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Feb 2, 2005 08:35 PM

Crispy Duck Skin Eludes me...

  • s

Hello All,

I read the duck thread below and was reminded of my utter failures at making duck skin crispy. I have tried the following: pierced the skin all over, not pierced the skin, poured boiling water over the bird before roasting, and my most adventurous (perhaps misguided) duck experiment had the 4 times boiled bird (1 min. each time) hanging from my pot rack over the sink with an oscillating fan on it for 5 hours while basting with a peking duck marinade. No crispy skin yet.

Am I missing something? Anyone have a foolproof method?

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  1. I don't know if you managed to catch Iron Chef America with Bobby Flay vs. Ming Tsai. They both attempted a version of Peking duck in 1 hour. Bobby basically boiled then deep fried his, but Ming did something more traditional - he separated the skin from the fat by blowing air into the area between them. He brought out a small air compressor to do this. Alton Brown commented that this is a popular method - before electric compressors, the Chinatown chefs could be seen using bicycle pumps - and before then, the traditional method was to use wooden straws and lots of lung power. Ming wrapped a towel around the nozzle and had an assistant help hold the bird in such a away that they could direct the air into the skin/fat layer. Obviously, he still had issues getting things done in 1 hour, and he had a number of steps to infuse flavor and get the bird right - but apparently the skin was crisp, and he won the battle.

    3 Replies
    1. re: applehome

      Applehome, you rock my world.

      I am going to dig our air compressor out of the garage and give it a go. I am guessing the Iron Chef sealed both ends of the duck somehow and didn't prick it all over - otherwise it would have leaked. Did he deflate before cooking? If not, that could have been a very odd looking bird. ;-) Previous poultry experience tells me that it would be much easier to inflate a freshly killed duck - rather than the usual frozen variety.

      Any other suggestions before I commit to tackling the scary garage?

      1. re: Shiro Miso

        The ducks they had were fresh - or at least, thoroughly thawed. He definitely didn't prick the skin. The assistant was holding the side away from the compressor - holding the skin to the carcass so that it wouldn't just completely separate while the air blew the skin apart from the fat. The skin just settled back down afterwards - I think just separating the skin from the fat layer allows it to crisp up while baking. The duck came out of the convection oven they have quite dark and definitely crisp-looking. The dark was mainly because of the marinade which included molasses - but it obviously cooked at a pretty high temp. Still, when he served it, the meat was still nice and pink.

        To be fair, Bobby's method got a nice crisp skin comment from one of the judges. Bobby said that he was mixing a southern tradition - that of deep fat frying turkeys - with traditional peking duck. So he par boiled the duck and then dropped it in the fryer.

        I don't do whole duck myself - just buy the frozen breasts, and mostly smoke them in the smoker. But I like to grill the skin side afterwards to crisp it up a bit - I don't like the breast overcooked, so I don't smoke it very long, not enough to crisp the skin. I'd have a hard time with the routine of separating the skin, as it would just fall off the breast - maybe if I did it very carefully (with a knife - not with the compressor) and left the edges in tact... or, I could smoke it and then drop it in the deep fat fryer... hmmm...

      2. re: applehome

        Just last night I saw Alton Brown making crispy duck on Good Eats. he basically quartered a duck. Steamed the pieces for 45 minutes while heating a cast iron pan to extreme high heat in the oven. Then he took the steamed duck and put in into the cast iron pan (pressing down each piece for a few minutes to make sure he got a good crisp going.)
        I guess you could get more details on his method at:

        Seemed a very simple way to get a good crispy duck skin.

      3. The last duck I roasted I had good luck with putting the duck on a vertical roaaster and putting it in a pan and out on my screened porch with the over head fan running. It was in December and cold but not cold enough to freeze the duck. I let it air dry for almost 24 hours. No problems with acheiving crispy skin.

        My mother always made great duck when I was a kid and one thing she used to do was at the very last before she took the duck out of the oven, she spooned melted apple jelly all over it and then browned it well. The flavor was wonderful. I may have to try that again sometime.