These hoisin-glazed duck shanks are marinated in a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine, then grilled until tender and glazed with honey.
When I first saw the words duck and shank together I thought it must be a mistake, or a joke. After all, isn’t a shank part of the leg of a four-legged creature? I was thinking lamb. But, no. A shank is the part of the leg of any vertebrate. Anyway, lucky for me I live but 20 minutes from Australia’s largest free-range duck farm. This means lots of whole ducks, livers, and shanks.–Ross Dobson
What exactly is a duck shank?
A duck shank isn’t something you’ll commonly find at any store. It’s simply the way the author cleverly refers to nudging the meat and skin of the drumstick closer to the joint, which exposes more bone and makes for daintier, or at least a lot less messier, holding with a hand than had they been left untouched.
Hoisin-Glazed Duck Shanks
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
- 2 star anise
- 12 whole (about 5 lbs) duck legs frenched, if desired, and fat scored
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 scallions thinly sliced on an angle
- Chinese barbecue sauce (char siu) to serve
- In a large bowl or baking dish, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, and star anise. Add the duck legs and toss to thoroughly coat in the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning the duck every now and then. Remove the duck from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat the grill to medium (about 350°F | 177°C) and close the lid.
- Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the duck from the marinade and arrange on the rack. Place on the grill over direct heat and half fill the baking sheet with water.
☞TESTER TIP: If you have a water pan that fits under your grill, you can use that and place the duck legs directly on the grill above the water pan.
- Close the lid and cook for 30 minutes. Turn the duck over and cook until golden, about 30 minutes more, adding water if the baking sheet appears dry.
- Brush the honey over the duck, turning the duck and brushing each side with the honey until glistening and crisp, 10 minutes more.
- Arrange the duck on a platter and scatter with the scallions. Serve with the Chinese barbecue sauce on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Watch out Chinatown, we can execute some darn delicious duck shanks here in the great state of Texas! These were absolutely fantastic, a grand slam home run! The flavors in this recipe were spot on and offered a delicious coating to a sometimes gamey bird. There was a fantastic balance of salty, sweet, and umami, and we enjoyed every single bite.
It was helpful that there is a Chinese market right up the road so sourcing the duck legs was cake. My duck legs were about 8 ounces each, before trimming. After removing the femur and fat, they were 5 ounces. The recipe did not indicate how much, if any, of the fat to remove. I purposely butchered a few legs leaving some fat and the rest removing the fat completely to test the effect. Obviously, the legs with the fat stayed more moist but the skin never completely crisped up so I disliked the chewy layer and prefer the complete removal of the fat layer. If you decide to leave the fat on the leg, I would recommend scoring the fat layer.
I maintained my grill temperature at about 325 degrees and the ducks were done after one hour (then the honey step added ten more minutes), they actually reached temp at around 45 minutes, but I wanted to follow the recipe and get a crispier skin so I cooked the full hour and ten minutes. Perhaps raising the temp and reducing the time would result in more moist meat and crispier skin. If we cooked them at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, then basted with honey for ten minutes we could likely achieve this.
To create an oven effect, I placed a deep cookie sheet on the grill. I filled the sheet with about an inch of water and placed the duck lags on a rack within the sheet. I needed to add a bit more water after 50 minutes of cooking. Tweaking the cook time would elevate this recipe from a 9 to a 10, in my opinion.
I absolutely loved how the basting with honey added a sweet, sticky touch at the end of cooking. It also helped the legs to brown up a bit more at the very end. I would recommend 4T of honey total, 2T per cooking side.
These duck legs were a big hit with my duck-loving husband (and me!). The cooking method ensures beautifully bronzed and lacquered skin but the real payoff is in the tasty meat. I was reminded of some of my favorite Chinese fine dining experiences in London (i.e. not your local takeout).
I chose to french the legs and honestly, that was the most labor intensive part of this otherwise easy recipe. Once frenched I combined them with the marinade and let them sit for about 30 hours before cooking, flipping about 3-4 times during that period. I love the method on the grill (having had near 5-alarm experiences with duck in the past!) and can’t wait to use it again and again … with this recipe and others, including duck breasts.
We kept the temperature between 350-400 F. As it was just my husband and me, I only made 4 duck legs, halved the marinade ingredients, and probably should have adjusted the time required downward a bit but we devoured the legs, which we paired with sauteed baby bok choy (with mirin, ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper) and steamed basmati rice over which we dribbled a bit of char siu sauce. Yum!!
Originally published February 08, 2021