My students loved them and were surprised that great duck breasts were easier to cook than chicken breasts. Here is the basic principle behind this recipe:
1) Score the skin to allow fat to render -- this results in a crispy and delectable skin that is not too thick, fatty, and chewy
2) Render fat over low heat so that the breasts don't cook too fast and toughen
3) Test the temperature with a thermometer to be sure the duck is done to your liking. Keep in mind that duck meet looks much more "done" than beef at a particular temperature. For example, at 130F (at the time of serving), beef looks quite red, but duck looks pinkish brown. 130F is my ideal temperature for both of them (this means removing them from heat at 120F to allow for residual cooking). I consider this temperature to be medium-rare even though duck is not red inside. To make it *look* medium-rare, it has to be cooked to much lower temperature. I find that many restaurants make this mistake resulting in chewy skin and tough meat.
Seared and Glazed Duck Breasts
Note: this recipe was developed and tested with Long Island or Pekin duck. If you use a larger duck, such as Moulard, you'll need to adjust cooking times. Long Island duck will be more tender; Moulard duck will be more flavorful.
4 duck breasts
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp plum preserve, honey, or maple syrup
- Score the skin of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern using a single-sided razor blade or a very sharp knife. Trim the silver skin off the flesh. Dry duck thoroughly with paper towels.
- Season both sides of duck generously with salt and pepper.
- Set a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the duck breasts skin side down without overlapping. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook without disturbing until most of the fat renders and the skin is about 1/6 inch thick, 5-7 minutes
- Tilt the pan and spoon out all the fat. Turn up the heat to medium-high and continue to cook duck breasts until the skin is crisp and golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip the breasts. Brush on the preserve, honey, or maple syrup onto the skin. Cook 3-5 minute or until internal temperature reaches 120F for medium-rare, 125F for medium. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve immediately with the juices that accumulate on the cutting board during slicing.