Fragrant Tea-Smoked Duck


Sublime Smoke

Published by Harvard Common Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

One of the triumphs of Chinese cookery, tea-smoked duck is traditionally prepared in a large sealed wok. A contemporary smoker works even better.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodsmoking, steaming


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentsmoker, steamer


Taste and Texturefruity, meaty, savory, smoky, spiced, sweet, umami


  • Two 4-pound to 4½-pound whole ducks
  • ¼ cup crushed brown Sichuan peppercorns
  • ¼ cup minced fresh ginger
  • Dried, minced zest of 2 oranges
  • 1½ tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1¼ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons black or oolong tea leaves
  • 12 cups water
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks
  • Peel of 1 orange, in large sections
  • 1 tablespoon whole Sichuan brown peppercorns


  1. At least 10 hours and up to 24 hours before you plan to smoke the ducks, combine the paste ingredients with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor.

  2. Rub the ducks generously with the paste inside and out, and over and under the skin, being careful to avoid tearing it. Place the ducks in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

  3. About 2 hours before you plan to smoke the ducks, remove them from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  4. Prepare the tea for steaming the ducks, placing the tea leaves in a large bowl. In a large pan, bring the water to a boil, and pour it over the tea leaves. Let the mixture steep 10 minutes. Pour the tea through a strainer into a large saucepan.

  5. Place the leftover tea leaves in a pie pan or other smokeproof dish and add the cinnamon, orange peel, and peppercorns. Reserve the tea leaf mixture.

  6. Arrange a bamboo steamer over the saucepan of tea and place the ducks in the steamer. (If one steamer isn’t large enough for two ducks, make a double batch of tea and use two saucepans and steamers.) Steam the ducks over medium-high heat for 1 1/2 hours. Discard the greasy steaming liquid.

  7. Bring your smoker to its appropriate cooking temperature.

  8. If your smoker has dual grates, place the pan of tea leaves and spices on the lower one and transfer the ducks to the upper grate. If your smoker has a single grate, arrange the pan and the ducks alongside each other, with the pan closer to the heat source. Cook the ducks until they darken to a deep mahogany and their leg joints move easily, about 3¾ to 4¼ hours at a temperature of 225° F to 250° F.

  9. Serve the ducks hot or chilled.


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