The Ideal Way To Cook Pan-Roasted Duck With Crispy Skin

There are several ways of cooking duck that make use of the high amounts of fat present in the skin. Whether it's for duck confit or rillettes, the duck's fat is one of those things that you can view either as a help or a hindrance. Calling it a "hindrance" is only due to the fact that for anyone trying to achieve the crispiest skin imaginable on duck, you need to find a way around that fat. One of the best methods of achieving this is by pan roasting the duck.

Pan roasting is a method of cooking that combines both direct heat and radiant heat — in the form of searing on the stove, and then roasting inside the oven. This works well for several different portioned cuts of meat, but it is particularly excellent for duck breasts. Pan roasting allows the meat to cook relatively gently, while also allowing the skin to become crispy instead of rubbery.

While it may seem counterintuitive to cook the duck skin-side down without flipping for almost the entirety of the cooking, that is exactly what you have to do in order to achieve crispy skin. The heat will render the fat, providing the ultimate crispy skin, and a great basting liquid.

Render the fat for maximum crispiness on pan-roasted duck

Duck breast is not like chicken where it needs to be cooked all the way through. In fact, it's more like steak since the best way to cook it is medium rare — between 125 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit — so still slightly pink and tender in the middle. As pan roasting is a gentler cooking method than straight sautéing, the meat is allowed to cook for a longer period of time without overcooking and drying out. 

Make sure to pierce or score the skin on the duck breast before placing it in a pan over medium heat. The scoring allows the fat to render more evenly. Cook the breast skin-side down. The skin, which is where the fat is, will render and then become crispy, while also providing a barrier that allows the meat to cook more gently. You can also use the rendered fat to baste the duck meat towards the end of the cooking process. 

Don't flip the breast until you're about 90% finished cooking. You're really only cooking the meat long enough to give it some color. You could also finish off the duck in the oven for a few minutes, just until the internal temperature reaches medium rare. Allow the duck to rest for a few minutes before slicing into it. You should have a tender, pink interior, with a beautifully crispy skin.