A unique main dish, this Peking Duck is easy to prepare and delicious served with a homemade Plum Sauce. While we prepare it, we’ll show you how to render duck fat and why you would want to.
Sure, the Christmas goose might be a bit more classic, and a Christmas turkey might be a bit more common, but duck makes for a fun twist to spice up your traditional Christmas dinner table.
One of Tim’s favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Story, so when we talked about making a Christmas roasted duck, it had to be done with an Asian flair.
Do you know the scene?
Our duck didn’t come with the head attached, but that’s probably for the best. I think I would have had a difficult time rendering the fat from a duck that was ‘smiling’ at me.
Cooking With Duck Fat
While we were in Poland this last year, we were introduced to duck fat. It sounds bizarre to us State-side, but think of it like bacon grease. Anytime we cook bacon, we save the grease and keep it in a jar in our fridge. Just a little is all you need to add incredible flavor to fried eggs, sauteed veggies or hash-brown potatoes.
Duck fat does the same thing.
And, it makes PHENOMENAL roasted potatoes.
After having potatoes roasted in duck fat while we were in Poland, we decided that we needed to get our hands on the stuff for cooking at home.
How To Render Duck Fat
Rendering is basically separating the fat from the bone and muscle of the meat by extended cooking at a low temperature. This can be done to any kind of meat or even butter to get the milk solids out of it, creating what is called clarified butter.
To render the fat from our duck, we used the dry rendering method of oven roasting. By cutting cross-hatched slashes into the duck fat (being careful not to pierce the meat), we expose a larger surface area of fat, helping it to melt. The trick is to re-slash the duck every hour or so, to expose more of the fat, rather that keeping it locked inside the dry ‘skin’ that forms as you roast.
The resulting fat has a high smoke point and a rich flavor, making it great for sauteing or frying. It will keep in the refrigerator for months, or it can be frozen.
Many people (myself included at one time) tend to steer clear of saturated (hard) fats, particularly animal fats, but more and more research is showing the benefits of saturated fats (in moderation) in a healthy diet.
So, you don’t have to feel guilty about using the real stuff in moderation. Take a look at our post on cooking fats if you’d like to learn more.
Duck is known for it’s distinctive flavor and moist, dark meat. The animal is different from chicken or turkey in that they have a long and thin frame and do not have a large breast-section.
It is often thought of as a greasy and sometimes tough meat, which is where a first step of rendering the fat really comes in handy. By rendering the fat (which is primarily in the skin) you are left with the lean meat, and the low and slow cooking tenderizes the meat beautifully.
Not to mention, after rendering, the skin takes on a wonderfully crisp texture.
When choosing a duck, look for the breeds Pekin (not to be confused with the Peking style of seasoning a duck) or Long Island, which are milder in flavor. Leaner than Pekin, Muscovy Ducks often have a strong flavor that can be considered gamy.
The duck we roasted for today’s post just so happened to be a Pekin Duck from Maple Leaf Farms. We found it to be incredibly juicy and not overly greasy.
Our Peking Duck and Homemade Plum Sauce Recipe
After rendering the fat from our Pekin duck, we bathed the crispy skin in an Asian-style glaze of Chinese Five Spice, ginger and molasses.
Placing it back into the oven for 10-20 minutes caramelized the sauce slightly, giving it that classic Peking Duck flavor and quality.
We served our Peking Duck with a delicious Plum Sauce for dipping.
One 5 lb duck will serve roughly 4-5 people.
Fat yield will vary depending upon the fattiness of the duck.
- 5 lb whole duck, thawed and gizzards removed
- Preheat your oven to 325F.
- Score the thick fat on all sides of the duck in a diamond pattern, being careful not to slice through the meat.
- Place the duck on a roasting rack, and place the rack in am aluminum-foil-lined roasting pan, or other baking dish with at least 2 inch high sides. (You don't want the duck sitting in its rendered fat. A roasting rack will get it off of the bottom of the pan, allowing the fat to collect below.)
- Roast the duck for 3 hours. Every hour, re-slash the fat and flip the duck over. (You can drain any fat from your roasting pan at each hour, or just wait to collect it all at the end.)
- The duck is cooked when the juices run clear and the leg bone moves easily in the socket.
After rendering your duck fat, coat it with an Asian glaze for a sweet and flavorful Peking Duck!
Yield; 1 (5 lb) duck
- 5 lb duck
- 2 Tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- Mix all glaze ingredients together and brush over the duck after 2 1/2 hours of roasting. (If saving your fat, drain it from the roasting pan before brushing the duck with the glaze, to keep it pure.)
- Continue to roast the duck for the final half hour. The duck is done when the juices run clear and the leg bone moves freely in the joint.
- Remove the duck from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Mix all ingredients in a wide saucepan or skillet.
- Simmer over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a thick sauce, 10-15 min.
- Serve the sauce over the roasted duck.