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Oct 27, 2012 03:36 PM

How to make crispy chinese duck breast?

Hello people.
I was just at a chinese restaurant in Spain, where I tasted this amazing crisp duck breast. It was crispy and well done, and was served with either a hoisin sauce or sweet and sour sauce.

Pretty generic, but the crispiness was strikingly good. How do you make this?

I have researched quite a bit. So here is my triangulated but still theoretical method.

1. Use five spice powder as dry rub on duck breast.
2. Cut stripes in the fat.
3. Put the fat side down in a pan and sear it for a while.
4. Put it in the oven (for how long?)
5. Cut it up in pieces, pour over sauce and serve.

Is this about right? I´ve seen some recipes doing it all in the pan. And some recipes want you to marinade the breast first. Is that reccomended?

Because it seem to me that duck breast is far easier than making a whole peking duck. Where you prepare the duck in all sorts of ways with boiling water, resting etc. The key is, will the skin loosen from the meat, and become this crispy good shell?

I really prefer my duck to be well done. And I just hate it when fat is the same texture as jelly.

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  1. Yep, that's about right ...............
    It'll require about 7 - 10 minutes in the oven
    "Put the fat side down in a pan and sear it for a while"
    This is a very important step.
    You're going to need a few drops of preheated vegetable oil in the pan before you introduce the duck breast but the heat needs to be on the low side of medium and it needs to fry for just under 15 minutes. I say just under 15 minutes because when 15 minutes passes it's usually too done but if you watch it you'll know when it's time to move it to the oven.

    1. Give your duck skin a wash with a baking powder slurry.

      9 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Care to explain?

        And does anyone marinate their duck breast?
        i´ve seen some recipes claim you should marinate it in hoisin sauce. But that does not sound too effective.

        1. re: Ramius

          The baking powder makes for a crispier skin (it's the dirty secret shortcut for restaurants serving "Peking Duck" here in the U.S.)

                1. re: OCEllen

                  I'm thinking since ipsedixit noted that many U.S. restaurants use this method, it must work pretty well.

                  1. re: OCEllen

                    Chinese cooks have used cornstarch to make things crispy for a long time. Baking powder has baking soda and corn starch. Baking soda is akaline and browning is increased in an alkaline environment. Similar to how lye is applied to pretzels to make them darker.

                    1. re: Pookipichu

                      Reviving this thread again because of this tip. I am making duck breasts for family dinner tonight. I rubbed it in with five spice powder, salt and dry corn starch, Is that what you meant? then I slow fry it skin down in the pan.

                      1. re: Ramius

                        I just saw your post, I roast duck, I don't pan fry it, sorry for the late reply. What did you wind up doing?

        2. I have best luck with crispness when I score the skin very deeply (but not into the flesh) in a cross-hatch (diamond) pattern, then start it in a very lightly oiled COLD cast iron pan on medium low heat. As it comes up to temp it will gradually start to sizzle and render fat. I usually pour off the fat a couple of times (save to sauté potatoes, etc) and when the fat is pretty much all rendered, if the skin is not yet mahogany brown I will turn up the heat for a minute or so till it is, then flip and into preheated oven to desired doneness (for me, medium rare). The cold skillet method takes awhile but it works amazingly well to render all the fat and not leave you with a layer of fat below your crispy skin.

          3 Replies
          1. re: GretchenS

            Gretchen pretty much nails how I cook duck breast for any style.

            I don't use a marinade, or dry rub, but would serve any sauce separately. Bear in mind any wet marinade is going to work against crispness of the skin.

            1. re: Harters

              That sounds like a problem to me. With your "any style" comment.
              The chinese style I had stands in clear contrast to the french style.

              I´ve seen several picture of the french style of cooking duck breast, and its absolutely not what I´m after. Pink and juicy and lightly brown in the skin.

              The chinese on the other hand was dark brown, with dark red and crispy skin. Well seasoned, and it had a bit of resistance to it when chewing - same sensation as bacon.

              Its actually okay if its even a bit dry, because thats what the sauce is there for. To make it moist again.

              But my one concern is, will the fat losen from the meat? The duck I got in that restaurant, the skin was just barely holding together with the meat. And I know in Peking Duck prepartion, you scorch the duck with boiling water, to losen the skin. And I was wondering if you need to do the same with duck breast? Put it in boiling water for a few seconds?

              1. re: Ramius

                Dunno if how I cook duck breast is a French style - I'm British and cook in accord with our culture. Cooking the breast as I do, means that much of the fat is rendered but I've never noticed that what remains of the fat is coming away from the meat. On the contrary, I reckon it stays there adding to succulence of the meat.

                Certainly dark red skin sounds like it's been given a rub of some sort. Your guess is as good as mine what the Spanish Chinese chef might have done with it. Of course, Spain is next door to France so there may be converging styles.

          2. So any good sauces I should make to this duck breast? I am thinking about just warming up some hoisin sauce with perhaps a bit of sherry and soy sauce to losen it up a bit.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Ramius

              Hoisin or plum would be the way to go, IMO.

              Sherry (or better with rice wine) and/or soy are good if you need to thin down the sauce.

              1. re: Harters

                Oh thanks for reminding me about the plum sauce. I have a jar of it that I have not used yet.

                Should I be using it as a bbq sauce? Rub the pre-seared duck breast with it, before I put it in the oven?

                1. re: Ramius

                  The problem I have with jarred sauces is that if you smear them on the meat, the sugar can burn and become bitter before the meat is cooked. I managed to ruin a lovely piece of belly pork in that way.

                  As you're trying to replicate your Spanish meal, then from what you've posted it sounds like the skin colour was coming from a dry rub, so I'd stick with your original idea of trying five-spice. I'd tart up the jarred sauce if it needs it and warm it through, then drizzle it over the duck as you serve it.

                  By the by, I'm curious about the place in Spain. There's no great tradition of Chinese cooking in the country as there has been minimal immigration. Was it a particulary well recommended place or just somewhere you came across?

                  1. re: Harters

                    There are chinese restaurants all over the world.

                    1. re: Ramius

                      There are. But the only ones I've knowledge of in Spain are really crappy ones in tourist resorts where they're catering for we north Europeans.

              2. re: Ramius

                My favorite chinese place does really great Peking duck and a version of fried chicken. I asked the owner about getting the skin crispy and he swears by keeping a fan blowing onto the skin so it is extremely dry when it is ready to cook. I'm not sure how he keeps the meat moist but that may simply come as a result of the fat content lying on top of the meat. He also has alot of MSG or sodium on his dry rub which must help with keeping the skin dry.

              3. With due respect to others with their suggestions....and without knowing exactly how the dish was presented to you in thoughts are what you describe is a duck cooked in the Cantonese Style, similar to the ducks you see hanging in the windows of Chinese Barbeque restaurants. These ducks are roasted whole while hanging. I suspect the breast was removed from the carcass to be presented to you on the dish. Traditional Chinese restaurants do not cook the breast off the carcass and do not serve it to temperature like Western dishes.


                8 Replies
                1. re: fourunder

                  I'd be surprised if this will have been a "traditional" restaurant.

                  1. re: Harters

                    And don't discount the restaurant taking a creme brulee torch to the skin.

                    1. re: Harters

                      Pressed Duck is pretty common in Sit Down Chinese least here in the States.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        What is "pressed duck"?
                        Cause my duck breast started pretty flat. But then it became very very round while roasting.

                        1. re: Ramius

                          Pressed Duck is most commonly known as *Wor Shu Opp* in Chinese American Restaurants. It is generally made by first, steaming or braising a whole seasoned/marinated duck...then allowing to cool and the breast is removed off the carcass. The breast is placed into a sheet pan, then another is placed on top to weigh it down, creating a *pressed form*. The most common way to serve it was to dip it into a cornstarch batter, or seasoned cornstarch....then deep fried to give it a crispy coating. Once done, it would be sliced into half inch pieces. It would be served with a brown mushroom gravy, but could certainly be served with any of the condiments mentioned thus far. You could also do the reverse process as suggested by others to take the pressed duck and crisp the skin in a pan and then transfer to the oven to complete the reheating process.


                          The reason why I believe this was the type of approach the restaurant used in preparing the dish you describe is simply this. The longer and slower approach to cooking the meat resulted in its tenderness....which cannot be done off the carcass in the short amount of time and high heat that you used.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            The duck did not have that coating around it, as it does in the picture here.

                            But if the duck breast was sliced of a whole duck. That doesnt make sense. Because the restaurant needed one days notice in advance if you wanted a whole peking duck. Which is made in the same way. So obviously, the restaurant must have made this duck breast on my order.

                            1. re: Ramius

                              It's not uncommon for any type of restaurant to have dishes that require two day preparation....or more simply, prepare in the morning and finish for dinner service. The amount of ducks they prepare could be based on history of previous sales on certain days it is offered. I would not assume it was cooked and made to order. Other types of meat, most notably pork belly require this type of approach for certain dishes or recipes.

                              As I indicated, you could remove the breast and crisp the skin, finish in the oven ....then slice and serve.

                              In general, restaurant require advance notice to know what to have prepared.....with Peking Duck, 24 hours air drying is mandatory before it is cooked......Pressed Duck does not necessarily require the same treatment or process.

                              1. re: Ramius

                                Did the duck skin look like this...or was it scored in the restaurant.