Chinese Duck Legs

4.75 from 8 votes
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Chinese duck legs on the plate
Photo by Hank Shaw

If you’re looking for one go-to duck legs recipe, this one should definitely be in the running. It’s like Chinese char siu barbecue, only the duck legs — or goose legs, in the picture above — are braised in the BBQ sauce, basted all the way until near the end, when the skin gets crispy.

These are crazy good, and stupid easy to make. Hell, you can even buy Chinese char siu sauce, but I am going to tell you how to make it from scratch.

Any store-bought duck leg will work with this recipe, but as a hunter, I typically go one size up and use legs from geese; these are specklebelly goose legs in the picture. Skin-on Canada goose legs are just as good, if not better, and there is no reason you can make this a snow goose recipe — if you keep the skin on their legs.

And yes, you can certainly use wild duck, too, but I’d wait until you had legs from fat mallards, pintails or canvasbacks to do it.

If you are worried that your duck legs or goose legs will be full of tendons like, say, a wild turkey leg, don’t be: Waterfowl don’t run around for a living, so they don’t develop those nasty tendons.

That said, waterfowl, especially Canada geese, live a long time, so need to be braised until tender. That’s where this cooking technique comes in. If you are making this recipe with store-bought duck legs, you can actually skip the braising step and simply roast your legs in this sauce. But that rarely works with wild waterfowl.

For wild ducks and geese, you thin the Chinese barbecue sauce with water, and use that to braise the meat, leaving the skin above the level of the liquid. This keeps the meat moist and, ultimately, tender, and helps render out fat underneath the skin and crisps it up. It’s a perfect technique.

Serve these duck legs as an appetizer, or alongside other Chinese dishes. You eat them with your fingers, so it’s best as a messy first course or something.

Chinese duck legs on the plate
4.75 from 8 votes

Chinese Duck Legs

This is a sort of hybrid barbecue and braise, great for farmed duck legs or wild goose legs. I like to use Canada goose or specklebelly goose legs. As you braise the legs, the thinned-out BBQ sauce reduces to its proper consistency. Any left is good on other meats. Most of the ingredients are easy to find in most supermarkets; if you can't find the chile bean paste, leave it out. 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients 

SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot chile bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

DUCK

  • 8 to 12 store-bought duck or wild goose legs, about 4 pounds

Instructions 

  • To make the sauce, put everything in a blender and puree. Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Do not clean the blender bowl just yet. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  • Find a shallow, ovenproof dish that can just about hold all the duck legs. Coat the duck legs in the sauce and set them in the dish skin side up. 
  • Add just enough water to catch the remaining BBQ sauce in the blender bowl and in the bowl you coated the duck legs in. Pour this flavorful water into the dish with the duck legs, up to the level of the skin. Do not submerge the legs, and if you need more water, add it. 
  • Set the dish in the oven and cook the duck legs, uncovered, until tender, which can take anywhere from about 90 minutes for store-bought ducks to 3 hours for old Canada geese. Baste the duck legs with the sauce every 30 minutes or so. 
  • When you have about 30 minutes to go, stop basting the legs and increase the temperature in the oven to 400F. Let the legs cook for a final 20 to 30 minutes, keeping an eye on them so the skin doesn't burn. Serve at once with lots of napkins. 

Nutrition

Calories: 869kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 95g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 394mg | Sodium: 1331mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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9 Comments

  1. I have some confit legs in the freezer, thinking of this:

    Thaw the legs, bring up to 125F or so in smoker, then finish in oven w sauce.

    Would this work or do I risk drying out the legs?

  2. Would this work for only 2 duck legs? I have a 2-pack in my freezer from a local duck farm, I got them awhile ago and haven’t cooked duck legs before so looking for something easy & foolproof. Would you bother if you only had 2 and would you skip the braising?

  3. Please. Just try it. That first bite where you crunch through the crispy charred skin, into the creamy fat and tender meat, and it sticks to the roof of your mouth with the light sweetness of the char siu sauce mingling with the savory meat, that is when you will know the hours were more than worth your time. I need to try more duck recipes and I can’t because Im so hung up on this one. One of the top 5 dishes I have ever eaten in my life.

  4. I”ve made this recipe several times, including most recently with a whole domestic duck. Parted it out, cut the breasts in 3rds. I also make double the sauce and use half as a marinade for a couple hours, if I’m using wild duck or goose legs.

    I’ve had great results using a dutch oven inside the oven, with a little rack inside to lift the pieces 1/2″ off the bottom. DO lids usually are self-basting, as they drip the condensation back onto the duck. I cook 90 minutes, lid on, then take the lid off, baste well once, and turn up the heat for the last 30 minutes. Works perfectly!

  5. Quite possibly the best waterfowl recipe on HAGC. We don’t make goose legs any other way. If I could give it 10 stars, I would. Thanks fratello!

  6. Hi Hank,

    I’ve made this a bunch of times, usually with skin-on Canada goose legs, but sometimes with skinned legs. I was never quite as happy with the skinned legs, so I wanted to try something a little different.

    I didn’t change the recipe at all, but instead of using the oven, I put them in the Instant Pot under high pressure for 45 minutes. After removing the legs, I reduced and thickened the sauce because it was a little watery without 3 hours of evaporation in the oven to thicken it. They weren’t quite as good as skin-on legs, lacking the crispy skin, but they were very close. If anyone else has skinned legs and a pressure cooker, this may be an option for them.

    Thanks for the recipes and inspiration!

  7. Like a complete moron, I skinned my Canada goose legs. Will this recipe still work? If not any advice on how to cook them?

    1. PA: It’ll work, but you will want to turn the legs every 30 minutes or so so the top doesn’t dry out.