Notably, Beijing duck made its way to Europe and the United States over a century ago and garnered significant attention. As a result, Beijing duck, as a high-quality breed, has a long-standing reputation as a prestigious source for duck worldwide.
In Beijing, there are numerous roast duck restaurants, but they mainly employ two cooking methods: hanging roast and stewing roast, each producing ducks with distinct flavors.
Hanging roast, exemplified by the renowned “Quanjude,” is responsible for establishing the iconic image of Beijing duck. The founder, Yang Quanren, initially ran a small poultry business and gradually amassed capital to open the Quanjude roast duck restaurant. He hired a roast duck master who had previously worked in the imperial palace’s kitchen, employing the “hanging-roast” technique used by the palace to create a refined roast duck that became popular among the public.
According to Quanjude, the hanging-roast method involves an open oven without a door, fueled by fruitwoods like jujube and pear. These fruitwoods burn with minimal smoke, maintain a strong bottom fire, and have a long burning time. The ducks also require special preparation; they are not opened but instead have a small hole made in their bodies to remove the internal organs. Then, they are filled with boiling water before the hole is sealed, and they are hung over the fire. This method prevents the duck from losing moisture during roasting and helps the skin to puff up without becoming too soft. Inside and out, the roasted duck appears full and has a beautiful date-red color, a crispy skin, a tender interior, and a subtle fruitwood fragrance. The thin, crispy skin is considered the most delicious part of the roast duck. Strictly speaking, this is the authentic Beijing duck preparation.
Another method for preparing Peking duck is the “stewing roast,” with “Bianyifang” being a notable representative. Although not as well-known as Quanjude, Bianyifang has a longer history, dating back nearly 600 years. In comparison to the hanging-roast method, stewing-roast Peking duck doesn’t appear as memorable in people’s minds, and there are even partial judgments suggesting that its skin isn’t as crispy. However, with almost 600 years of history, the renowned Bianyifang has been recognized as a “national intangible cultural heritage” for its stewing-roast Peking duck technique, proving that it’s worthy of being called Peking duck despite its unique preparation style.