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Cooking Duck Breasts: Tips and Techniques


bushey
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I've never cooked duck before. I'm single and live alone, so I'm typically coking for one. I'm used to cooking small pieces of protein (steaks, chops, chicken parts, fish fillets), but have never done duck. I can get boneless duck breasts at the local grocery store and I think it's time to give it a try.

What kind of duck? I think I've seen a few types at the store. Cooking method? I am guessing it will be like most things I do where it's either done totally in a skillet/sauté pan or a combo sear on the stove, finish in the oven method. What about a pan sauce to go with it? Any particular side or accompaniment?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Duck is one of my favorite things to cook for myself, since I can usually get two meals out of one nicely sized breast. I think you're right on with the sear / roast combo, just follow your instincts - sear, spooning off the fat (which you will of course save in the refrigerator), until the skin is crispy, then turn and throw into a hot oven to finish for a few minutes. If you can cook a steak, then this is right up your alley! I love the first half of the breast with no sauce, just rested, sliced, and with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Duck is so easy & great at home, in fact, that I hope my boyfriend doesn't see this post and realize how well I'm eating without him.

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I cook duck when the other half is out also.... :wink:

Score the skin and fat in a diamond pattern and render out the fat over medium heat till the skin is nice and crispy then into the oven...as said above

I have settled on a sweet cherry pan sauce myself...while the duck is resting

pour off the fat from the pan and put back on the heat I add a good splash of sherry vinegar and let it reduce off then some duck or beef stock and a big spoonfull of good cherry preserves, (I am using Maman) just heat until bubbly and thickened and pour over sliced duck breast or steak or foie gras or just in a bowl :rolleyes:

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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Try scoring the skin (do a nice crosshatch, or simple diagonal slashes) and put fat/skin side down in a pan set on LOW LOW heat. Render most of the fat out...and drain the pan as you go (make sure to strain and save the fat).

Once the breast has rendered...you have several options. The easiest thing to do would be to turn the heat up to med-high, and get a nice sear. Flip, put in an oven and roast until done to your liking.

Duck can be a little harder to temp since a lot of the "meat" is fat. The rendering helps (though you won't, and shouldn't, render all the fat). Try squeezing the sides of the breast to feel the tenderness. Otherwise, it's similar to temping any other protein.

As far as sauces, I prefer something a little sweet/sour since the duck is so fatty and rich. You could do a simple gastrique based sauce with whatever fresh fruit you have (or can buy). A pan sauce is a good idea (I know you started a pan sauce thread so it should be no problem for you by now)...just make sure to degrease the pan first. A standard shallot/herb/alcohol/demi sauce would be nice, and some fresh fruit (berries, etc) would be a nice addition.

Anyways, good luck. Hopefully I helped some. Let us know how it turns out.

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Score the skin in a diamond fashion, season and put in a cold pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat and wait until the fat starts rendering out, then, gently spoon the hot fat over the top of the breast until it's rare/medium rare.

The key is slow cooking of the skin side to ensure maximum fat rendering while keeping the inside moist.

PS: I am a guy.

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Qwerty's technique is what I was going to suggest when you have a single breast. A low, slow render of the fat although I don't necessarily think a final hot sear is necessary; after 20 minutes or so the skin will be perfectly crispy. Slowly and occasionally ladle the hot fat over the top of the breast and you will only have to turn the breast over for a minute or two to finish.

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I found duck easy and fun to work with. I worked with one for the first time a few weeks back. I bought a whole duck and used almost all of it. I carved the breasts off and pan roasted them in the method that has been described. The carcass and neck went to the freezer for stock. All the fat and skin was removed and rendered for making confit with the legs, thighs and wings. The skin became some very good cracklin. The liver was sauted to make a wonderful chopped liver. All in all I had a lot of fun with this duck and it was a great bang for the buck when used this way.

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I only do wild ducks. (hopefully I have a good hunting season)

Because I don't have the time to pluck most my birds, they are

skinned and boned before going into the freezer.

The breasts we do a quick sear and then finish them in the oven.

We never cook them past medium rare. Is it the same with domestic birds?

For a sauce I use chopped Craisins with a reduced orange marmalade.

respect the food, something died to provide

Lotto winner wanna-be

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OK. I cooked a duck breast last night. First, some pics

gallery_31660_4726_64272.jpg

A muscovy duck breast. This is the only type the store had. I scored the skin side and it's ready to be seasoned and put in the pan

gallery_31660_4726_20430.jpg

In the pan cooking. It will finish in the oven.

gallery_31660_4726_6456.jpg

Out of the oven, resting before it gets sliced.

gallery_31660_4726_61722.jpg

Plated dinner!! The sauce is a cherry balsamic reduction. The potatoes were roasted in some of the duck fat. Spinach was quickly cooked in the sauté pan I used for the duck.

This tasted really good. I DID overcook the duck. I kind of messed up and forgot to turn on the oven after setting the temp. When I took the pan off the burner to put in the oven, it was COLD. eek!! So, I just turned it on and decided to add some time to make up for it. Maybe that was the problem. Or maybe , I cooked the skin side too long on the stove. It was a little chewy. But it still tasted great. But now that I've done it, I think I can adjust for next time and cook the duck much rarer.

The sauce turned out well, but it was a little thin. I still have a lot left. Maybe instead of going straight from sauce pan to meat (i didn't make a pan sauce), I could have ladled some into the pan I used to cook the breast and reduced it down some more. Maybe I'll try that again.

Potatoes were tasty. Boiled until tender in advance. Then sliced them in half and set aside. They were simply satuéd/roasted in a skillet on the stove top. Spinach was good, but I should have put in two or three times the amount into the pan. I simply put some shallots into the pan used to cook the duck, cooked them for a bit, tossed in baby spinach and a splash of chicken stiock and cooked it until tender (which took very little time)

Anyway, this was a good meal. I had a E.Guigal 2003 Côtes du Rhône to drink with it. I think that worked out fairly well.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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:wub:

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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I only do wild ducks. (hopefully I have a good hunting season)

Because I don't have the time to pluck most my birds, they are

skinned and boned before going into the freezer.

I`m with you mate...........up until the plucking :shock: Try and make time to pluck the birds fully as you have missed all the goodies here.

I de-breast them then remove the legs and freeze until i have enough for confit, then skin the carcase fully except for the preen gland. the skin is then rendered for duck fat and next I clean the innards and keep the gizzard(see the great topic thats started !!), heart, liver and carcase, the latter for stock.

Apologies for a slight deviation from the topic but I feel really strongly that if you kill the animal you should eat as much of it as possible..........however sharing bits with the dogs and ferrets is also acceptable.

I like my mallard and teal seared to rare and fairly plain as I like the delicate and gamey taste.

Edited by Henry dV (log)

"It's true I crept the boards in my youth, but I never had it in my blood, and that's what so essential isn't it? The theatrical zeal in the veins. Alas, I have little more than vintage wine and memories." - Montague Withnail.

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I feel really strongly that if you kill the animal you should eat as much of it as possible

right there with you.

woodies and teal get plucked, and the I do pluck the occasional mallard.

I do save the heart, liver and gizzards and the legs and thighs are braised.

I'm in culinary school now, a late start as I am 47, and one of the chefs set me straight on discarding the fat. liquid gold I believe is how he referred to eat.

looking forward to my first confitt after this falls season.

still wondering bout the domestic duck tho, and if it is cooked on the rare side or towards well done?

Edited by sp1187 (log)

respect the food, something died to provide

Lotto winner wanna-be

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  • 3 weeks later...

This thread got me off my duff to thaw the muscovy in my freezer, render the fat, confit the legs (confit in progress), and sear the duck breast as per the instructions above. Loved it - sliced the duck breast over hoe cakes with a savory cherry-bourbon sauce (and broiled tomatoes on the side). A pathetic picture from my camera phone:

gallery_19995_4798_100844.jpg

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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  • 3 months later...

In a sudden fit of greed I ordered a box of vacuum-packed iqf skin-on duck breasts through one of our vendors at work. Now I've got 32 of those buggers sitting in the freezer. I guess I'll be playing with duck this month. Any ideas outside of the usual suspects that I might want to give a try?

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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In a sudden fit of greed I ordered a box of vacuum-packed iqf skin-on duck breasts through one of our vendors at work. Now I've got 32 of those buggers sitting in the freezer. I guess I'll be playing with duck this month. Any ideas outside of the usual suspects that I might want to give a try?

Cure a couple. Duck proscuitto, duck bacon, duck pancetta...

And there are always terrines to be made

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Just posted a duck breast dish on the Chinese Eats at Home thread.  If you like the sound of it, PT me and i'll dig out the recipe for you.

I've done tea smoking before (with salmon) as part of a catering job back during the summer. They requested smoked salmon and I decided to tea smoke it just to give them something different. They enjoyed it (and so did I) so I'd love to see your duck recipe. I'll shoot you a PM.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Prawncrackers - Thanks for the recipe! Absolutely delicious. Sorry I don't have any pictures this time, I made it at a friends house and didn't have my camera, but I'll definitely be doing it again. I did a duck noodle soup to accompany it served like I've had it at Thai restaurants with little bowls of assorted condiments to add as desired.

spice - Thanks for the link! I tried the five spice recipe and look forward to trying one or two more. I'm leaning towards the orange tea recipe.

merstar - I read through the thread and found some ideas. Thanks!

mikelbarnz - Took your advice. I've got 5 breasts turning into pastrami right now. I brined them for 2 days over the weekend, crusted them with crushed pepper and cooked them in a lowish oven on monday, wrapped them tightly and have them in the fridge. This is the stage where I'm a bit nervous. I've never cured anything before and the instructions say at this point I'm supposed to leave them alone for 7 days. I'm hoping I won't discover anything rotten when I break one open next monday.

I_call_the_duck - I'll keep you in mind! :wink:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm drowning in duck right now. I really recommend the Duck Casserole with Potatoes from Bigorre in Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France. Those of you that prefer duck without a sweet sauce, and who like it rare, will love this one.

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  • 2 months later...

So, tonight I cooked a duck breast. Ashamed to admit it was a first effort. Duck is not a favorite mostly because I do not care for the fruity/sweet sauces that typically are called for. Thus I almost never order it out while the "significant other" does. Hence my interest here.

The duck breast I made tonight was... tough. And I'm not sure why. I've saved many recipes from many sources and used one tonight from Lynne Char Bennett who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle.

After the skin scoring that is a given, it calls for searing in a hot pan without any oil and reducing the heat to medium/low as the fat renders. After 7 or so minutes, it calls for the the heat to be raised to high as the breast is turned. 3 or so minutes on the second side and into a 350 degree oven to finish cooking to 125 - 130 degrees.

No problem with any of this; only considerations being that I am cooking at 7500 feet altitude and I am prepared/expecting all times to possibly require a bit more. And, indeed, when it should have been done in the oven, the breast was still quite red and "bloody" so it was returned to the oven for an additional 2 - 3 minutes.

The breast WAS now done/ still pink as Bennett had called for but it was tough enough that I thought of actually using a steak knife.

Now, I do my learning/experimental cooking when I'm alone. That was the case tonight as "friend/wife" is away. The only "variable" I cannot address is what kind of duck breast was I cooking ? My local Whole Foods (Santa Fe) now has them boneless with skin on display daily but I've no idea if it is/was Muskovy/Pekin or from the Rio Grande River shot by a local.

So, is duck... just tough ? Did I screw it up ? Were I served this in a restaurant I would not have been happy.

The sauce; a wild mushroom sauce, was fine. The flavors were not the problem.

Will appreciate all comments, with thamks in advance.

Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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Duck breast should be very rare when you take it off the fire. I only cook it about 4 minutes on the meat side after turning, nix the oven part. Let it rest for 10 minutes to finish cooking, then slice thinly on the bias to get tender slices.

I'm using French duck, but I've used the Whole Foods breasts too, and they aren't a whole lot different.

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