The executive chef of dine by Peter Gordon at SkyCity answers your cuisine questions.

Hello Peter. I am making crispy duck and I want to know if I can put it in the pressure cooker for an hour first in order to get the duck fat out the day before. Then I would strain the liquid, let it set overnight and skim the fat off in the morning. Then I would use the fat to crisp it in the oven the next day. Would this work do you think?

- Regards, Lyn Kawan

Goodness - I have no idea at all whether your proposed method of cooking in a pressure cooker will give any benefit at all towards crisping up your duck. Pressure cookers are great in speeding up the cooking process so I worry you may end up with an overcooked steamed bird instead. That's if you can get the duck in your pressure cooker in the first place as they're fairly large, although not very meaty - a 1.5kg to 2kg bird will really just feed two to three people.

There is only one type of duck commercially grown here: the white walking duck known as the Pekin. Because of New Zealand's strict biosecurity laws no fresh or frozen duck may be imported; the only imports allowed are shelf-stable cooked products in cans. Pekin are the variety Chinese restaurants use for Peking duck where crispy skin is the all important feature of the dish, rather than lots of plump meat. And I'm assuming you're wanting to make this - or at least get that level of crispness.

When I started my cooking apprenticeship in Melbourne in 1981 I was amazed watching the Chinese head chef at Mietta's tie the necks and body cavities of the ducks tightly and then blow them up with a bicycle pump. It was odd on many levels, seeing as how the place was one of Australia's most lauded Italian restaurants (yet he was Chinese) but also because it seemed so bizarre that a bicycle pump was being used to prep meat. I found out that the key to crisp skin is to have the skin very dry before roasting it (hence I'm not sure your pressure cooker will help). Better still, separating the skin from the flesh (by blowing air between them to separate them) allows for an even crisper result.


I'd suggest you do the following - but by all means let us all know if the pressure cooker works well too because I'm always happy to hear of a new technique.

Rub the inside cavities of a 2kg duckling with a few teaspoons of dried ginger, five spice powder (or star anise) and caster sugar. Secure the opening with either darning twine or a few skewers, then plunge into boiling water. You need to submerge it in the boiling water for a few minutes to make the skin contract, so hold it down with tongs or a spider making sure you don't tear the skin. Take from the liquid and then hang from some twine or a metal coathanger over a bowl. Throw the water away and make a solution of 1 litre boiling water, 160ml maltose syrup and 160ml red rice vinegar (both from Chinese supermarkets). Ladle this over the duck repeatedly over the next hour, allowing it to drip into the bowl beneath and then reusing it. By this point you might be wondering how to set this up - a clothes rack and lots of newspaper works a treat, though is a little messy.

Leave the duck to dry out now, keep it suspended over a bowl to catch the juices. It must be in a draughty place and somewhere cool - you do not want to leave the raw blanched duck in a warm humid place because it won't be worth eating. Leave for six hours at which point the skin will be dry.

Roast on a trivet at 225C for up to an hour and the skin will be crisp and delicious.

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