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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.

      7 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.

        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 Spain.....my 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 restaurants.....at 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.


                    2. Ramius

                      Here's a recipe for duck breasts on the website of our leading Chinese supermarket chain which might be of interest - http://www.wingyipstore.co.uk/p-1116-...

                      And another from the same source: http://www.wingyipstore.co.uk/p-24-re...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Harters

                        That one picture from the supermarket looks absolutely hidious. Like some old 70s picture of a grandmothers dish.

                        But no, none of those pictures match.

                        The duck I got looked exactly like Peking Duck. Red, dry, but still moist somehow (what is this called?). But it was just the breast. And it was sliced up on a plate and covered in normal sweet and sour sauce. The taste and presentation was very typically cantonese.

                        The reason I became so interested in this, is because it tasted so much like Peking Duck, but somehow this restaurant was able to make this dish easier. With a much lower price, and faster preparation time.

                      2. I just made this for the first time. And honestly I must say it was unsuccessfull.

                        The flavour was almost right. But the texture of the breast was wrong. How do they chinese do it!?

                        -I cut strips in the fat
                        -Rubbed it in with five spice powder
                        -I then seared it for around 10 minutes in the pan, at medium temperature.
                        -Then I rubbed it in with plum sauce
                        -Then I put it in the oven for around 8 minutes at 250 degrees celcius.

                        It then seemed well done on the outside. But was infact raw in the middle still. So when I cut it up into slices, I had to sear all the bits for a minute in the wok. Then added some hoisin sauce while doing this.

                        But the end result was too tough. Like a beef. When the chinese duck was apparatly well done, but it was MUCH easier to chew.

                        And as I suspected, the fat did not losen from the meat. So obviously there is a method to achieve this, that I´m not aware of.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Ramius

                          I suspect to achieve the results I´m after, the low and slow method is perhaps the secret.

                          Thats why I just layed the breast in the oven on 85 degrees celcius. Where it shall slowly roast for 4 hours. Excited to see how it turns out.

                          1. re: Ramius

                            85 is really low. Low & slow usually means something between 130 and 150 for me - but I've never done anything as small as a duck breast. I'm interested to know how it comes out

                            1. re: Harters

                              I turned it up to 100 for the last hour, Then I will finish it by searing it in a hot pan. Hopefully that will make the skin crisp.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I FINALLY GOT IT!
                                The low and slow method resulted in an absolutely perfect duck breast. It was not tough at all. The meat tissue had losened up so much you could almost tear it apart.

                                I rubbed the breast with 5-spice, then baked it slowly in the oven for four hours in a small bread-pan.

                                I then took it out, and there was now alot of liquid clear fat in the pan. I put this in the wok. turned up heat to maximum, and just seared the fat side for three minutes, and then layed it to rest, fat side down on a piece of paper to drain of the liquids. Then it became crisp and bacon-like.

                                I will reduce oven time by an hour next time. Because the duck was perhaps just a little bit too dry. I think I can have it in for three hours at 100 degrees celcius, and repeat the same method afterwards.

                                Now I finally know how to make duck with restaurant quality. This was by no doubt the right way. The only thin I´m a bit uncertain of still, is when and how to apply sauce to it. Could I perhaps rub it with plum sauce before putting it in the oven, or before the pan, or just pour hot sauce over the finished result?

                                Great thing is. You could do this with many breasts in the oven, and you cou

                                1. re: Ramius

                                  Pour sauce over the finished result. You'd never be able to sear the skin and get a crispy result with sauce on it. Fry first, sauce after is a pretty standard Chinese technique that results in that awesome combination of sauciness and crispiness.

                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                    They served this in the restauran in a sizzling hotplate that had been in the oven. And my impression was that they had just put the plate without anything in the oven, and layed the finished duckbreast on it, and poured sauce on it afterwards.

                                  2. re: Ramius

                                    I live in Spain and I was looking for exactly the kind of duck breast recipe you are talking about. It's going to be ready in 3 hours, finger crossed! I am going to serve it with chinese pancakes (from scratch), carrots, cucumber and leek cut into sticks and plum sauce.

                                    1. re: lalaly

                                      How did it go? I almost forgot about this thread.

                                      I have to say, Im not completely happy with the crispiness of the skin. But the meat is perfect. I might try baking soda.

                                      1. re: Ramius

                                        It turned out really really good, thank you!!! The skin was nice and crispy, I put the grill function for the last 5 minutes and the skin turned even crispier. I will also try baking soda next time, thanks for the tip, let's try and compare what's best. The meat indeed, was perfect, I cooked it for 3 1/2 hours. Did you try the fried wontons at the chinese restaurant you went to in Spain? I am asking because I am a big fan of those here in Spain and actually found a perfect recipe on this very website http://www.chow.com/recipes/28056-fri...

                            2. I have had duck from a restaurant that had an extremely crisp and delicious skin and the meat was tender enough to pull apart with the fingers. I don't know for a fact but I believe they steam them and then sear in a screaming hot pan after the order is placed.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: kengk

                                Well if you read my reply above. You will see that I figured out how to achieve this.
                                Tenderness is the key here. You can get crisp skin fast, but the tenderness of the meat require more work. Or else the duck breast will be like beef.

                                1. re: Ramius

                                  Im making duck breast again. This time, I rubbed it in with sesame oil first, the patted in some five spice. Now its in the oven for three hours. Wonder how it will turn out.

                                    1. re: GretchenS

                                      The results were amazing.

                                      However, even though the skin becomes very good now, it doesn´t become as crisp as I had hoped. I will try to solve this by testing two methods.
                                      1. Searing the fat in very hot oil before oven roasting.
                                      2. A poster here reccomended earlier in this discussion that a simple chinese restaurant trick was to rub it in with corn flour or baking soda to make it crisp. I can try doing this too.

                                      Also, I´m not sure how they made this dish in the restaurant. But it can´t have been simply searing it in the wok. Because the duck meat becomes too tough. I´ve tried this several times now!

                                      But I´ve seen some restaurants serving spare ribs, have several racks lying in their oven at low heat, ready to be ordered long before the customer has even thought about it. Can the restaurant have several duck breasts on readyness in the oven? As a standard routine?

                                    2. re: Ramius

                                      You took more than 4 hours to prepare it. Yet the impression you give is that the restaurant served you this duck breast "made to order". Did you wait 4 hours for your dish to be served? If not then the restaurant is doing it differently or is taking it from a whole duck like what fourunder suggested.

                                      1. re: huiray

                                        You have made a keen observation and the points you have noted do not seem likely in a typical Chinese restaurant. I'll concede that the breast could be sliced off the bird, then onto a rack and roasted or pan fried, but again, this is not typical or practical for most Chinese restaurants that are family run. This might be had in a more upscale, or fusion type restaurant, but the method would not be traditional.

                                        The details provided by the OP in his attempts to result in crispy skin are not how I have seen done in any Chinese commercial kitchen. Most Chinese kitchens dry roast, roast with a pan of water underneath....or wok fry poultry to get the skin crispy. They do not cook skin side down simply to crisp the skin.

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          A common technique used in Cantonese restaurant kitchens is also to "roast" the duck or chicken by ladling very hot oil repeatedly over the poultry, held over a large wok. This gives a bird with crisp skin but succulent flesh.

                                          1. re: huiray

                                            True....that's what I meant by the wok fry method. Works great for both ducks and chicken.

                                2. i worked at a restaurant and we would hang the duck over a warm place for a few hours. skin came out very crispy and the meat was well done.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: simplelife

                                    What do you mean "over a warm place"? This is very vague to me, sorry.

                                    In an oven, over a fire... what?

                                    1. re: Ramius

                                      For 'broken glass' crispy skin on any roasted bird first roast at 200F until internal temp is what you want.
                                      Remove from oven and lightly tent for fifteen minutes. Then crank up your oven to max heat. Then liberally brush on the bird a good quality white wine vinegar and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
                                      Bird back into the screaming hot oven. Watch the bird like a hawk through the oven door. Watch as the skin turns a deep golden brown. Remove carefully.
                                      Tent again. Rest longer than you think is necessary.
                                      The skin will be 'broken glass' crispy b/c of the vinegar/salt.

                                      1. re: Ramius

                                        Man, there was a chinese place in my hood that used to get roast duck from Houston, and then, to order, they would chop and flash fry in peanut oil. Then stir fry. Nothing like that before or since, anywhere I've been. No scoring, but the duck was chopped right before the flash fry. Melted some fat, but you get that slight crunch in your mouth before the fat layer and into the meat. I love that fat layer.

                                        1. re: Ramius

                                          I used to help my dad make Cantonese roast duck, not Beijing Duck. The first thing we did for the duck was to pour hot water over the skin for about 10 minutes. This tightened the skin.

                                          Next, we replaced the water with new water but there was brown sugar and honey mixed in. We continued pouring hot water over the skin. The skin would then take a nice, darker tone. The sugars would later carmelize during the roasting process.

                                          Then we hung the duck in the kitchen for four hours. In the old days, you would hang it for eight hours, but only four was allowed by California law.

                                          After than, we'd roast the duck at a high temperature in order to melt the fat. I don't know the time or temperature.

                                        2. re: simplelife

                                          I have recently read of a trick I was unaware of.

                                          I will try this next time. But apparantly, you put the duck skin down in a cold pan, and turn it on medium heat. This will take 10-15 minutes to get warm, before you hear the sizzling, but that will slowly melt away the fat, and make it ALL crisp.

                                          Hope it works. I´ll report back.