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How to make crispy chinese duck breast?

Ramius Oct 27, 2012 03:36 PM

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.

  1. todao Oct 27, 2012 05:47 PM

    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. ipsedixit Oct 27, 2012 07:53 PM

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

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit
        Ramius Oct 28, 2012 11:02 AM

        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
          ipsedixit Oct 28, 2012 12:19 PM

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

      2. GretchenS Oct 28, 2012 11:19 AM

        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
          Harters Oct 28, 2012 11:36 AM

          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
            Ramius Oct 28, 2012 12:23 PM

            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
              Harters Oct 28, 2012 03:17 PM

              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. r
          Ramius Oct 28, 2012 04:06 PM

          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
            Harters Oct 29, 2012 02:59 AM

            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
              Ramius Oct 29, 2012 04:57 AM

              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
                Harters Oct 29, 2012 05:07 AM

                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
                  Ramius Oct 29, 2012 06:09 AM

                  There are chinese restaurants all over the world.

                  1. re: Ramius
                    Harters Oct 29, 2012 07:40 AM

                    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
              IndigoOnTheGo Oct 29, 2012 08:45 AM

              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. f
              fourunder Oct 29, 2012 09:43 AM

              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
                Harters Oct 29, 2012 09:58 AM

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

                1. re: Harters
                  ipsedixit Oct 29, 2012 09:59 AM

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

                  1. re: Harters
                    fourunder Oct 29, 2012 10:12 AM

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

                    1. re: fourunder
                      Ramius Oct 29, 2012 10:34 AM

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

                      1. re: Ramius
                        fourunder Oct 29, 2012 10:56 AM

                        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
                          Ramius Oct 29, 2012 11:13 AM

                          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
                            fourunder Oct 29, 2012 11:25 AM

                            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
                              fourunder Oct 29, 2012 11:48 AM

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


                  2. h
                    Harters Oct 29, 2012 10:06 AM


                    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-recipe-duck-in-plum-sauce-with-lychees.aspx

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

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Harters
                      Ramius Oct 30, 2012 05:19 AM

                      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. r
                      Ramius Oct 29, 2012 10:14 AM

                      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
                        Ramius Nov 2, 2012 06:34 AM

                        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
                          Harters Nov 2, 2012 06:59 AM

                          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
                            Ramius Nov 2, 2012 07:39 AM

                            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
                              Ramius Nov 2, 2012 03:24 PM

                              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
                                TorontoJo Nov 3, 2012 05:17 AM

                                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
                                  Ramius Nov 3, 2012 05:55 AM

                                  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
                                  lalaly Mar 17, 2014 09:30 AM

                                  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
                                    Ramius Apr 10, 2014 07:54 AM

                                    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
                                      lalaly Apr 10, 2014 09:18 AM

                                      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. k
                            kengk Nov 3, 2012 06:54 AM

                            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
                              Ramius Nov 3, 2012 07:24 AM

                              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
                                Ramius Nov 12, 2012 03:49 AM

                                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: Ramius
                                  GretchenS Nov 12, 2012 12:25 PM

                                  ... and the results? :)

                                  1. re: GretchenS
                                    Ramius Nov 13, 2012 04:01 PM

                                    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
                                    huiray Nov 12, 2012 01:43 PM

                                    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
                                      fourunder Nov 13, 2012 08:20 AM

                                      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
                                        huiray Nov 13, 2012 09:56 AM

                                        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
                                          fourunder Nov 13, 2012 10:02 AM

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

                              2. simplelife Mar 18, 2014 07:08 PM

                                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.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: simplelife
                                  Ramius Apr 10, 2014 07:55 AM

                                  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
                                    Puffin3 Apr 10, 2014 10:20 AM

                                    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
                                      rudeboy Apr 10, 2014 11:55 AM

                                      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.

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