Pan-Seared Duck Breast

How to Cook Duck Breast

The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

  • Total: 24 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 14 mins
  • Yield: 2 duck breasts (2 servings)

There is something wonderfully delicious about cooking and eating a duck breast. When done correctly, it will have crisp golden skin and tender, sweet meat, allowing the delicious flavor to shine through. It's also easier than you'd think. If you follow this recipe closely you'll be amazed by what you can make in your very own kitchen.

When purchasing a duck breast, there are two main types of duck to choose from: farmed and wild. For this recipe we're using farmed duck—the meat cooks quicker and is sweeter and less gamey than wild duck.

Ingredients

  • For the Duck:
  • 2 (6-ounce) room-temperature duck breasts
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • For the Optional Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or Creme de Cassis)
  • 1 cup veal stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (very cold)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 handful fresh blackberries

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Gather the ingredients for duck breast
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

    Tip

    • Always remove the duck from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before cooking so it is at room temperature. If you cook the duck straight from the fridge, it will take much longer to reach the correct internal temperature and the outside will be overcooked.
  2. Using a sharp kitchen knife, cut 5 to 6 even slashes across the skin of the duck breast, taking great care to not cut into the meat. Cutting the skin this way prevents it from shrinking and distorting the meat while cooking and also helps to release fat from underneath the skin.

    Slice the skin of the duck breast
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  3. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

    Season the duck breast
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  4. Heat a ridged griddle pan or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. You want it hot, but not smoking. Lay the duck breast skin-side down; the skin should sizzle as it hits the hot pan. You do not need any oil since the fat under the skin will quickly begin to melt. Cook for 4 minutes.

  5. Season the meat with salt and pepper before turning using tongs or a spatula. Cook the meat for 4 minutes.

    Cook the duck breasts
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  6. Drain any fat into a bowl. Flip the breasts back to skin-side down and cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 minutes. This creates a very crisp skin and gently cooks the meat through to medium-rare. The duck should read 140 F on a thermometer. If you do not have a meat thermometer, the duck should be slightly firm when pressed.

    Drain off the duck fat
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  7. Once the duck has reached the correct temperature, remove from the pan and drain any further fat into the bowl as before. Place the breasts in a dish and cover with aluminum foil. Leave in a warm but not hot place to rest.

    Rest the duck breasts
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  8. Strain the duck fat through a fine sieve and reserve for another use.

    Strain the duck fat
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm
  9. To make the sauce (if using), place the pan back over high heat. Once hot, add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon continuously while scraping up any residue from the bottom of the pan. Add the veal or chicken stock to the hot pan and boil until reduced by a third.

  10. Strain through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Boil and whisk in the cold butter a little at a time. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the blackberries to warm through just before serving.

  11. Serve. If the duck has cooled too much during resting, reheat in the pan by placing the duck skin-side down again for 2 to 3 minutes or pop it into a warm oven for 5 minutes.

    Serving Duck Breasts
    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

Tips

  • The fat given off by the breasts is delicious and wonderful for cooking roast potatoes or any dish where you would use a meat fat. Try using it to sear meat, make Yorkshire puddings, fry eggs, or even make duck fat biscuits. A classic of French cuisine are pommes sauté (fried potatoes), tiny potato cubes cooked quickly in very hot duck fat.
  • There are many ways to serve a duck breast. Pair with potatoes and a green salad for a simple but elegant dinner. Duck works very well with all kinds of fruits, especially slightly sour ones such as fresh blackberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb. These acidic fruits are perfect for balancing the fattiness of the meat.

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