Simmered Duck

It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked a duck, but inspired by the recent acquisition of a pastured one from our lovely local farmers at Back Forty Acres, we’re back on track. The beauty of a pastured bird is that it is much leaner than the conventionally farmed version, and the flavor – well, there’s just no comparison!

One of our favorite duck preparations is a dish in which the duck is simmered whole in a spiced liquid, then served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. In China, it would usually be chopped, bones and all, into bite-size pieces with a huge cleaver: you eat the pieces, spitting out the bones as you go. If that is unappealing or you don’t own a cleaver (or your kids refuse to eat it that way!) you can carve it much as you would a roast chicken or turkey, slicing the breast, removing the wings, and leaving the drumsticks and thighs intact or cutting the meat off the bone.

Eileen Yin-fei Lo has a detailed description of how the spiced liquid was made (and kept for years) in her grandmother’s kitchen, but it is possible to simplify the process and make the liquid for a single use if you don’t have the time or energy to keep it safe for that long! We also prefer a “white-simmered” version (which doesn’t contain soy sauce) to her “red-simmered” one.

Whole star anise and anise seed are generally available in the spice section of most grocery stores.


  • 1 duck, 4-6 lb
  • 2 T Chinese cooking wine or sherry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 stalks scallion, cut into 1″ sections
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 3 pieces star anise or 1 tsp anise seed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan or other peppercorns – the black/white/green/red mix is nice here
  • zest from 1/2 an orange
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves


  1. Rinse the duck with cool water, then pat dry. Rub it inside and out with the cooking wine, then with the salt, and let it stand 1 h in the refrigerator.
  2. Place the scallions and ginger inside the duck cavity, then put the duck in a large pot.
  3. Add  the remaining ingredients and enough water to cover the duck.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, immediately reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for 1.5 – 2 h.
  5. Let the duck cool in the sauce just until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut it into bite-size pieces with a cleaver or carve it as you wish. It can be served as is, or with a garnish of fresh scallions.


  • The cooking liquid can be reduced over medium high heat until it’s a sauce consistency, then drizzled over the duck meat.
  • If you prefer the duck at room temperature, remove the bird from the liquid and let it cool up to 30 m before slicing.

do ahead:

  • Cool the duck in the liquid in an ice-water bath in the sink, then refrigerate it in the liquid if you prefer to serve it chilled.
  • The duck can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and chilled in this fashion. You can either serve it cold or remove it from the liquid and let it come to room temperature (about 30 m) before serving.

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