Table of Contents:
Cooking Duck Breasts 101
Most of my friends think that Duck Breast is too difficult to make at home and wouldn’t even know where to begin. The truth of the matter is, it’s just not that difficult to make and duck is actually very versatile and can be served many different ways.
From Prep to finish, this pan-seared duck breast (with the vegetables) can be on your dinner table in about 45 minutes. Seriously, it’s not rocket science.
But there is a secret to cooking duck breast with perfectly crispy skin that rivals your favorite restaurant. And that is sourcing good duck breasts to use in making this dish. I have found that Maple Leaf Farms makes an excellent product and can be found in many supermarkets. It’s actually the product I used in my restaurant days.
What Ingredients do I need to make Pan Seared Duck Breast?
Before we dive into the process, let’s gather our ingredients. As I finished the process I added two additional items to my list of ingredients that aren’t pictured here, maple syrup and chicken stock. I also eliminated the garlic, since I went with the maple syrup for the sweet potatoes.
This is called a mise en place in chef speak. Translated it means everything in its place. It’s a good way to make sure you have everything you need before you start cooking.
What is the secret to pan searing duck breast?
The secret to cooking duck breast is really pretty simple. You start with a cold pan.
And the reason you do this is to slowly render the fat from the breast while crisping the skin. So place your seasoned duck breast skin side down in a cold, dry skillet. Now comes the fun part!
How to Pan Sear Duck Breast
And the only real secret on how to cook duck breast is to cook it low and slow on the stovetop. The rule of thumb is 8-10 minutes over medium heat until you get crispy skin that becomes a beautiful golden brown. The time can vary depending on your stovetop, so keep an eye on the duck. *Never cook a duck breast over high heat
After searing the skin side of the duck breast it’s time to turn the breast over to the other side and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes for rare to medium-rare (125°F – 130°F on an instant-read thermometer). And this is where I usually run into problems with friends that have never had rare duck breast.
Usually, for my first-timers and staunch no pink meat eaters, I cook the duck breast a little longer. Cooking the seared duck breast for my wife falls into this category, so you won’t see much pink in the duck in my pictures.
**Make sure you have good ventilation in your kitchen when pan-searing any meats or seafood.
Can I eat medium-rare duck breasts?
When you dine out, unless you specify the duck temperature you will be served medium rare to rare duck breasts. This gets kind of confusing for most people because we have been raised to cook all poultry completely to avoid problems.
That being said the USDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of 170 degrees to ensure any harmful bacteria are killed.
As with any poultry, there’s always the chance that duck harbors harmful bacteria. But cooking duck is different than cooking chicken and turkey because it’s considered to be red meat. And as with other red meats, some people prefer to eat duck that’s cooked medium or medium-rare. The choice is yours.
Chef Dennis Tip:
*It’s always a good idea to use an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked enough for your liking.
So now that I’ve taken the mystery out of cooking duck it’s time to get into your kitchen and give it a try.
You’ll be surprised at how many of your favorite grocers carry duck breasts. It’s becoming a popular item for home cooks as well as restaurants.
Wouldn’t you love to sit down to this restaurant-style duck breast? You’ll the flavor combination of the sweet potatoes in that delicious pan gravy as it contrasts to the crispy skin of the duck. It’s a symphony of flavors!
Duck breast is best-served medium-rare, pink in the middle is how you want to eat duck. Overcooking can cause it to dry out and get tough. But that being said it’s your dinner and if you prefer it completely done that’s ok, just don’t let it cook any longer than necessary.
Yes, you can, but if you’re not going to sear the skin, you should marinate the duck breast. This can be as simple as a dry rub using kosher salt, fresh herbs and your favorite seasonings. Wrap the duck with a piece of plastic wrap and allow it to marinate for 2-3 hours before cooking.
Then proceed with the cooking instructions below.
Pretty much any of your favorite vegetables, types of potatoes, rice or risotto. Using a little of the duck fat to saute the veggies will add a nice flavor.
This Pan Seared Duck is definitely restaurant quality! So delicious! Thanks for the great recipe!
Thanks for sharing!
This looks fantastic! A must try dinner.
Always looking for delicious recipes and this braised duck recipe certainly is.
I love duck, this recipe helped me cook them perfectly!
Absolutely delicious meal – we will be enjoying this again very soon!
Made this tonight…my family loved it!! Will definitely make again with NO edits! Just perfect! Thank you chef!!!
Sorry for so many questions……I see Garlic in your mise en place hot but can not find a reference to it in the directions or recipe….am I just missing it? Thanks again! Making this tonight!
Chef Dennis Littley
not a problem Jacquelyn, I had originally planned the garlic for the sweet potatoes but went another direction by adding the maple syrup. So you don’t need the garlic. Sorry for the confusion.
Quick question….should I score the duck breast (fat) before placing it in the cold skillet? Thank you!
Chef Dennis Littley
you can score the duck breast if you like, its all a matter of how you’re going to present it.
Great recipe! Followed it to the tee, first time duck meal and it was great! I left the sauce on I think too long and was a little thick but just something I need to practice.
Chef Dennis Littley
thanks for leaving a great review and comment. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the duck!
I just did this….the duck, not veggies…I just roasted some veggies….absolutely to die for….I also made a cranberrysauce/sherry wine reduction to accompany it….it was gourmet!
I would love that sauce/reduction recipe! Sounds perfect.
Chef Dennis Littley
I’m not sure which sauce you’re talking about Jacquelyn. The pan gravy recipe is in this post.
Thanks again, chef!
This looks so tender and tasty! I like the tip on how to start the cooking process on a cold pan. This is the perfect meal for a holiday gathering—it’s simple yet decedent! Thanks for sharing.
The cold oiled pan worked for me….heavy bottomed stainless steel…didn’t touch it for close to 10 mins…turned for 5 more…oven at 350 for 15 mins…rested for 5!
This duck sounds delicious and I love your ingredient and in process shots! Thanks so much for sharing :).
I absolutely love love love seared duck breast. This looks amazing. The veggies you served alongside sound like the perfect companion for a delicious meal.
Chef Dennis, as usual you are inspiring me to break out of my home cooking rut and cook something more adventurous! I’ve never thought of duck as something I could accomplish, but why not?
This sounds amazing! I have never cooked duck before, but you have made me want to come out of my comfort zone. I had no idea I could actually make it myself at home. Can’t wait to give it a try!
I love to order duck at restaurants before but I’ve never cooked it myself. I will have to try it now that I know the secret of starting with a cold pan! Thank you for the helpful tip!
This is just lovely – what a delightful meal! And I really, really appreciated how clearly you walked through the cooking process, like the importance of starting with a cold pan and striving to render the fat. I’ve seen so many chefs on TV shows that fail to do this properly – it’s no wonder home cooks feel baffled and afraid to cook duck! Seriously – this was a terrific post!
I have never made duck before, so I wouldn’t have known to start with a cold pan, and likely would have started with a piping hot pan, as I would a steak. I’m glad to have a learned a bit more about the specific cooking technique, so I can better execute a proper sear!
This is such a great, informative post. I didn’t know you were supposed to cook duck breasts starting in a cold pan. We sometimes order them out, but I’ve never tried cooking them at home!