Traditional ways to cook duck breast

I’ve just read through a similar thread (Non-traditional ways to cook duck breast?) and there are some good ideas there, but I’m hoping to find a recipe for pan seared duck breast with a sauce – maybe cherry, or berry, or something similar. The only way I’ve ever cooked duck breast has been for a ragu that’s served over taglietelle or papperdelle; I’ve never prepared duck breast in this way before, so I really do need some guidance. Does anyone have a recipe to share? I’ve got two Magret duck breasts, each about .75 lb. Thanks!

I’ve made this but it wasn’t super sweet which is my preference.

A question about that recipe – After the duck breasts are pan seared, they’re cooked in and basted with the orange juice/wine/vinegar reduction. So I’m wondering if the duck skin is fully rendered and crisp when it’s sliced and served.

You’re not cooking in much liquid but it is basted so it’s not going to be as crispy as you started out.

Slash the duck breast skin a few times (without cutting into the flesh. Put it skin side down into a cold frying pan and bring the heat up to about half. Don’t touch it for 10 minutes by which time the fat should have rendered and the skin gone crispy. Turn the breast over and turn the heat up to nearly full. Cook for a couple of minutes or so more.

Take it out and keep it warm while you make the sauce. Pour off most of the fat (keeping it of course for future use) and away you go with whatever sauce you’re making (although if you’re including, say, onions, I would have fried them to softness beforehand in another pan.

Timings work for farm raised ducks that you might have bought from the supermarket. If you’re cooking the smaller breasts from a wild duck that you might have bought at the farmers market, then you’d need to reduce the time once you’ve flipped it.

If you didnt want to bother with making a sauce at the last minute, then an apple sauce, made with sharp apples, would be very traditional in my culture (and would always be my preferred sauce for duck).

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Is there any kind of pan that’s better than another for this purpose? I have a cast iron skillet. I’ve also got a nice copper saute pan. My concern is starting with a cold pan, which seems counter-intuitive.

I just use my normal cheap, non-stick frying pan. The budget doesnt stretch to expensive pans, unfortunately.

I follow the same process as Harters describes, with most of the cooking time with the skin side down to render the fat. I have done it in several different styles of pans, just don’t keep trying to lift it up during the 10 minutes and it should release from almost any pan easily - and I start with a very small amount of oil in the pan for extra insurance but it probably isn’t necessary.

If you’re looking for a very easy quick “sauce” that goes well with duck . . . pomegranate molasses. It naturally has that sweetness and tartness that goes well with duck. You can of course make it more nuanced with shallots, etc - but for a super simple “pantry” solution just deglaze the pan with the molasses and, depending on the brand (some are thicker than others out of the bottle), a little chicken stock, let it reduce until it is to your desired thickness and voila - sauce.


Cold start and slow heat enable fat to render, skin to crisp, and meat not to overcook.


That is absolutely true, and works even better if you weigh the breasts down to intensify skin contact with the pan. This is great for chicken, too. When I make Chicken Marbella, I pat the marinated pieces dry, then brown the skin side well before baking as per the standard recipe (I use less than half the sugar, as do many cooks), making sure to leave at least a half inch between pieces. This way, the level of the marinade is lower, and the skin stays more crisp. It’s not as crisp as in roast chicken, but it’s well-rendered and tasty, not at all rubbery.

Duck goes well with sweet & sour sauces/condiments. Sauerkraut sauteed with apples and onions is a good match.

Great idea! In fact, I wonder if duck might work in the Iranian dish of fesenjan?

Taking much more time, I rather like plum as a basis. The plums need cooking for quite a while to become a puree, along with shallot or a little onion, and some red wine to thin it down if necessary. Although I don’t intend this to be like Chinese plum auce that you might get served with duck, the addition of 5-spice powder gives it a certain edge that i like.

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Does this timing result in it being medium-rare, or something more done?

Medium rare, Bill.

By the by, we Britons really only use the description of “medium rare”, etc, for beef. Duck would be “pink”

In our restaurants, beef steak is really the only meat where a restaurant server is always going to ask how you want it cooked. For most other meats, including duck, venison and lamb, the server would probably say that they usually serve the meat “pink” and check that this’ll be OK.

Don’t know how “traditional” this is, but I had a couple of duck breasts once and just used what I had around: I seared them (maybe even grilled, don’t remember) and the last few minutes topped with blueberry jam thinned with blueberry port (I’m sure you could sub blueberry cordial too, no problem).

One of they serendipitous kind of things, simple but perfect.

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Yah, I was going to suggest berries, too. They tend not to be too sweet, but in their sweet-ish tartness the perfect companion for duck breast. Other game fowl, too.

I have to admit, I’m a berry addict :wink:

I whipped up an impromptu berry sauce one night in summer when my man had made this amazing (but very rich) sweet corn ice cream. It needed that acidic counterpart.

Those were frozen mixed berries, but will work in a shot as a compote/sauce.

I am longing for the summer, and local berries. Seasonal produce is such a treat.

I start mine in a cold pan skin side down . I cook them on medium low in my cast iron skillet . I made a sauce that I liked . 3/4 cup red wine . Something you like to drink . I reduced it down to half , then added a tbsp. of Loganberry jam with a pad of butter cooked for a minute .


It’s no more than applied physics added to a little food chemistry ! Weight would accelerate the reactions in skin crisping and fat rendering, so we’d have to back off something – probably heat? (In this household, overcooked duck we can’t take. Overcooked chicken can be made into salad.)

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
Credit: CiaoHo