Perfect Seared Duck Breast

What is the perfectly seared duck breast? For me, it’s one that’s medium in the center, warm all the way through, and a thick SUPER CRUNCHY skin. I’m not a huge fan of pre-ambles (get to the recipe!) but this one deserves a bit. The key is to raise the temp slowly to render the fat off the skin, which effectively “tightens” it, allowing it to form that perfect, crisp skin. If you hit the skin too fast with heat you’ll sear it, which closes in the fat and leaves you with that thick, mushy texture. Those are gross words and a waste of duck.

So, to do this right, there are a few tricks.

  • Start at Room Temperature – Bring the duck out early and let it warm up. This ensures that when it first touches the pan they’re at the same temperature too.
  • Drier is Better – I knew they say wetter is better but it’s not true here. If you want crunchy, try to get the duck breast skin as dry as possible before placing it in the pan.
  • Score a Thick Skin – Cross cross pattern. This allows the low heat to better permeate into the skin, rendering the fat out a little easier.
  • Raise Temperature Slowly – The idea is to bring the temp up slowly to avoid quickly searing and sealing that skin.
  • Bias Towards the Skin – It’s like 5:1 cook time for skin side : meat side.

This recipe goes awesome with some Pommes Anna and any sort of delicious green side (blanched garlic broccoli or broccolini). If you wanna do the Pommes Anna, start it NOW before the duck breast, they take a lot longer.

Materials

For this recipe you’ll need a sharp knife, a heavy bottom pan or skillet, and a cutting board. Also useful are really good tongs and a grease spatter shield. Rendering the fat off the skin side tends to result in fat splattering.

If you choose to cook your breast more well done (Step 11), then you’ll need a good all metal pan that’s oven safe.

Also optional is Step 14, which requires is a kitchen torch and some butane. Elaborate but worth it. It adds pizazz to the final product, puts on a good show for a dinner party, and has lots of uses over time, including smokey cocktails!

Also, on REALLY AWESOME occasions I’ll actually use truffle salt for seasoning the duck. By far and away this one is the best truffle salt you can buy. Don’t skimp out. Nothing in this world is fancier than a truffled duck breast. Nothing.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Rest Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 duck breast
  • Salt and Pepper

Recipe

  1. Bring the duck breast out 30-60 minutes prior to cooking, letting it rest on a plate and come to room temperature.
  2. Score the skin with a very sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern.
  3. Salt and pepper the skin to taste. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Pat the skin completely dry with a paper towel.
  5. Place the duck skin side down on the cold pan.
  6. Turn the pan to low medium heat and let it come to temperature for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Raise the temperature to medium heat and wait 2-3 additional minutes.
  8. Remove the rendered fat from the pan. This will help the skin to crisp.
    Note: I like to pour the duck fat into a glass Tupperware container to save for use in cooking potatoes or eggs (or anything, but those are my favorite!). If you don’t care, you can pour down the drain or use a paper towel with some good tongs to soak the fat out of the pan. The latter method gets the pan really dry again.
  9. Raise the temperature to medium him and finish the duck breast for another 4-5 minutes. If the duck breast has curled up at the edges, use your tongs to press down on those edges or tilt the breast to press them into the pan for the last 1-2 minutes.
  10. Flip the duck breast and cook for 2 minutes on the other side.
  11. [Optional] This recipe is for a true medium. If you want a slightly more done breast, flip the breast back to skin side up and throw the entire pan into a preheated 425 degree oven for 4-8 minutes (to desired done-ness).
  12. Remove the duck breast from the heat and place it on the cutting board, skin side up. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
    Note: If you’re saving the duck fat, now is a good time to pour the remainder into your Tupperware.
  13. Serve immediately, slicing and plating prior if you desire.
  14. [Optional] Hit your finished duck breast with a kitchen torch, which crisps the skin even further after it’s rested and lost a little luster. This will ensure the top is warm and super crispy when the diner bites into it.

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