Cooking

Sear and Now

The best way to cook duck breast
Perfectly seared duck breast | Photos: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
How to Sear Duck Breast

Cooking shows and recipes will tell you to place a piece of meat in a searing-hot pan to develop caramelization on the outside.

We're here to tell you: Don't do that with duck breast. Just don't.

The typical duck breast has a thick layer of fat, so you want to take the heat down a few notches. That way, the fat can render out, resulting in a beautifully crisp, golden brown piece of meat.

Cooking a perfect duck breast is no more difficult than roasting a chicken. See the slideshow to learn the proper technique. And once you've got it down, make our seared duck breast with wheat berries and endive.

  • ① Pat the duck breast dry with a paper towel. Using a sharp knife, carve a crosshatch pattern into the skin at quarter-inch intervals, being careful not to pierce the skin. Season the breast generously with salt on both sides (you can also use coarse black pepper, crushed juniper berries and any fresh herbs you like) and place the meat in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. For even better results, place the duck breast on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. You're essentially curing and air-drying the meat (the salt extracts water from the fat), which will result in a more flavorful piece of meat with crispy skin.

  • ② Place the duck breast, skin side down, on a dry, cold pan over medium heat. (When you put the meat into a cold pan, you're rendering the fat slowly. If you place the meat into a hot pan, it seals in the fat resulting in a chewy layer of fat.) As the fat renders, pour the excess fat into a bowl. Doing so will allow the skin to brown and get crisp instead of cooking in a pool of liquid. Strain the rendered duck fat and save for cooking potatoes or bitter greens, or for dressing popcorn.

  • ③ The majority of the cooking time will be with the fat side down, about 12 to 15 minutes. Flip the breast and cook for a minute more before transferring it to a clean cutting board.

  • ④ Just like any hot piece of meat, allow the duck breast to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes before carving at an angle against the grain.

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