The duck is stuffed with citrus, then slow cooked until the meat is falling off the bones and the skin perfectly crisped. A restaurant recipe that requires minimal effort and yields the best results.
Having grown up in Beijing, I have a special attachment to duck. We’re spoiled by ubiquitous perfectly roasted Peking duck, a luxurious yet affordable dining choice that we enjoy a few times a year. I can finish half a duck myself. I enjoy eating the duck skin by itself with a bit of sauce (without the meat and without the pancake). In my world, it tastes way better than crispy bacon.
Since moving to the US, I’ve been craving duck.
The first time I dealt with a whole duck, I slow cooked it Mediterranean style. I quartered the duck, placed it on a bed of vegetables and herbs, and slow cooked it until tender. Right before serving, I crisped up the skin by heating the duck pieces under the broiler. It generated nearly duck-confit texture.
It was almost perfect, but my friend and reader Saint Phlip told me there was a better way (you might recognize her name from her famous Chicken à la Benson).
The best slow roast duck
This recipe was originally shared by the chef of a hotel restaurant in Marietta, Ohio. According to Saint Phlip, it’s the tastiest duck she’s ever tried.
To cook the duck, you stuff it with several citrus fruits, then roast it at a very low temperature (95 to 120 C / 200 to 250 F). It requires a long, slow roast. But you don’t need to do anything during the roasting. No flipping, no touching.
When you’ve almost forgotten the duck, 5 hours later, you will suddenly smell a wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen. That’s when you know the duck is getting good.
The next 2 hours will be the most difficult. Your room will be filled with the wonderful roasting fragrance that reminds you of a steak house. You’ll start to check on the duck every 10 minutes, wondering why it’s still not ready. DO NOT pull out the duck now. Be patient!
When you start to worry that you’ve roasted it for too long and suspect the duck meat has lost its moisture, your dinner is ready.
You will be amazed when try to move the duck onto a carving board. You might accidentally crack the skin apart or pull a leg off. I know it’s cliche to say this, but the duck is literally fall-off-the-bone tender (as proof of my words, see the picture below). You might end up serving a “pulled duck”, since it’s nearly impossible to keep the whole thing intact. Restrain yourself from snacking on the crispy skin. You might finish the whole thing before you have a chance to serve your guests.
Don’t be scared away by the long cooking time of this recipe, because:
- The active prep time is 10 minutes. And you’ll need another 10 minutes to cook the sauce and serve the duck. In total, there’s only 20 minutes of active cooking time.
- You can cook the duck one day or several days ahead, freeze the duck, and serve it later.
- If you’re serving the duck for a party, you can start roasting it in the morning, then heat it up before dinner.
Compared to roasting a perfect chicken, roasting the best duck is much easier. And it is definitely more festive.
There are a few good ways to serve the duck. In the recipe below, I introduce the original sauce recipe – a delightful and sweet sauce made from white wine and fruit preserves.
For those who miss a perfectly roasted Peking duck from back home, cook duck pancakes, and serve everything with chopped green onions and cucumbers. I guarantee you the dish will taste just like home.
For those who enjoy a savory sauce, head over to the Mediterranean duck recipe and cook the olive sauce.
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- 1 (2.5 kg / 5 to 6 pound) whole duck (I used D'Artagnan Rohan Duck)
- 5 to 6 mixed citrus fruits (blood orange, lemon, and/or mandarin), peels removed
- Sea salt
- 4 tablespoons jam of your choice (blueberry, apricot, etc.)
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 to 4 tablespoons potato starch (or cornstarch)
- Adjust oven rack to the lower third. Preheat oven to 120 C (250 degrees F). Line a baking pan with aluminium foil (for easy cleanup) and top with a V-rack.
- Prepare a plate. Transfer the giblets from the duck to the plate. Use a pair of poultry shears to remove the duck neck and trim the neck skin. Do not trim any skin from the bottom of the duck, because it will keep the meat moist during roasting. Save the duck neck for making sauce or stock. Save the giblets for cooking or making stock.
- Place duck on a working surface or a cutting board. Stuff citrus inside of the duck, using as many fruits as you can. Use a few toothpicks to seal the bottom of the duck, to secure the fruits inside.
- Use a sharp paring knife to score the duck breast, about 1 cm (⅓ inch) apart. This will help the duck render fat faster and create a crispy skin. If you’re not familiar with this process, I suggest you start slow. The thickness of duck skin is not consistent. You need to avoid slicing through the meat, which will cause the duck to lose moisture. Gently press the knife. You might need to slice a few times to get the cut just right. (*see footnote 1)
- Rub both sides of the duck with plenty of sea salt. Place duck on the V-rack, breast side up.
- Bake until the skin turns golden brown, 6 to 7 hours (depending on the thickness of the duck skin). You do not need to flip the duck or monitor the process.
- (Optional) When most of the duck fat has rendered and the skin has become thin (usually 6 hours to 6.5 hours), turn up the heat of the oven to 260 degrees C (500 F) to brown the duck for another 5 to 10 minutes. This method works better when you choose a duck breed with thinner skin (or a duck that was air-chill processed). The skin will crisp up nicely and the meat will remain more juicy.
- Remove the duck from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Do NOT cover the duck with foil. This step further crisps up the skin. The stuffing will keep the duck meat hot.
- Transfer the duck onto a large cutting board. Carefully remove the citrus fruits (they will be very hot!) from the duck with a fork or a pair of tongs, and discard them.
- To carve the duck beautifully, you can refer to this video. Alternatively, you can simply pull the meat apart by hand.
- Transfer the rendered duck fat into a small bowl. When it has cooled off, cover with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. Save for later use.
- While resting the duck, cook the fruit sauce.
- Dissolve potato starch in a few tablespoons of the white wine.
- Heat the rest of the white wine in a small saucepan until warm. Add jam of your choice. Stir and mix so that the jam incorporates with the wine. When the liquid comes to a simmer, taste it and adjust the flavor by adding more wine or jam. Remove the pan from the stove.
- Stir the potato starch slurry again to let it fully dissolve in the wine. Slowly pour it into the sauce, stirring at the same time. Add enough slurry to get the sauce to the desired thickness.
- Pour a few spoonfuls of the sauce onto a serving plate. Place the carved the duck onto the sauce. Serve warm with extra sauce on the side.
- Cook duck pancakes (or use store-bought ones). Steam to heat them up while resting the duck.
- Serve duck and pancakes with hoisin sauce, sliced green onion, and sliced cucumber.
- If you’re not serving the duck right away, wrap the meat in aluminum foil and let it cool down to room temperature. Move it to a ziplock bag, press out as much air as possible, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month.
- To reheat, place the duck, skin side up, on a roasting pan. Transfer into the oven and preheat to 260 degrees C (500 F). Bake until the duck heats up and the skin turns crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cut duck giblets (liver, heart, and gizzard) into even-sized chunks and combine with a spoonful of Chinese distilled liquor (白酒, bai jiu), vodka, or Shaoxing wine in a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of cornstarch and season with salt. Mix well. Marinate for 5 minutes.
- Heat oil in a skillet. Gently cook the giblets over medium low heat until cooked through and the surface browned.
- Season with black pepper and serve warm.
This is a festive dish, so we’re not going to count calories here 🙂