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What is Pressed Duck?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Depending on the context, “pressed duck” can refer to two different dishes. The first is a traditional French dish developed at a well known Parisian restaurant, Tour d'Argent. The second is a popular Chinese dish, widely available in many Asian markets and restaurants. Both dishes are unique ways to use duck, and both versions are not to everyone's taste.

In the case of the French dish, known in French as canard au sang, or “duck in its blood,” the process for making pressed duck is quite complex. It starts with partially roasting a duck that has been strangled to retain its maximum blood volume. Next, the breasts, liver, and thighs of the bird are removed. The liver is chopped and seasoned while the breasts and thighs are roasted separately. Meanwhile, the body of the duck is pressed in a special device called a duck press, which is modeled after a wine press.

The pressing process extracts the blood from the bird, along with cooking juices. This mixture is seasoned with salt, pepper, red wine, cognac, and butter, to make a dense sauce that blackens as it reduces. The rich sauce is served with the breasts and liver of the duck, and the thighs are served separately. The dish is also known as Caneton Tour d'Argent, after the restaurant, or Canard a la presse, a reference to the pressing process which is integral to the dish.

In China, pressed duck is made by seasoning and steaming a whole duck, removing its bones, and then flattening it out before steaming it again. After the double steaming, the duck is deep fried so that it becomes crispy and golden. This dish may be served with an assortment of sauces, and it is also popular cold shredded on salads and other foods. A remarkably similar vegetarian facsimile is made with bean curd skins.

The Chinese dish is often readily available at Asian markets, and it can be frozen until needed. French pressed duck, on the other hand, is a luxury restaurant item that is served in a limited number of venues. Some people find the preparation and presentation of the French dish distasteful, and people who are unaccustomed to the flavor of meats cooked in their own blood may not find it terribly enjoyable. For culinary adventurers, however, it may be an experience worth having.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By LoriCharlie — On Nov 28, 2012

@dautsun - That may be true, but I prefer meat to any kind of meat substitute any day of the week. I know people always say you can't really taste the difference, but I feel like I can. I don't think bean curd is any substitute for actual meat!

By dautsun — On Nov 27, 2012

I've had both Chinese versions of pressed duck: the version with actual duck, and the version with the bean curd. As the article said, the difference between the two wasn't too noticeable. And in fact, if you put the meat and the vegetarian versions side by side, they look pretty much the same.

The vegetarian version of pressed duck seems like it would be a really great alternative for someone who is a vegetarian. It's made from beans so it has lots of protein, so you wouldn't really be missing out on anything by not eating meat.

By betterment — On Nov 27, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I see what you're saying. Sometimes it's just better not to know how things are made. And then, once you know, you can't just put the information out of your brain. I don't blame you for not wanting to eat pressed duck. But on the other hand most of the meat you eat probably isn't killed in a very humane fashion either.

By JessicaLynn — On Nov 26, 2012

I'm going to a French restaurant for a special occasion soon, so I've been trying to research some of the dishes that are going to be on the menu. I want to make an informed choice and I also don't want to look like an uncultured idiot who doesn't know anything about food.

That being said, I think I will avoid the pressed duck. The whole process of strangling the duck and then cooking it in its blood sounds really gross to me. I think I will try to get something that is made a little more humanely.

By therailguy — On Jan 28, 2008

I am interested in finding the recipe for pressed duck. thank you Therailguy

By therailguy — On Jan 27, 2008

I am interested in finding the recipe for pressed duck. Your article states it is made by seasoning and steaming the whole duck. What are the seasonings that I need to make this? Can you please give me a recipe that I can go by to make it? Thank you for your time.

therailguy...

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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