YouTube Link: Seared Duck Breasts
Types of Duck
The breasts I am using in the video are from Long Island ducks (also known as Pekin). They are the most widely available in the stores. These ducks are small and very tender. Their breasts weigh 6-8 oz each and serve one person. Other varieties you might encounter are Muscovy and Moulard. Both are much larger than Long Island with one breast weighing about 1 Lb and serving 2 people. They are also a lot tougher. While all duck types benefit from pre-salting a day before cooking, it's particularly helpful with Muscovy and Moulard varieties to help them stay juicy and tender.
Doneness for Different Duck Types
I believe that you should never cook duck breasts past medium-rare (take off the heat around 120F and they'll rise to 130F during rest). If you want to make it more done, stick to Long Island duck. At higher temperatures, it will be drier, but still tender. Muscovy and Moulard have fabulous flavor, but the texture will be as pleasant as shoe leather if they go much above 130F. I usually take them off the heat at 115F to be on the safe side. They are so large that they need to rest for 7-10 minutes and will easily get to 125F-130F.
Additional Cooking Time for Muscovy and Moulard Duck Breasts
Before you get started, preheat the oven to 350F (so that it's ready by the time you finish rendering fat and searing the outside of the duck). The skin is so thick on these larger ducks that it will take around 15 minutes of cooking in the skillet on low heat to render most of its fat. You want the skin to be about 1/4 of an inch before you proceed to the step of pouring off the fat and browning the skin. After you flip the duck onto the flesh side, give it a couple of minutes on the stove top and check internal temperature. Most likely, you won't be at 115F yet, so finish cooking the breasts in the middle of the oven until you get there. It will take 5-10 minutes.
What does medium-rare look like?
Keep in mind that medium-rare is a temperature, not a color. Internal color of medium-rare duck depends on many factors. Long Island duck will be pink-beige. Muscovy and Moulard will look more red-purple (more like beef). If the duck was previously frozen, it might look more gray than red.
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