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Cooking Duck Breasts: Tips and Techniques


bushey
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Abra's right.

I would only add that on the skin side you should use low heat for quite a few minutes to slowly render the fat. Pour the rendered fat off several times before turning up the heat and continuing as she says.

I don't like the sweet/ sticky sauces either so I mostly serve duck breast with alliade This is a paste made from garlic and walnut oil and is traditional in the area of France where I live. There's a recipe in Paula Wolfert's book as well as one on my blog.

Enjoy.

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7 minutes skin side and 3 minutes flesh sounds about right to me for med-rare, however you don't mention resting. I would always rest for at least ten minutes in a warm oven, maybe that's why it seemed so bloody the first time you took it out.

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As said, appreciate the comments.

While i knew to allow the cooked breast to rest and every recipe I read did say 10 minutes, I was "cavalier". I doubt I allowed it to rest five minutes.

So another unlucky duck's breast will be sacrificed tomorrow in the name of "science".

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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I cook a lot of duck breast (photos here), and I think that sweet sauces with them are repulsive. I like them with a bit of the pan juices (i.e. mostly duck fat) poured over them, and a light sprinkling of salt.

I find they come out perfectly when cooked as suggested by D'Artagnan: Score the fat side but don't cut through the skin, and preheat a heavy skillet over medium high heat; put the duck in skin side down, and cook for approximately 8 minutes, flip the breasts, lower the heat to medium, and cook for approximately 4 more minutes. No oven finishing is necessary. But, resting them someplace that's around 110-120 degrees for at least 15 minutes is absolutely essential!

I think what you did wrong was to go back and cook them some more.

The times above are for the breast of a Moulard duck, which is quite large. For the breast of a smaller duck (muscovy, pekin), you'll need to reduce those times by a few minutes, and you'll learn this by trial and error.

As you'll see if you look at my photos, I like my duck breast rare. It definitely toughens if you cook it past that point, and I find that while it's always cooked beautifully rare in France, it's almost invariably overcooked (to "medium-rare, which it does not tolerate) in the US.

It does occasionally happen that you get a tough one. But overcooking is usually the culprit. And please remember that when you crisp the outside and cook it by searing it in hot duck fat, a lot of additional cooking-through will happen during the resting period, which, if I didn't stress this enough, is essential.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Very nice looking duck breasts Markk.

My only minor quibble is the medium high heat to start on the fat side. I prefer to use low heat for the first 5+ minutes (no salt at this point) because this allows you to pour off the clear fat as it renders. This makes it better for later use. If you crank up the heat too early you get browned fat which is fine, but not as nice.

We're in 100% agreement about sweet sauces. All I normally use is salt, pepper and some fresh thyme.

I allude to a sauce in an earlier post, but here is the full recipe from my blog.

This is a sauce made locally here in the Rouergue and which is a traditional addition to magret. I first learned of it from Jeanne Strang's book "Goose Fat & Garlic". I highly recommend this book by the way. If you like the Paula Wolfert book on South Western French cooking you'll also love this book. In addition to the recipies Jeanne describes a way of life that continues in this area, but is slowly fading away.

NOTES:The recipe quantity will serve 4-5 people, but I have discovered that the Aillade freezes beautifully so I usually at least double up & keep a nice pot for next time.

Ure walnut oil if at all possible. I've used olive oil & even truffle oil when I didn't have walnut & although they work well its just not quite the same.

Ingredients:

75 grams fresh walnuts

50 grams raw garlic

150 milliliter walnut oil

Salt & pepper

A small handful of Parsley

Method:

1. Mix the walnuts & garlic together and process in a food processor or blender until very smooth. You may need to add a bit of water to keep the mixture flowing, but not too much. ( the traditional method was to do this step in a mortar & pestle, but the food processor is much easier.)

2. With the processor running slowly pour in the walnut oil. Process until the Aillade is nicely smooth.

3. Add salt & pepper to taste.

4. Add the parsley.

5. Serve with magret or place into a ramekin, seal with film & freeze.

I know this sounds very garlicky & strong, but believe me it offsets the duck beautifully. My wife always insists on Lyonaise potatoes with this so she can eat more Aillade.

Try this once and you'll never go back to anything sweet.

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I know this sounds very garlicky & strong, but believe me it offsets the duck beautifully. My wife always insists on Lyonaise potatoes with this so she can eat more Aillade.

Try this once and you'll never go back to anything sweet.

i can confirm this, both that it's ridiculously good with duck, and that it freezes well. i've made it several times since dave first posted it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Never prepared one, seen it done on the tele...here is what I plan to do let me know if there is anything I need to change...thanks.

Slash fat (criss-cross pattern)

Season salt & pepper...anything else recommended?

Sear fat side down for 2-3 minutes on stove top medium high

Turn over and put in oven at 400 til it reaches an internal temp of 120ish

Let rest for about 5 minutes and slice it up.

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We just did these for a cooking class, so we did a few practice runs. We found that 2-3 minutes fat side down isn't enough time for the fat to render out (wild ducks will have much less fat, so 2-3 minutes might be fine for them). We left them for 5-6 minutes then turned them and cooked them flesh side down for a minute before putting them into the oven. Make sure your skillet isn't too hot -- medium heat should be fine.

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Right, no additional fat is needed. Here's the actual recipe we used: Pan-roasted duck breast.

Again, 120 F might work for wild duck; that seems mighty rare. At 150, domesticated duck is nice and pink, but has lost the gelatinous quality that raw meat has.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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The method that's given in the D'Artagnan game cookbook is no fail:

Heat a heavy skillet until medium hot, over medium-high heat. Score the duck breasta, and put them skin side down for 8 minutes, checking to avoid burning. Flip the breasts over, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 4 more minutes. Then let them rest in a warm place for at least 10 minutes. (if you pre-heat a toaster oven and turn it off, it'll be fine)

Oven cooking is simply not necessary.

These times are for a "magret", which is the breast of a Moulard duck, which is quite large. If you're using a smaller breast, cut the cooking time by a few minutes.

I cook them all the time using these timings, and this is what they look like, consistently:

gallery_11181_3516_245.jpg

gallery_11181_3516_44775.jpg

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 2 weeks later...

That looks great markk. This is what I did and it turned out excellent, duck breast is super easy.

Slashed fat

Salt & pepper

Cooked fat side down in cast iron skillet medium heat for 6 mins

Turned over, cooked on stovetop for another minute or two

Into oven at 400 til meat reached 120

Rested for about 10 mins

Cooked to perfection...thanks for the tips folks.

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  • 4 weeks later...

just cooked up a duck breast.

I keep overcooking them. :( I think the breasts I am using are much smaller than what markk uses. Gonna need to adjust some more next time.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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just cooked up a duck breast.

I keep overcooking them.  :(  I think the breasts I am using are much smaller than what markk uses.  Gonna need to adjust some more next time.

I only make "magret" - that is to say, the breasts of the Moulard duck, which are much larger than what you're undoubtedly getting, which are most likely Pekins (or even Muscovy) - and I'm lucky because I can buy the magrets packaged by D'Artagnan at my local supermarket (though they ship them by mail order from their site).

Still, I'd say that you want to crisp the skin side in a pan, flip it to give a little heat to the other side, and let it rest and cook through in a warm place, like an oven that's been turned off for ten or fifteen minutes - all the while, going much less time than I do for the larger breasts. But oven cooking is absolutely not needed in case you're doing that. I don't even do that with the magrets.

Once you get the hang of it, it'll be a snap. My chief complaint with restaurants is that the duck breast always comes overcooked - always - and I'm getting pretty fed up with that.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 7 months later...

Need ideas and advice please. I have a package of VERY thin duck breast from the Korean grocery. I know they will cook fast, but what should I make with them? I thought maybe a pho style soup that the boiling broth would cook them or use them as a sort of wrapper around something else?

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Need ideas and advice please.  I have a package of VERY thin duck breast from the Korean grocery.  I know they will cook fast, but what should I make with them?  I thought maybe a pho style soup that the boiling broth would cook them or use them as a sort of wrapper around something else?

I'm thinking stir fry and noodles.

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You could do some sort of duck roulade. Maybe grind some of the duck and mix it with whatever flavors you want going on and roll that in the breasts. If I were to do that, I'd probably pull the skins, roll them, then wrap the whole bundle in the skins before cooking.

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 year later...

Lots of wisdom in this topic, time for a bump. I used to think buying a whole duck was the only way to go, and those small packages of breasts and legs are for lazy loners. Not by a long shot. I'm cooking a pair of duck breasts tonight for a family of four and found this inspirational thread for the first time, even though I'd already made up my mind.

There's lots of ways to cook a duck. I've defrosted some locally farmed Pekin breasts that are about to be scored on the skin side and fully cooked on the stove in a non-stick skillet. Unless they're bodaciously over-sized there's no need for a hot oven, in my experience. Serving them with green beans and spuds. Currents, cranberries and possibly blueberries will round out the meal.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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With the prices I've generally seen, a pair of duck breasts usually ends up costing more than buying an entire duck. One trick I've recently learned is to score & salt the breasts and then leave them skin side up uncovered in a fridge for 3 or 4 days. The salt & the dry air of the fridge dessicates the skin which leads to more rendering and a crispier skin.

PS: I am a guy.

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With the prices I've generally seen, a pair of duck breasts usually ends up costing more than buying an entire duck. One trick I've recently learned is to score & salt the breasts and then leave them skin side up uncovered in a fridge for 3 or 4 days. The salt & the dry air of the fridge dessicates the skin which leads to more rendering and a crispier skin.

These breasts weren't too pricey. The whole duck that they came from probably would've doubled or tripled the price. That's a good idea, drying them out in the fridge for a few days. I like the skin crispy and the meat rosy and cooked through.

101_4033.jpg

101_4035.jpg

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Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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These breasts weren't too pricey. The whole duck that they came from probably would've doubled or tripled the price. That's a good idea, drying them out in the fridge for a few days. I like the skin crispy and the meat rosy and cooked through.

0.4lbs is awfully small for 2 duck breasts. this is a more typical example. a 5lb whole duck for $15.15 or 2 7.5oz duck breasts for $14.30.

PS: I am a guy.

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. . .

0.4lbs is awfully small for 2 duck breasts. this is a more typical example. a 5lb whole duck for $15.15 or 2 7.5oz duck breasts for $14.30.

Hmmmm - it's CANADA! We do metric so I think that's .4 Kg. The only issue I have here is that I can buy fresh duck parts but rarely a whole fresh duck. Mostly they are frozen.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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0.414 kg is almost a pound, so that makes it $3.10 for a 7.5 oz duck breast. My grocery store rarely has fresh duck pieces, they sell them frozen, whole and well-traveled.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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. . .

0.4lbs is awfully small for 2 duck breasts. this is a more typical example. a 5lb whole duck for $15.15 or 2 7.5oz duck breasts for $14.30.

Hmmmm - it's CANADA! We do metric so I think that's .4 Kg. The only issue I have here is that I can buy fresh duck parts but rarely a whole fresh duck. Mostly they are frozen.

Oh wow, duh, complete brainfart. That's a really good price for duck breasts. I don't think I've seen them for under $15 a lb in the US.

PS: I am a guy.

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