Cooking Duck Breast: Methods for Savory Duck, Plus Glazes

cookingduckbreastChef or not, duck can be a challenge to prepare correctly if you’ve never worked with it before. There are so many tips the pros will offer, and so many different seasonings you can use to make the best main dish to impress your family and friends. Duck is a waterfowl that has a lot of fat to keep it warm and waterproof. Because of this, there will be a lot of fat rendering during the cook. Let’s mix up some glazes and get you cooking that duck breast to perfection. Got a date? If you’re a man and are trying to find those cooking tips to impress your lady friend, have I got the thing for you: Cook Like a Man.

Pan-Searing

Searing is an art. I know I’ve tried searing beef before and there was nothing short of two smoke alarms whaling for what seemed like forever. There’s a delicate balance between hot enough to sear and but not hot enough to burn (and smoke). This is a little different though. Since duck is really fatty there is going to be a lot of fat rendered and the more fat rendered, the better. For the best results, start the duck in a cool pan and then raise the temperature. Okay, on to searing.

1. Make sure the duck breast is thawed out. Don’t try and cook it frozen (sounds obvious, but I’ve seen it happen).

2. You’ll notice moisture on the skin. Scrape it off with knife, or dab it with a paper towel. The more moisture, the less crispy the skin will be.

3. Score the duck with a sharp knife. Scoring simply means marking in a crisscross pattern.

4. Season the duck with salt and pepper (or other spices) and put it skin down onto a hot skillet.

5. Keep it there until it has browned and you notice a lot of fat in the pan. Don’t be alarmed if the duck looks like it’s bloating, it’s just the fat to meat ratio is really high and the juice will eventually come out into the skillet.

6. Flip the duck onto the other side and cook until the insides are rare. Stand the duck breast up on its side for a minute, each side, to ensure the entire outside is cooked.

7. To test if the duck is rare, use touch instead of a thermometer as it’ll be more accurate.

To use the finger test, you’re going to use your own hand as a tenderness guide. Sounds weird, but trust me here. Open your hand in front of you. (Yes, right now.) There is a fleshy part of your hand under your thumb that kind of looks like the body of a chicken wing. Take your index finger, on the same hand, and touch it. See how much it gives? That’s what a rare duck (or any other meat for that matter) will feel like. For more of these finger-tip guides check out this article.

If you must, a temp around 125F is rare, 130F sits rare – to medium-rare. Don’t forget, you need to let the duck rest after removing it from the stove. You should remove it from the pan around 122F.

Roasting

You’re going to do a little searing here before you put the duck in the oven to finish cooking. If you have an ovenproof skillet – use it. If not, just transfer the duck from the stove top skillet to an oven safe dish.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F

2. Follow the sear steps above, except you don’t have to worry about doing the temp or touch test. Sear the duck on both sides. When skin side down, sear for approximately 6 minutes. Drain out the rendered fat (save it if your glaze recipe calls for it). Flip and sear for another minute or two.

3. Put duck in the oven on the middle rack for around 7 minutes to finish cooking. The duck will be medium-rare to medium when you pull it out to rest. Let the duck breast rest at least 5 minutes before thinly slicing it.

Remember that properly cooked duck should resemble medium-rare steak.

Glazes

A lot of duck breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper and a variety of other spices like oregano, sage, even cinnamon. But if you want to create a really zesty dish to wow your guests – you want to make a glaze. As mentioned before, duck is a really fatty meat which means the fat rendered can be a great component to a glaze. Here are some of the best glazes I’ve found for cooking duck breast. There are also a lot of Indian recipes that call for duck. Learn more about Indian cooking in this online tutorial.

Cherry and Port Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 5-to 6-ounce duck breast halves or one 12-to 16-ounce duck breast half

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled butter, divided

  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)

  • ½  cup low-salt chicken broth

  • 8 halved pitted sweet red cherries, fresh or frozen, thawed

  • 2 tablespoons tawny Port

  • 1 tablespoon honey

Prep:

You can prep this while your duck is resting.

Save 2 tablespoons of the fat drippings from the skillet after you cook the duck. Add the chopped shallot to the skillet and stir over medium heat about 30 seconds or so. Add the broth, cherries, Port, and honey. Increase heat to high and boil until sauce is reduced to glaze. Stir it often to keep it from burning – about 3 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon the sauce over the duck and serve!

Maple Glaze

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Maple Syrup

  • ½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper

  • 1 TBSP Brown Sugar

Prep:

Easy, mix it together! Brush the glaze over the duck after your sear it. Put the duck in the oven for 7 minutes or so, take the duck out of the oven and glaze again. Sit aside and let rest. If you aren’t roasting the duck breast in the oven, you can just glaze the breasts after you sear, but before you rest and cut.

Orange-Teryaki Marinade and Glaze

Ingredients for Marinade

  • 24 (6-ounce) duck breasts

  • 1 1/2 cups KIKKOMAN Teriyaki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped orange zest

  • 1/2 cup finely minced ginger
    1 cup orange juice

Ingredients for Glaze:

  • 1 cup KIKKOMAN Teriyaki Baste & Glaze

  • 1/2 cup orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Score your thawed duck breast in a crisscross pattern. Mix up the ingredients for the marinade and put both the marinade and the duck breasts in a bag, or a dish, cover and put in the fridge for 6-8 hours.

The glaze is easy enough as well. Simmer all of the ingredients together in a pan on low heat for approximately 8 minutes. After you cook your duck in the skillet you can pour the glaze over the duck breast and let it rest before serving.

So, there’s the crashcourse on cooking a duck breast. If you whip out these skills and make one of those delicious glazes you’ll be sure to have your friends asking for more. Totally in love with cooking? Find some healthy cooking tips in healthy cooking fundamentals.