Crispy Skin Duck III: steam/roasting with a pressure cooker

24 04 2010

Today brings us a new tech for crispy duck skin. We’re going to pressure cook the duck partially and finish with roasting. This is a variant of the steam/roast method that gets a lot of airplay with the advantage that pressure cooking is faster, more convenient, and might be more effective at melting fat.

The idea behind steam roasting is that the wet steam effectively melts the fat better than dry heat in the oven. Roasting a fat-reduced bird should then produce a crisp skin. Deep frying is also an option here, but we went with roasting.

We began with the usual: separate the skin from the meat with a bicycle pump. We’re getting a lot better at this and it only takes a couple minutes now. Then, we dried the bird on a vertical roaster, uncovered, and with good air flow in the fridge for about 24 hours. Here it is afterward. The skin is often described as “like parchment” and you can see the light, dry texture.

The skin under the wings doesn’t dry well, so here you can see the contrast between dried and non-dried skin. The skin is originally thick, white, and moist. The dry skin is darker, thinner, and smooth.

We seasoned the inside of the duck before steaming with a half teaspoon of salt. Salting is pretty essential here and you need to do it before cooking or it won’t permeate the meat as well. We also slashed the skin to let the fat drain more effectively.

We pressure cooked the duck for 15 min at 15 PSI (2nd ring) in our pressure cooker. We reasoned that the fat seems to melt well at 250, which is about the temperature inside the pressure cooker at 15 PSI, and that the moist steam would help it render. We placed him on top of the steaming plate with a half cup of water. When he came out, he was glistening with fat droplets. We got about 3/4 c. of fat that had rendered into the water.

After we steamed him, we poured the light glaze (2T honey in 1c. water) over him and then let him dry in the fridge for 6 hours or so.

Roasting was at 350 for about 30 min. The skin was a bit uneven here, but much was a nice color.

Flavor was excellent — this duck really doesn’t need much but a little salt. The overall fat content was still pretty rich and only just lighter than drying and roasting alone. The meat was juicy, firm, and tender — just what we want. So, so far, not a major advance with the pressure cooker, but a very nice duck. We served him with a carrot & lemon vinaigrette salad and sauteed spinach with almonds.