Peking Duck

While there’s definitely a right time to make Peking Duck — say, Chinese New Year, which is six long months away — there’s never a wrong time. This famous delicacy from Beijing is so good you might even want it all the time. Unfortunately, whole ducks aren’t exactly easy to find and it’s fairly time consuming to prepare. That said, if you’re planning a dinner party and want to make something special, Peking Duck with a Sake-Hoisin Glaze is more than worth the time and effort. And since you’re making one, you might as well make two. Even if you’re not sharing, you’ll want leftovers.

The ducks need to be brined, then rinsed, dried, and allowed to sit uncovered in the fridge for two days. Then, they’re cooked on a rotisserie (you can get an attachment for your Weber grill) until the meat is juicy and the skin is perfectly crispy. For the last half hour, the ducks get lacquered with a mixture of hoisin sauce, garlic, and sake. The glaze is an old Steven Raichlen sauce recipe from The Barbecue! Bible. And it’s amazing. It’s a perfect match for the Chinese five-spice flavor in the duck, and it turns the skin into meat candy.

We serve our Peking Duck with some steamed buns (um, from our local Chinese restaurant… because why not?), some quick-pickled cucumbers, and scallions cut into thin strips. We also put out a small serving of the glaze sauce, and a big bottle of sake.

Peking Duck with Sake-Hoisin Glaze
Serves: 8
Time: Lots

Duck Brine:
2 5-pound ducks, thawed if they are purchased frozen
1 Liter of water
200 grams of kosher salt
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice
6 garlic cloves
1000 grams (1 kg) of ice

Sauce:
2 cups hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
6 garlic cloves, diced
2 tablespoons minced ginger

For cooking:
A rotisserie
Sesame oil
Chinese Five-Spice powder
2 oranges to act as ball bearings inside the birds

For serving:
Scallions, sliced into thin strips
Sliced cucumbers
Steamed buns

To prepare the ducks, two days before cooking, make the brine. In a pot, combine all of the ingredients except the ice (and the ducks, of course). Bring to a low boil and whisk together until all of the salt is dissolved and all ingredients have become incorporated. Add the ice to cool. Place each duck in a freezer bag and then pour the liquid over each duck, seal the bags (squeeze out the air), and allow the ducks to brine for 2 1/2 hours in the fridge. Rinse off the ducks and wipe as dry as possible with paper towels. Place ducks, uncovered, in the refrigerator and allow to sit for 48 hours.

Peking Duck

To cook the ducks, prepare your grill for indirect rotisserie grilling with the coals pushed to each side and drip pan placed in the middle. Make a criss-cross pattern in the breast skin with a knife to make sure some of the fat can release during cooking, then poke holes in the skin of the rest of the duck, making sure you don’t puncture the meat. Rub the ducks with sesame oil and chinese five-spice powder inside the cavity and all over the skin. Place ducks on the the rotisserie spit, placing oranges in the cavity. Place the rotisserie on the grill, cover, and begin spinning and allow it to cook initially for one hour.

Peking Duck

While the birds are cooking, make the sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a low simmer and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Remove it from the heat, reserving half of it for dinner. Take the other half to the grill.

At this point, you should light some more coals to add to the grill and add them evenly to both sides. Allow the ducks to cook for about 45 more minutes and then begin glazing the birds every 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 170º (the birds will cook for a total of approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours).

Peking Duck

When fully cooked, remove the spit from the grill, and allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the spit. Allow the ducks to rest for another 10 minutes, then cut of the legs and the wings and place on a platter. Pull the rest of the duck as you would a pork butt. Serve immediately with steamed buns, scallions, quick-pickled cucumbers, and the reserved sauce.