Authentic Cantonese Roast Duck

Classic Cantonese roast duck

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  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This authentic recipe for Cantonese roast duck will make the shiny, reddish-brown-skinned poultry seen hanging in the windows of many Asian markets. 

It has crackling-crisp skin that comes from air drying the duck (which will take at least four hours) prior to roasting it, so plan accordingly. The moist and juicy meat comes from the marinade poured into the cavity and sewn in so it doesn't leak out during cooking.

At first blush, the whole process might seem intimidating but 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. The whole process can be accomplished in one day.


  • 1 (4 1/2-pound) duckling (oven-ready)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • For the Marinade
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon green onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • 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
  • 4 tablespoons ​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. Clean the duck well. Remove the wing tips and the lumps of fat from inside the cavity.  Pat dry with paper towels.

  2. Rub salt over the entire duck and place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Make the Marinade

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

  2. Add the superfine sugar, Chinese rice wine, yellow bean sauce, hoisin sauce, and five-spice powder, stirring well, and bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.  

Blanch the Duck

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

  2. Pour the cooled marinade into the cavity of the duck and sew it up securely.

  3. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and place the duck inside, holding it by the legs. Using a ladle, pour the boiling water over any exposed portions of duck until the skin has contracted. This will only take a few minutes.

  4. Remove and dry well.

Air Dry

  1. Place a pan under the duck to catch any drips and hang it head-down on an S-shaped hook.

  2. Dry in an airy and cool place for at least 4 to 5 hours.

Make the Glaze

  1. In a small bowl or saucepan, dissolve the maltose or honey, optional red food coloring, and rice vinegar in warm water.

  2. Brush it all over the air-dried duck, and repeat two more times.

Roast the Duck 

  1. Heat the oven to 400 F/200 C/Gas 6.

  2. Hang the duck head down from the top rack, and place a tray of boiling water at the bottom of the oven.

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

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

  5. The duck is done when an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 F/80 C. 

Serve the Duck

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

  2. Place 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 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.


  • This recipe will take the whole day, so we recommend that you read through the recipe thoroughly first, and then plan accordingly.

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