Authentic Cantonese Roast Duck

Classic Cantonese roast duck

Jen Voo Photography / Moment / Getty Images

  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Air-Dry: 6 hrs
  • Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
90 Calories
3g Fat
15g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 90
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 855mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 102mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This authentic recipe for Cantonese roast duck yields the shiny, reddish-brown-skinned poultry seen hanging in the windows of many Asian markets. Not to be confused with Peking duck, which is traditionally sliced and served with Mandarin pancakes, Cantonese duck is usually served whole, as you'd serve a roasted chicken, and is famous for its tasty meat and bones. Cantonese ducks are stuffed with aromatics and marinades, thus the succulent and flavorful meat.

Cantonese roast duck takes a few hours to prep and roast but can be done in a day, so plan accordingly. The crackling crisp skin comes from air-drying the duck prior to roasting. The moist and juicy meat comes from the marinade that is poured into the cavity and sewn in with a needle and string to prevent leakage.

This recipe uses yellow bean sauce, a savory fermented preparation made out of yellow soybeans, which is available at online retailers or specialized Asian markets. Make sure to clear a large space in the fridge as the air-drying requires the duck to be refrigerated for four hours. Although the recipe might seem intimidating at first, when broken down into steps, it's a simple process. Once the duck has been air-dried, it takes less than one hour to roast.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 1/2-pound) duckling (oven-ready)

  • 2 teaspoons salt

For the Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)

  • 1 tablespoon yellow bean sauce

  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder

For the Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup maltose syrup (or honey)

  • Optional:

    1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 1 cup warm water

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this roast duck is broken down into workable categories to better help you plan for cooking.

Prepare the Duck

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Clean the duck well. Remove the wing tips and the lumps of fat from inside the cavity. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels.

  3. Rub salt over the entire duck and place it on a ceramic plate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Make the Marinade

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the green onion, ginger root, and garlic and sauté until fragrant.

  3. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients, stirring well, and bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce the heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

Prepare and Blanch the Duck

  1. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.

  2. Remove the duck from the refrigerator and tightly tie the neck with kitchen string

  3. Pour the cooled marinade into the cavity of the duck.

  4. Using a heavy needle and kitchen or butcher's twine, sew closed the cavity securely.

  5. Carefully place the duck in the boiling water, holding it by the legs. If needed, use a ladle to pour boiling water over any exposed portions of duck until the skin has contracted.

  6. Remove once all of the skin has tightened up (this will only take a few minutes) and dry well.

Air-Dry the Duck

  1. Place a pan under the duck to catch any drips and hang it head-down with a heavy-duty S-shaped hook. If you don't have hooks, make an S shape with a clean wire clothes hanger. Alternatively, place the duck on a rack and the rack on a plate to catch any drippings. Place in the fridge.

  2. Let dry for least 4 to 5 hours.

Make the Glaze

  1. Gather the ingrdients.

  2. In a small bowl or saucepan, dissolve the maltose or honey, red food coloring (if using), and rice vinegar in warm water.

  3. Brush it all over the air-dried duck. Repeat the brushing two more times.

Roast the Duck 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C/Gas Mark 6. Place a tray of boiling water at the bottom of the oven. If you have the attachments, hang the duck head-down from the top rack. If not, place it on a rack and the rack on a baking sheet.

  2. Roast for 25 minutes, basting with the remaining glaze mixture.

  3. Reduce the heat to 350 F/180 C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for 30 minutes more, basting with the remaining glaze mixture.

  4. The duck is done when an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh (away from the bone) reads 175 F/80 C

Serve the Duck

  1. Remove the duck from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

  2. Place the duck in a clean pan with a lip and snip the string, letting the juices drain into the pan. 

  3. Place the duck on a cutting board and cut it into serving-size pieces.

  4. If desired, transfer the juices to a small saucepan, skim off the fat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 2 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Serve in a gravy boat alongside the duck.

  5. Enjoy.

Is Duck White or Red Meat?

Duck is scientifically considered white meat, but because of its levels of myoglobin, the heme iron protein that gives meat its color, in culinary traditions and standards it is referred to as red meat because of its darker, reddish-brown color.


Duck is a fatty meat, high in iron compared to other poultry, and a great source of selenium and zinc.

How to Store and Reheat Roast Duck

  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Before reheating, allow the duck to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Reheat the leftovers in a 300 F oven for 20 minutes and then at 325 F for an extra 10 minutes to crisp up the skin, if any, and reheat thoroughly.
  • To freeze the duck, remove all of the bones, place portions in zip-top bags, and freeze for up to four months. Before reheating, thaw the duck overnight in the fridge, then let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, "Duck, domesticated, meat and skin, raw." 1 April, 2019.