Peking Duck with Mandarin Pancakes – Easy & Authentic!

by Ella

Peking Duck, a quintessential dish of Chinese cuisine, is renowned for its crispy skin, succulent meat, and rich flavors. With its origins dating back to the imperial kitchens of ancient Beijing, this culinary masterpiece has captivated palates around the world. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a gastronomic journey to uncover the secrets of creating the perfect Peking Duck – from selecting the right ingredients to mastering the intricate cooking process.

History of Peking Duck: Birthed in the Imperial Kitchens

The genesis of Peking Duck can be found within the imperial kitchens of ancient Beijing, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Scholars believe that the precursor to Peking Duck was first enjoyed by the elite and nobility, who indulged in sumptuous feasts prepared by palace chefs. The dish’s meticulous preparation, tender meat, and crispy skin quickly gained favor among the imperial court.


It was during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that Peking Duck underwent further refinement and began to make its way beyond palace walls. The method of hanging the duck and using open flame roasting was introduced, contributing to the dish’s distinct texture and flavor. Peking Duck gained popularity among the common people, and small restaurants specializing in the dish began to emerge.


As the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) dawned, Peking Duck’s reputation as a culinary masterpiece continued to flourish. Its delicate preparation and flavorful profile caught the attention of foreign diplomats and travelers, who marveled at its presentation and taste. Peking Duck became a staple at state banquets and grand feasts, representing the pinnacle of Chinese gastronomy.


How To Make Peking Duck

Peking Duck, an iconic Chinese dish, is a symphony of flavors and textures that has delighted palates for centuries. Crafted with precision and finesse, this culinary masterpiece requires careful preparation and execution. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating your own Peking Duck at home:
Prep Time15 minutes
Active Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Yield: 4
Cost: $5


  • 1 oven
  • 1 Air blower or hairdryer


  • 1 whole duck (about 5-6 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons maltose or honey
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • some Salt to taste
  • 6 cups hot water
  • some Ice cubes
  • some Pancakes (store-bought or homemade)
  • some Hoisin sauce
  • some Sliced scallions
  • some Sliced cucumber


  • Duck Preparation: Clean and rinse the duck thoroughly, removing any excess fat and innards. Pat the duck dry with paper towels. Combine maltose or honey, rice wine, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and a pinch of salt to create the marinade. Brush the marinade evenly over the duck, both inside and out. Allow the duck to marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, in the refrigerator.
  • Air Drying: Hang the marinated duck in a cool, well-ventilated area to dry for about 6-8 hours. This step helps achieve the crispy skin texture. Alternatively, use an air blower or hairdryer on low to help dry the duck's skin thoroughly.
  • Roasting: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add white vinegar. Hold the duck by the neck and dip it into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes. This helps tighten the skin and promote crispiness. Place the duck on a roasting rack and roast in the preheated oven for about 1 to 1.5 hours, turning occasionally for even cooking. Adjust the cooking time based on the duck's size.
  • Crispy Skin Enhancement: In the last 15-20 minutes of roasting, increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) to further crisp the skin.
  • Pancake Preparation: While the duck is roasting, prepare the pancakes. Warm them in a steamer or microwave according to package instructions.

Carving and Assembly:

Once the duck is cooked and the skin is golden and crispy, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for a few minutes.


Carve the duck by removing the skin and meat in thin slices. Serve the meat on a platter.

To assemble each pancake, spread a small amount of hoisin sauce onto the center. Add a few slices of duck meat, followed by sliced scallions and cucumber.

Fold the pancake to encase the filling and enjoy.

How to Pick the Right Duck for Peking Duck

Choosing the right duck is a crucial step in crafting an authentic and delectable Peking Duck. The quality of the duck directly influences the dish’s flavor, texture, and overall culinary experience. To embark on your journey to Peking Duck perfection, follow these guidelines to select the perfect duck:

1. Consider the Breed: Opt for a Peking duck breed, known for its superior meat quality and ideal characteristics for roasting. These ducks have a high meat-to-fat ratio, resulting in tender meat and a crisp skin – essential components of a successful Peking Duck.

2. Freshness is Key: Prioritize fresh ducks over frozen ones whenever possible. Fresh ducks tend to have better texture and flavor, contributing to a more authentic and enjoyable dining experience.

3. Look for Plumage and Skin: Examine the duck’s plumage and skin. A high-quality duck should have a plump, well-rounded body with evenly distributed fat beneath the skin. The skin should be unblemished, free of cuts, and exhibit a vibrant, pale yellow hue.

4. Inspect the Feet and Bill: The feet and bill of the duck are also indicators of its freshness. They should be clean and free from discoloration. Avoid ducks with discolored or damaged feet and bill.

5. Check the Buttocks: Look at the duck’s buttocks (tail end). The area should be clean and without any signs of bruising, discoloration, or excessive moisture.

6. Avoid Excessive Fat: While a layer of fat beneath the skin is desirable for a succulent Peking Duck, avoid ducks with excessively fatty or flabby skin, as this can affect the roasting process and final texture.

7. Consider Size: Choose a duck size that aligns with the number of diners you’ll be serving. Keep in mind that smaller ducks tend to have more tender meat, while larger ducks may have slightly tougher meat.

The Perfect Marinade for Peking Duck:

The key to an exceptional Peking Duck lies in its marinade – a carefully curated blend of flavors that infuses the meat with depth and character. To create the perfect marinade for your Peking Duck, follow this step-by-step guide and elevate your culinary masterpiece:

1. Melt the Maltose or Honey: In a small saucepan, gently heat the maltose or honey over low heat until it becomes a smooth, liquid consistency. This will make it easier to incorporate into the marinade.

2. Combine the Ingredients: In a mixing bowl, combine the melted maltose or honey, Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together until they form a homogeneous mixture.

3. Balancing Flavors: Taste the marinade and adjust the flavors as needed. If you prefer a slightly sweeter marinade, you can add a bit more maltose or honey. If you desire more depth, consider adding a touch more soy sauce or five-spice powder.

4. Marinating the Duck: Place the cleaned and dried duck in a large, shallow container. Pour the marinade over the duck, ensuring that it coats both the inside and outside of the duck. Use a brush or your hands to evenly distribute the marinade.

5. Cover and Refrigerate: Cover the container with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate the duck for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. This extended marinating time allows the flavors to penetrate the meat fully.

6. Turning and Basting: During the marinating process, consider turning the duck a few times to ensure that all sides are evenly coated. Additionally, baste the duck with the marinade from time to time to enhance flavor infusion.

7. Pat Dry Before Air Drying: Before air drying the duck, remove it from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. This step helps ensure that the skin becomes dry and crisp during the air drying process.

How to Make Peking Duck’s Crispy Skin

1. Thorough Drying: After marinating the duck, thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels. This step is crucial to remove excess moisture from the skin, ensuring optimal crispiness during roasting.

2. Air Drying: Hang the duck in a cool, well-ventilated area for at least 6-8 hours, or until the skin becomes taut and dry to the touch. This allows any remaining moisture to evaporate, creating the foundation for crispy skin.

3. Boiling Technique: Before roasting, briefly dip the duck into a pot of boiling water with white vinegar. This helps tighten the skin and promote crispiness. Be cautious not to overdo this step, as the goal is to enhance texture without precooking the duck.

4. High Initial Heat: Begin roasting the duck at a higher temperature, around 400°F (200°C), for the first 15-20 minutes. This initial burst of heat helps kickstart the crisping process of the skin.

5. Regular Basting: While roasting, baste the duck with its rendered fat every 15-20 minutes. Basting promotes even cooking and aids in rendering out excess fat from under the skin, contributing to crispiness.

6. Adjust Temperature: After the initial high heat, reduce the oven temperature to around 350°F (175°C) for the remainder of the roasting time. This ensures that the duck cooks evenly while allowing the skin to crisp without burning.

7. Final Temperature Spike: In the last 15-20 minutes of roasting, increase the oven temperature back to 400°F (200°C). This final spike helps achieve the desired golden color and ultimate crispiness of the skin.

What to serve with Peking Duck?

1. Mandarin Pancakes: Soft, thin Mandarin pancakes are a classic and essential partner for Peking Duck. Their neutral flavor and delicate texture provide the perfect canvas for showcasing the duck’s flavorful slices.

2. Steamed Buns (Bao): Steamed buns offer an alternative to Mandarin pancakes. Their fluffy texture creates a unique contrast with the duck’s crispy skin and tender meat.

See Also: Homemade Steamed Buns (Bao) Recipe – Easy & Authentic!

3. Fragrant Jasmine Rice: Serve fragrant jasmine rice to balance the meal and soak up any flavorful juices from the duck.

4. Asian Greens: Stir-fried or steamed Asian greens, such as bok choy or gai lan (Chinese broccoli), provide a nutritious and refreshing side.

5. Cold Noodles: Light and chilled, cold sesame or cucumber noodles offer a refreshing contrast to the warm duck.

6. Wonton Soup: A light and brothy wonton soup brings a comforting element that contrasts with the indulgence of the duck.

7. Seafood Dishes: Incorporate other seafood dishes, such as garlic shrimp or stir-fried calamari, to expand the culinary experience.

8. Fine White Wine or Green Tea: A crisp, dry white wine or a soothing cup of green tea can complement the flavors and cleanse the palate between bites.

FAQs About Making Peking Duck

Q1. Can I use a frozen duck for Peking Duck?

Yes, you can use a frozen duck for Peking Duck, but using a fresh duck is preferred for optimal results. When using a frozen duck, ensure it is thoroughly thawed in the refrigerator before starting the marinating and cooking process. While a frozen duck may still yield a flavorful dish, fresh ducks generally have better texture and flavor, contributing to a more authentic and enjoyable Peking Duck experience. If using a frozen duck, allow ample time for thawing and follow the marinating and roasting steps carefully to achieve the desired crispy skin and succulent meat.

Q2. How long should I marinate the duck?

For optimal flavor infusion and succulence, marinate the duck for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. This extended marinating time allows the marinade’s aromatic components, including maltose or honey, Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and salt, to penetrate the meat fully. As the flavors meld and develop during the marinating process, the resulting Peking Duck will showcase a harmonious blend of taste and texture.

Q3. Can I skip the air drying step?

While the air drying step is essential for achieving the desired crispy skin in Peking Duck, it is recommended not to skip this crucial process. Air drying allows moisture to evaporate from the duck’s skin, resulting in a crispy and golden texture during roasting. Skipping air drying may lead to less crispy skin and a different texture.

Q4. Do I have to baste the duck during roasting?

Yes, basting the duck during roasting is recommended for several reasons. Basting involves periodically brushing the duck with its rendered fat or marinade while it cooks. This process helps to enhance the flavor of the duck by infusing it with the aromatic marinade and promoting even browning. Additionally, basting helps to keep the meat moist and tender, especially as the fat renders out from under the skin. The result is a more flavorful and succulent Peking Duck with a beautifully golden and crispy skin. Regular basting, typically every 15-20 minutes, contributes to achieving the desired taste and texture of this iconic dish.

Q5. Can I roast the duck on a grill or open flame?

While the traditional method of roasting Peking Duck involves using an oven, it is possible to adapt the cooking process to a grill or open flame. However, roasting on a grill or open flame may require different techniques and monitoring to achieve the desired results. Directly grilling the duck over medium heat, turning it periodically, and using a drip pan to catch rendered fat can mimic the roasting process. Ensure the duck is securely placed on the grill and use a thermometer to monitor its internal temperature. While unconventional, grilling or open flame roasting can infuse unique smoky flavors into the dish, offering a creative twist on a classic delicacy.

Q6. What if I overcook the duck?

If you accidentally overcook the Peking Duck, the skin may become overly crispy and the meat may become drier than desired. While the texture of the skin might not be ideal, the meat can still be enjoyed. To salvage the dish, consider using the slightly drier meat in flavorful stir-fries, soups, or noodle dishes where it can absorb and complement other ingredients. Alternatively, slice the meat thinly and serve it with sauces or dips to add moisture and flavor. While achieving the perfect balance of texture is ideal, creativity in repurposing overcooked duck can still lead to delicious culinary outcomes.

Q7. Can I use other sauces besides hoisin sauce?

Absolutely, while hoisin sauce is a traditional condiment for Peking Duck, you can certainly experiment with other sauces to personalize your culinary creation. Consider exploring options like plum sauce, sweet chili sauce, or even fruit-based chutneys for a unique twist. These alternatives can add a different layer of sweetness, tanginess, or spiciness to complement the duck’s rich flavors. Just ensure that the chosen sauce harmonizes well with the crispy skin and succulent meat, enhancing the overall dining experience. Ultimately, the choice of sauce allows you to infuse your Peking Duck with your own creative flair, making it a reflection of your culinary preferences.

Q8. Can I use different accompaniments?

Absolutely, you can experiment with a variety of accompaniments to complement your Peking Duck and tailor the flavors to your preferences. While traditional accompaniments include sliced scallions and cucumber, you have the creative freedom to introduce other elements. Consider adding a touch of freshness with thinly sliced radishes, julienned carrots, or vibrant microgreens. You could also play with contrasting textures and flavors by incorporating pickled vegetables, fresh herbs like cilantro or mint, or even a drizzle of citrus-infused dressing. The goal is to create a harmonious balance that enhances the overall dining experience and adds your unique touch to this classic dish.

Q9. How should I store leftover Peking Duck?

To store leftover Peking Duck, ensure it’s properly cooled to room temperature before refrigerating. Wrap the duck slices tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container to prevent moisture and odors from affecting the flavor. Store the wrapped or containerized duck in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. When reheating, place the slices on a baking sheet and warm them in a preheated oven at a low temperature to maintain their crispy skin. Avoid microwaving, as it can soften the skin. Enjoy the reheated Peking Duck in various dishes, like fried rice or noodle soups, to savor its delectable flavors.

Q10. Can I make Peking Duck without a whole duck?

Yes, you can make Peking Duck without a whole duck by using duck breasts or legs. While the traditional method involves roasting a whole duck, adapting the recipe allows you to create a smaller portion of this iconic dish. Adjust the cooking times accordingly, as duck breasts or legs will cook faster than a whole duck. Keep in mind that using individual cuts may result in slightly different textures and flavors, but you can still capture the essence of Peking Duck’s crispy skin and succulent meat.


Peking Duck transcends its culinary essence to become a cultural symbol and an exquisite culinary experience. This guide has unveiled the artistry and science behind its creation, inviting enthusiasts to embark on a journey of flavors, textures, and techniques. As you master the art of crafting Peking Duck, you not only indulge in its sumptuous delights but also pay homage to a dish that has graced the tables of emperors and continues to captivate hearts and palates across the globe.



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