Hunt, Then Gather

How to Make Peking Duck

Virginia chef Wade Truong shares his recipe for a tradition-worthy holiday centerpiece

Photo: Johnny autry | Food Styling by Charlotte Autry

When he’s not manning the pass at Kybecca, a New American bistro in Fredericksburg, Virginia, chef Wade Truong can most likely be found fishing on the Eastern Shore or waterfowling in the Northern Neck. The son of Vietnamese immigrants, Truong didn’t grow up hunting; it’s a skill he acquired as an adult—and he wants others to do the same. “It’s become a really important part of my life,” he says, “and I’m working to get more people involved—they need to be able to see themselves in it.”

Of all the sporting pursuits he’s tried, duck hunting has become his favorite. “You have so much sweat equity invested just getting to the location,” he says. “Then, you’re calling to the birds, you’re tricking them. And it’s not like this thing slowly wanders in—it flies in at twenty-five miles per hour. The variables change every minute and every day, so there’s no formula. You’re always tinkering with it, kind of like a recipe.”

Truong’s Peking duck is a recipe he’s spent years fine-tuning. He uses mallard, gadwalls, canvasbacks, even geese, especially if he’s feeding a crowd. (“Goose is more finicky because the leg meat doesn’t cook up quite as tender,” he says.) But the recipe will work just fine on bigger, fattier store-bought ducks, too. Skin so crisp it cracks into shards is the hallmark of the traditional Chinese dish, and Truong achieves it by pumping air between the bird’s flesh and its skin with an air compressor or a bicycle pump. “You need some airflow under the skin so it can dry out on both sides—that’s what gives you all the crunch,” he says. (You can also carefully run a finger beneath the skin to separate it from the flesh, though the result might not be quite as authentic.)

One technique you shouldn’t skimp on is brushing the bird with maltose syrup, an ingredient worth seeking out from a specialty grocer or an Asian market. “It’s essentially a really thick corn-syrup-like substance, but not nearly as sweet,” Truong explains. “It helps give the skin that crispy golden amber hue.”


  • Yield: 2-4 servings

    • 1 whole 3- to-5-lb. duck

    • ½ cup hoisin sauce

    • 2 tbsp. five-spice powder

    • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

    • 4 chile peppers (jalapeño, cayenne, serrano, etc.) or

    • 2 tbsp. dried pepper flakes

    • 2 tbsp. grated ginger

    • 1 tbsp. salt

    • ½ cup maltose syrup

    • 2 tbsp. soy sauce

    • Canola oil, for basting

    • Special equipment: probe thermometer, air compressor


  1. Make sure the duck is cleanly plucked, remove innards (discard or reserve for other use, such as stock or pâté), rinse thoroughly with cold water, and pat dry. Separate the skin from the flesh to allow the skin to dry. The best method is to use an air compressor and pump air under the skin at the neck, wings, legs, and breast in short bursts. (“The skin will separate, and the bird will puff up like a beach ball,” Truong says.) If you don’t have an air compressor, carefully work your fingers or a wooden spoon under the skin.

  2. Prepare the spice rub by mixing hoisin sauce, five-spice powder, garlic, peppers, ginger, and salt in a food processor until finely blended. Stuff mixture into the cavity, making sure all the insides are coated. Use a wooden skewer to stitch the cavity closed.

  3. Place the duck on a wire rack over a sink. Bring a teakettle with water to a rapid simmer and slowly pour a trickle of hot water over the bird. (This helps make the skin taut.)

  4. Microwave maltose syrup for 45 seconds or until soft enough to pour. Stir with soy sauce and whisk until combined. Using a pastry brush, glaze the entire bird in an even layer of the syrup mixture, reheating the mixture as needed.

  5. Place the bird in the refrigerator on a wire rack, overnight or for up to 5 days.

  6. As an optional step before roasting, you can cold-smoke the bird for 30 minutes over applewood with the heat element turned off. (The goal is to impart smoky notes, not to cook the bird.)

  7. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  8. Transfer bird to a roasting pan and loosely cover with foil to prevent overbrowning. Roast for 20–30 minutes or until fat begins to render. Remove from oven, remove skewer from cavity, and hang the bird by the neck or prop it for 10 minutes to allow fat to drain. (“I hang the bird from a cabinet handle with butcher’s twine,” Truong says.) Wipe the pan clean, and then return the bird to the oven for 20–30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 131°F–140°F (131°F yields medium-rare). Remove from oven and hang or prop again for 10 minutes to drain.

  9. To baste, pour 1–2 inches of canola oil into a wide, steep-sided sauté pan and heat over medium-high to 350°F. Working very carefully, baste the skin with hot oil, holding the bird by the neck over the pan, or baste the bird on the roasting rack.

  10. Carve and serve with Mandarin pancakes, ginger scallion sauce, and hot sauce.