poultry, onto the seat of power in the dinner-menu arena for far too long.  The question that we, if we say we love foods at all, should all ask ourselves…

Why are we so scared of ducks?

I mean yes, they are physically slightly larger than the other poultry – chickens – which has enjoyed unchallenged dominance in the everyday kitchen-politics, for reasons that are insufficient at best.  For one, the only difference made by the small increase in size, is an increase in cooking-time that requires no additional effort from you.  Second, that effort-that-you-didn’t-really-have-to-make, will buy you incomparable rewards in flavours, succulency, and rest assured, rock-star-level wow-factors.  So despite the many… almost universal disagreement I hold with this happiness-forsaken country, I got to admit that they do, do one thing right.  They know how to do their ducks.

To the surprise of many, I’m not talking about the widely published, sometimes overrated national dish, Peking duck, focusing on achieving slices of dehydrated crispy skins at the expense of often dry and woodsy flesh (most leftover meats and bones are later used in stir-fries and stocks).  As you can see if not clearly enough, I have only disdain for authoritarian rule over the majority.  Instead, I’m here to talk about a new discovery I recently made on humble street-establishments, from hole-in-a-wall-like vendors, selling what they call, the aromatic beer ducks.

What differentiates “people’s” beer duck from “Peking” (old spelling of “Beijing”) duck, is the celebration of equal rights and voices for all parts of this under-appreciated animal.  No meat, leg or wing, has to subject to the dictation of achieving a dehydrated crispy skin.  The entire roast duck is eaten as a balanced festival of juicy, luscious and flavourful off-the-bone meats, under salty, succulent, non-obsessively crispy and gelatinous skins.  If you have only tried a taste of this beer duck, you wouldn’t give a shit about Peking anymore.

To my and perhaps your surprise, the recipe for something so gastronomically rewarding and visually impressive, is surprisingly simple.

If you are physically and mentally capable of pouring yourself a hot salt bath, then moving into a sauna to sit still, you’re physically and mentally capable of roasting this duck.  Because that, is really all there is to it.  First, make a salt-spice brine, difficulty of which is equal to boiling water.  Then, with lack of better elaboration, you put the duck… in the brine.  What comes after will sound really boring but, you then leave it alone for 18 hours.  Go to work.  Join a protest.  Whatever.  After which of course, the climax finally comes, as you skewer the cavity-opening together with toothpicks, then roast the duck in a preheated oven, with very little attention needed, for 3 hours.

Then this, shall come out of the oven, for you.

Seriously, if you think this beer duck, is not worth just that.  I sincerely wish you and chicken breasts, a happily-ever-after.

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If you want to just do a simple salt-brine, or salt-brine with herbs of your choices, the duck will roast and come out fabulously anyway.  Speaking of salt-brine, please, weigh the salt.  Don’t measure by volume.  Different salts vary largely in density, and there’s just no way for accuracy if you measure by volume.

Ducks… all poultries for that matter, purchased in Asia, come with neck and head attached.  I mean why shouldn’t they?  There are perfectly succulent meats and skins attached to this part of the body that were well exercised and too good to waste.  But if your duck, sadly, comes with nothing from the shoulder up, then before roasting, use toothpicks to sew/seal the skins around the neck-openings together, to keep the breasts moist.


Ingredients:

  • 1 peking duck (1.5 kg ~ 2 kg), gutted and cleaned
  • Shaoxing wine, or Italian grappa for brushing
  • The brine:
    • 4 cups (1000 ml) water
    • 1 cup (26 grams) whole Asian dried chili
    • 130 grams (roughly scant 1/2 cup of table salt) salt, or kosher salt
    • 1/3 cup (60 grams) dark brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
    • 2 tbsp of chicken bouillon
    • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
    • 2″ (30 grams) ginger, sliced
    • the spices:
      • 2 tbsp of sichuan peppercorn
      • 1 tbsp of white peppercorn
      • 1 (12 grams) cinnamon stick
      • 5 (8 grams) star anise
      • 6 large (3 grams) dried bay leaves
      • 1 1/2 tbsp (9 grams) cumin seeds
      • 1 tbsp (6 grams) fennel seeds
      • 1 black cardamon, or 6 green cardamon
      • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) whole cloves
    • 4 cups (1000 ml) of beer

To brine the duck:  Use a mortar or spice-grinder, pulse “the spices” until they are coarsely ground.  Combine the ground spices, water, whole dried chili, salt, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, smashed garlic and ginger slices in a large pot.  Simmer the mixture on medium-low heat, with the lid on (to prevent moisture loss), for 30 min to release the fragrance from the aromatics.  Turn off the heat and add the cold beer.  Once the brine has cooled, submerge the duck in it and keep inside the fridge for at least 18 hours, up to 48 hours, turning the duck once if necessary.

To roast the duck:  Preheat the oven on 300ºF/150ºC.

Clean off any spices sticking on the skin or inside the cavity of the duck (rinse with a bit of water if you need to), then pat the duck as dry as you can with a clean towel.  Use 2~3 toothpicks to sew/seal the skins around the cavity-opening tightly together (as pictured), to keep the inside moist during roasting.  If your duck comes without neck and head, sew/seal the neck-opening, too.  Brush the duck evenly with shaoxing wine (or Italian grappa).

If your oven is tall enough to hang the duck, you can insert a hook (any kitchen hooks will do) at where the breast and neck meets, and hang the duck hooked onto a baking-rack that’s set on the highest level in the oven, with a baking-sheet on the bottom to catch dripping.  But if your oven is too small to hang the duck (like mine), then simply lay the duck breast-side-up first, on top of a baking-rack with an aluminium-lined baking-sheet underneath.

Roast the duck for 3 hours until golden browned and glorious, turning it once or twice accordingly for evenness.  If at the last 20 min, it looks like it needs a boost, turn the heat up to 375ºF/190ºC.

To cut the duck:  The best tool for this is a shark kitchen-scissor.  Remove all the toothpicks, then cut the breasts starting from the cavity-opening, right through the center, until you reach the neck.  Then turn the duck over, and cut the thin strip of back bone (sacrificing as little meat as you can) starting from the butt, right through the center, until you reach the neck as well.  Then separate the legs and wings from the breasts, and cut everything into smaller pieces.  Serve immediately.

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50 Comments

  • Though as a vegetarian, I won’t be making your roasted beer duck, I did want to comment and say just how much I love your new (to me) layout. I haven’t checked your blog in a few months (I know, I know, I’m sorry), and I’m just blown away by how beautiful the current design is. I think you’ve really managed to capture the spirit of a magazine in blog form. Happy to be back!

  • Oh wow, your version looks spectacular! The only beer duck I’ve ever heard of, much less tasted, is my mom’s version, which is more of a braised recipe so the skin doesn’t end up all crispy like yours. On the plus side, it only has 5 ingredients, and the recipe is 4 sentences long. =) Maybe my mom’s is the Taiwanese version vs. your mainland version?

    • Joy: I know which “beer duck” you’re talking about. It’s a completely different dish. This roasted beer duck is sort of a newly emerged item, and I’ve just recently discovered it.

  • I must make this duck, but first, where can I get a whole duck in Tokyo! I will have to do some research. This is so wonderful looking, so yummy looking, so finger licking good looking, it makes me want to cry!

  • Wow! Amazing work girl! What kind of beer did you use for this recipe, because i will be making it soon.

  • I didn’t even read the recipe first. I just saw the picture and went straight to my shopping list for this week and added “ducks.” Plural. Then I read the recipe and I want to make it even more. Definitely on the menu soon! Beautiful photography, great writing. Thanks!

  • I’ve found whole ducks at Jungle Jim’s near Cincinnati and made Peking-style duck before. Some of the local (Columbus) Asian markets occasionally have whole ducks, too, but I’ll probably use beheaded, frozen supermarket duck ’cause I can get it immediately and make this now!

  • This is my brothers favourite dish so I must show him this in case he’ll make it at home. You’ve even just convinced me to make it myself. Though living in Barcelona, I think the hard part will be figuring out where to get a whole duck (even if headless). Perhaps I can reserve one at my butchers….

  • Can you tell me what i ask for specifically when shopping for “whole Asian dried chillis” and what is “by” leaves?
    Thanks!

    • Cam: Sorry typo!! I meant “bay leaves”. And a made a specification on “Asian” chilis, just to make sure it doesn’t get confused with larger Mexican chilis. Asian dried chilis are smaller, available in most Asian supermarkets. Keep them “whole” because we want the fragrance but not the heat. You can break them up if you want more heat in the brine.

  • So my husband loves Peking Duck above all else. He’s dragged me to duck houses aplenty and I just can’t get down- don’t like duck. So dry! That pic above, however, has me salivating. I want that!

    • J.Lee: Yes! Peking duck has relatively dry meats! That’s why I don’t like them. This duck has skin “thin and gelatinous and just bit crispy”, and succulent meats because of the long and slow roasting.

  • Thank you for this. I came *this” close to buying a whole duck this weekend, but panic set in and I backed out last minute. I’ve been avoiding cooking duck since I became an ex-vegetarian. For what reason, I’m not sure. Consider me officially inspired now :)

  • I made this dish two nights a go. Although my skin was not crispy. (I should have upped the heat in the last 30 minutes) I love the flavor. I can imagine doing the brine with chicken or turkey. The flavor was amazing, an quite memorable. I loved it. This is one that will be done again. Thank you Mandy!

  • I made this 2 weeks ago, it was a hit to my family. Even for my brother and sis-in law, they don’t eat duck usually, but they love it! Thanks again for the amazing recipe.

  • Hi there! I made this last weekend and it was absolutely awesome! So awesome even that I’m planning to serve it at Christmas dinner to impress all my inlaws! ;) I’ll be making a spiced apple compote to go with it but I’m still searching for a vegetable dish to serve as a side. Any ideas on veggies to go with this duck? Maybe even a recipe? :)

    Love from the Netherlands! Ilona

    • Ilona, I’d say some braised cabbage with onions using the fat rendered from the duck. Or a mustard salad dressing made with the dripping, tossed with bitter greens and dried cranberries, for something lighter.

      • Your idea for braised cabbage + onions sounds good! I saved up the rendered fat from when I made the duck so I’m gonna throw it in a pan with some cabbage later this week. Thanks!

  • Your website looks delicious! I made the duck and it was truly thinner-sucking!!! Thank you for sharing. It’s the second recipe of yours that I used and both came out great, easy to make and delicious. ( Easiest Black Forest Cake was yummy)

  • This recipe looks amazing, so I ordered my first whole duck. Though I have a question regarding brining. Did you test out the limits up to 48hours, and which brining time would be the best without being too salty? Thank you for this great blog!

  • I’ve made this several times with duck, whole chicken, chicken legs, chicken wings… It’s such a great marinade! My husband who has never liked duck, loved this preparation.

  • Hi Mandy, greetings from the UK. I just got two ducks for a bargain price from my local butcher, and of all the duck recipes out there, this one feels the most appealing (And more importantly for this novice cook) acheivable! I am just wondering if the shaoxing/grappa brush is definitely a must…I don’t have either in my store cupboard, only rice wine. Would it make a big difference to do without? Many thanks, Lauran.

  • My favorite protein…duck! Can I make this with the sticky rice stuffing just like the Xmas goose recipe? What would be the time difference? Thanks!

  • Hi Mandy!

    The only duck I could get in the grocery store was 10 lbs (HUGE!). Should I double the cooking time to reflect the larger size?

    Thanks :)

    • Morgan, wow 10 pounds! Yeah I would do 4 hours first before testing with a thermometer, then proceed accordingly, and probably have to lower the temperature for the last hour to prevent burning.

  • I’m doing the brine for this bad boy right now! Just wondering what you usually serve it with. I have a few options, I’m just nosey! :D

  • I made this for my extended family (ten people crammed around our tiny little table!) and it was, quite literally, finger-licking-good. I had never cooked duck before and was a little leery- this was perfect. Thank you so much for an absolutely beautiful recipe!

  • Made this recipe over the weekend – great recipe. Even people who say they don’t like duck (crazy people, really), loved this duck.
    I love your blog and read it just about every weekend. Thank you very much!

  • I would LOVE to make this for a dinner party, but cannot find whole duck anywhere! Would it be possible to use this brine and roast method with duck quarters or breasts?

    • Kirsten, the bones brings so much flavors to the ducks, so I would suggest using halved duck insight bones or duck legs. But I’m not sure about the cooking time, since it might dry out the exposed meats. I will perhaps try a higher temperature and shorter time. But I haven’t tested it so I can’t pinpoint on the specifics on both…

  • Love this recipy, made it 4 times already, haven’t been able to find all the ingredients as I live in Mexico, maybe I haven´t really hunted them, anyway the duck is amazing! Me and my familiy want to thank you!

  • Oh Mandy! Ever since I found you blog, 2+ years ago, I’ve wanted to try this recipe. I’ve regularly come back to it, reading through the ingredients and instructions, salivating over the photos, imagining the flavour, texture and aroma of this beautiful bird. But alas! I live in the North of Sweden, where ducks are generally either hard to come by or ridiculously expensive. However, I kept dreaming…
    And last week, a miracle! Frozen ducks at my supermarket! I immediately grabbed one (and some beer) and went straight home to thaw and cook it. Called up some girlfriends while it was brining and invited them over for a duck feast. What a success! Everyone had thirds and no one had room for dessert (overrated anyway). This duck is absolutely AMAZING, and so EASY!
    Thank you so much for this great recipe. And to anyone who hasn’t made this yet – what are you waiting for? Grab the nearest duck you can find and get ready for a truly delicious meal!

  • have been using this recipe ever since i found your blog and it is a hit every single time i make it!! just really want to thank u so much !! i can open up a restaurant just based on recipes from your blog !

  • Hi Mandy,

    Is it possible to make this with a spatchcock duck? How would that change the cooking temperature and time? Looove your blog, they are amazing!

    Thanks!

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