Let Peking Duck Symbolize Everlasting Love on Your Wedding Menu

Savor something traditional and timeless.
Peking duck
Photo: Natalia Lisovskaya | Shutterstock
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Nov 10, 2023

Who knew one bird could have so much history and meaning? The Peking duck is a yummy, savory dish served at gatherings with loved ones. It's a meal that has been in the culinary world since the 13th century and shows no signs of going away any time soon. Whether you have Chinese roots or want to honor cultural traditions from around the world, Peking duck might be what you need on your wedding menu. Learn why Peking duck is at just about every Chinese wedding, its pronunciation, origin, cost and what to serve with it on your special day. And if you're ambitious in the kitchen, try out our Peking duck recipe below for an appetizing meal you won't forget.

In this article:

What Is Peking Duck? | Cost | History | How to Find Peking Duck Near You | Recipe | How to Incorporate Peking Duck into Your Day

What Is Peking Duck?

"Peking duck is roasted in an oven to accomplish the lacquered crispy skin. The duck is sliced by a skilled chef who will attach a piece of the crispy skin with every slice of duck meat. Then the chef will plate a beautiful fan of the meat with condiments and pancakes for your enjoyment," Xin Huang, wedding planning expert and Founder of Le Petite Privé, explains.

Peking Duck Pronunciation

Don't know how to pronounce Peking duck? It's easier than you think. Before you go to your favorite Chinese restaurant to order this celebratory dish, make sure you pronounce it as [Pee-king duhk].

Peking Duck Cost

Depending on where you're buying the fare and its size, typically, Peking duck's price ranges from $30 to $100. Another impacting factor is the number of pounds of the duck. One five to six-pound Peking duck serves about four to six people, so consider how many servings you'll need for your wedding. Contact your desired Chinese caterer and let them know how many roasted ducks you want (and if you want the traditional sides) so you can receive an accurate estimate for your wedding.

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Peking Duck History

"After the 14th century, Peking duck was brought into the imperial palace. Since then, there have been slight variations on the ovens they're roasted in, but the traditions of preparations and recipes are still very similar to when they first served it in the 13th century," Huang notes. To expand on these oven changes, we turned to National Geographic. Evidently, Peking duck was originally roasted over an open fire, but when cooked in Nanjing, it was in a menlu (or enclosed oven) so the duck didn't have to be roasted one piece at a time. During the Qing dynasty, Chinese chefs transitioned to a gualu (or hanging oven), which allowed the whole bird to be cooked at once. Many say the gualu is the best preparation method, which is why it's still popular today.

Peking Duck Origin

Huang tells us more about the origin of Peking duck. "Peking duck is a decadent dish that originated in the 13th century. That's over 1500 years of deliciousness. It was originally served out of a food cart." According to National Geographic, the delicacy was created in Hangzhou and was originally named "'Jinling roast duck' (Jinling being an archaic name for Nanjing)." The dish is called Peking duck because it was named after Beijing, the new capital city after Nanjing, and Peking is an old spelling of Beijing.

Peking Duck Tradition

But you might be wondering why Peking duck is at Chinese weddings. Huang explains, "Ducks are a common symbol of fidelity in Chinese culture since many ducks mate for life. Peking duck is also served whole to represent peace and completeness within the marriage." When it's time to provide portions for you and your guests, a professional chef uses a special knife called a pianya dao to crave the duck.

How to Find Peking Duck Near You

Huang believes one of the best ways to enjoy Peking duck is in a restaurant so you can get guaranteed crispy skin. Some of her top recommendations are Hutong, Mott 32 and Da Dong. For those who want Peking duck catered for their special day, use The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find the best Chinese restaurants in your area.

Peking Duck Recipe

The Peking duck takes some prep, but we've never seen anyone say it isn't worth it. Below are steps for how to cook the dish and everything you need to make it. The recipe serves six people and takes almost two hours to complete (and 24 hours to prep).

Peking Duck Ingredients

For the duck:

  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp of maltose
  • 2 tbsp of salt
  • 1 duck, about five pounds
  • 1 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1 tsp of Chinese five-spice powder

For the sauce:

  • 3 to 6 tbsp of sweet bean sauce (Tian Mian Jiang)
  • 2 tsp of sesame oil

For the sides:

  • 10 Peking duck pancakes
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks

How to Make Peking Duck

Make a Peking duck fit for a king (and your loved ones) with this helpful recipe.

  1. Pat the duck dry with a paper towel and rub the salt over the skin and in the duck cavity. Allow the duck to rest for at least one hour.
  2. Boil the water and slowly pour it on every side of the duck skin. Then, leave it on a wire rack with a tray underneath in the sink.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the maltose, white vinegar and two tablespoons of hot water. Rub one tablespoon of the mixture and the Chinese five-spice power into the duck cavity. With the remaining glaze, brush it onto the duck skin. Ensure it's an even layer and wait 30 minutes before brushing again. Then, place the duck in the fridge, uncovered, on a wire rack over a tray for at least 24 hours (at most two days).
  4. Now it's time to roast the duck. Use soaked toothpicks to seal the openings in the duck. Use aluminum foil to wrap the tips of the wings and legs to avoid burning. Heat (a conventional) oven to 450°F and put the duck on a roasting rack (breast side up) over a roasting pan. Add about 1 1/2 cups of water to the pan to prevent drippings from splattering in the oven. Roast the duck for 15 minutes, then decrease the oven's temperature to 350°F and continue cooking for one hour (until the thickest part of the thighs are 165°F).
  5. Take the duck out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. While the duck is resting, mix 1/2 tablespoon of duck drippings from the roasting rack, the sweet bean sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.
  6. Move the duck to the cutting board and use your sharpest knife to carve the duck (don't forget the skin). Warm up the Peking duck pancakes. Okay, here's how to assemble the final product. Add at least one teaspoon of sauce (we've heard it's tradition to add the sauce first), scallions, cucumbers duck meat and crispy skin into a pancake, the open wide and enjoy!

How to Incorporate Peking Duck into Your Day

At this point, it's no surprise you want to add Peking duck to your wedding menu. Whether you want to serve it the traditional way, whole then craved at the reception, or as finger food during the cocktail hour, here's exactly what to serve with Peking duck to ensure it's authentic and tasty. "[Add] leeks put into bunches, and cucumbers sliced into shreds. The sauce is called Tian Mian Jiang, a sweet bean sauce. Place all the ingredients into a pancake, drizzle the Tian Mian Jiang on top and wrap it up like a mini burrito," Huang tells us. We've also seen people dip the duck skin into sugar, so consider adding small bowls of some at the table. And for a little bite, don't be afraid to offer pickled vegetables.

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