Cooking Techniques for Duck Breast (Plus 5 Recipes)

Updated on September 10, 2018
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

This roasted duck breast with plum, red wine, and ginger  sauce is just one of the recipes you will find in this article.
This roasted duck breast with plum, red wine, and ginger sauce is just one of the recipes you will find in this article.

Duck is often an extremely underrated meat. Some people consider this meat to be greasy and/or tough, certainly in comparison to chicken or turkey. While duck can at times unfortunately justify these criticisms, this is generally a sign either that the duck has been inappropriately cooked or has not been granted sufficient resting time.

Properly cooked, duck breast can be sublime. However, especially as this meat can be a little bit pricey, it is important to decide in advance precisely how you are going to prepare it.

In this article, I will share general cooking techniques for this underrated meat, as well as a number of deliciously tasty recipes.

Duck breast fillets, ready to cook
Duck breast fillets, ready to cook

General Techniques for Cooking Duck Breast

When cooking duck breast fillets, there are a few standards that will apply in most instances, including all of the recipes featured in this article.

A note about frozen duck breast: If you buy frozen, it is important to know that they must be completely defrosted before being cooked in any way. The best way to do this is in a covered dish, on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, overnight.

When you are ready to begin cooking, follow these guidelines:

  • The skin and subcutaneous fat should always be left on a duck breast when cooking. This not only keeps the meat moist, it adds considerably to the flavor.
  • Begin by laying the fillet flesh-side down on a chopping board. Score through the skin and fat (only these two layers) in a criss-cross fashion with a cleaver or very sharp knife.
  • Season at this stage with salt and freshly ground black pepper (or whatever seasoning your recipe calls for), and massage the seasoning gently into the meat.
  • Lay the fillet skin-side down in a cold, dry pan. Put the heat on low and increase gradually over the course of a couple of minutes as the fat begins to melt and lubricate the pan. From this point onwards, each recipe will vary (see below).

Illustrated Guide: Techniques

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Score the skin of the duck breast in a criss-cross fashionLay duck breast skin-side down in a cold, dry pan
Score the skin of the duck breast in a criss-cross fashion
Score the skin of the duck breast in a criss-cross fashion
Lay duck breast skin-side down in a cold, dry pan
Lay duck breast skin-side down in a cold, dry pan

Recipe 1: Pan-Fried Duck Breast With Red Currant Jelly on Potato and Parsnip Mash

The pan-fried duck breast is rested before being sliced and served on the bed of mash, garnished with parsley and red currant jelly.
The pan-fried duck breast is rested before being sliced and served on the bed of mash, garnished with parsley and red currant jelly.

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 duck breast fillet
  • 1 large starchy/floury potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red currant jelly
  • 1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • Pat of butter, if desired
  • Sea salt, black pepper, and white pepper

Method

  1. To a pot of cold, slightly salted water, add potato and parsnip and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  2. Cook duck breast, skin-side down, for a total of 12 minutes (for the first 2 minutes, cook on low heat; then adjust to medium heat). Turn fillet over and cook for 5 minutes on the flesh side. Remove from pan to a preheated plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain potato and parsnip and return them to the pot. A little butter may be added here to assist in the mashing process. Season with white pepper and mash with a hand masher. Once the mixture is mashed, stir in parsley with a spoon.
  4. On a plate, make a bed with the mash. Slice duck breast into 3 or 4 pieces and arrange on top of the mash. Garnish with red currant jelly and remaining parsley.

Illustrated Guide: Pan-Fried Duck Breast With Red Currant Jelly on Potato and Parsnip Mash

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rest duck breast on a warmed plateStir parsley and garlic through the mashPlace sliced duck breast on top of the mash
Rest duck breast on a warmed plate
Rest duck breast on a warmed plate
Stir parsley and garlic through the mash
Stir parsley and garlic through the mash
Place sliced duck breast on top of the mash
Place sliced duck breast on top of the mash

Recipe 2: Crispy Duck Breast and Fig Salad With Citrus Dressing

Crispy duck slices are laid on top of a dressed fig salad
Crispy duck slices are laid on top of a dressed fig salad

This delicious duck breast salad can be served completely cold if desired, perhaps as a tasty summer lunch. In this instance, however, the slices are added to the salad hot, straight from the frying pan.

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 duck breast fillet
  • Handful of fresh watercress (or green herb of choice)
  • 1 clementine (seedless tangerine)
  • 1 fresh fig
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp orange blossom honey
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Fry duck breast skin-side down for 10 minutes. Turn fillet, and cook flesh-side down for 5 minutes. It should be a little bit pink on the inside. Remove fillet from pan and place on a warmed plate. Cover with foil to rest. Reserve pan containing fat and juices, as it will be needed again.
  2. Pour olive oil into a small glass bowl. Add lime juice and honey. Season lightly with salt and black pepper. Whisk with a small hand whisk or fork to fully combine.
  3. Wash fig and snip off the top and bottom. Cut into 8 segments. Peel clementine and separate its segments. There is no need to remove the skin from these delicate segments, but it can be removed if desired. Mix clementine and fig segments in a bowl with watercress.
  4. When the duck is rested, slice with a cleaver to a thickness of around half an inch. Bring pan containing duck fat back up to high heat and fry meat slices for 1 minute per side.
  5. Plate the salad and drizzle with citrus dressing. Remove duck from frying pan to a plate covered with kitchen paper. Allow to drain and dry for a minute or so before arranging on top of the salad for immediate service. If desired, some toasted sesame seeds, or perhaps some crushed cashew nuts, could be added as a final garnish.

Illustrated Guide: Crispy Duck Breast and Fig Salad With Citrus Dressing

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This recipe calls for fig, lime, and clementineCombine citrus dressing in a bowlPrepare fig and clementine for crispy duck saladCrisp duck breast slices in its own fatFig salad is ready for the crispy duck
This recipe calls for fig, lime, and clementine
This recipe calls for fig, lime, and clementine
Combine citrus dressing in a bowl
Combine citrus dressing in a bowl
Prepare fig and clementine for crispy duck salad
Prepare fig and clementine for crispy duck salad
Crisp duck breast slices in its own fat
Crisp duck breast slices in its own fat
Fig salad is ready for the crispy duck
Fig salad is ready for the crispy duck

Recipe 3: Stir-Fried Duck Breast With Ginger on Braised Savoy Cabbage

Duck breast is a popular stir-frying ingredient in Chinese cookery. This recipe is as simple as could be—but instead of rice, it is served with sauteed Savoy cabbage, just for a little bit of a change.

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 duck breast fillet
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 closed cup mushrooms
  • ½ tsp ginger root, grated
  • 2 large leaves of Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly torn basil leaves to garnish

Method

  1. Fry duck breast skin-side down for 10 minutes. Turn fillet, and cook flesh-side down for 5 minutes. Remove fillet from pan and place on a warmed plate. Cover with foil to rest. Reserve pan containing fat and juices.
  2. Add Savoy cabbage and garlic to reserved pan with duck fat. Sautee for 7-8 minutes on a gentle heat. Stir frequently.
  3. When the fillet has rested, cut it in half lengthways. Chop each half into 4-5 bite-sized pieces.
  4. Bring the oil up to a high heat in a wok. Add onion and mushroom, and stir-fry for about a minute. Add duck and ginger, and cook for another minute. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Lay sauteed Savoy cabbage as a bed on a plate. Arrange stir-fried duck on top, garnish with torn basil leaves, and serve.

Illustrated Guide: Stir-Fried Duck Breast With Ginger on Braised Savoy Cabbage

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Shredded Savoy cabbage and garlic for braisingOnion and mushrooms ready for stir-fryingChop the rested duck before stir-fryingMake a bed of the sauteed Savoy cabbage on a plate
Shredded Savoy cabbage and garlic for braising
Shredded Savoy cabbage and garlic for braising
Onion and mushrooms ready for stir-frying
Onion and mushrooms ready for stir-frying
Chop the rested duck before stir-frying
Chop the rested duck before stir-frying
Make a bed of the sauteed Savoy cabbage on a plate
Make a bed of the sauteed Savoy cabbage on a plate

Recipe 4: Roast Breast of Duck With Plum, Red Wine, and Ginger Sauce

This oven-roasted duck breast is sliced, topped with plum and ginger sauce, and served with fried rice
This oven-roasted duck breast is sliced, topped with plum and ginger sauce, and served with fried rice

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 duck breast fillet
  • 3 oz basmati rice
  • ½ glass red wine
  • 4 Tbsp fresh chicken stock
  • 1 large plum, cut into quarters and pit removed
  • ½ tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp ginger, freshly grated
  • 1 Tbsp frozen peas
  • Good splash of dark soy sauce
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Sunflower oil for stir-frying
  • Sprig of basil for garnish

Method

  1. First, cook rice. Wash rice through a sieve and add it to a pot of boiling, slightly salted water. Simmer for 12 minutes. Drain through the sieve, spread out on a plate, and cover. Allow it to cool for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Using an oven-proof frying pan, fry duck breast as above but cook only for a couple of minutes on each side, and be sure to brown all around. Place pan in oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour red wine into a saucepan and put it on high heat. Let it boil hard for a few minutes to reduce. Add chicken stock and keep the simmer going. Add ginger and plum to pot.
  4. Bring oil up to a high heat in a wok. Add rice, frozen peas, and soy sauce. Cook on high heat, stir-frying for about a minute.
  5. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap, ensuring the plastic overlaps by at least an inch. Pack the rice into it and invert on the serving plate. Lift the bowl away (holding the edges of the plastic), and peel off the plastic.
  6. Slice fillet into 3-4 portions. Lay on plate, skin-side down in this instance, and spoon plum and ginger sauce on top. Garnish rice with basil sprig and serve.

Illustrated Guide: Roast Breast of Duck With Plum, Red Wine, and Ginger Sauce

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pan-sear duck breast before roastingSlice plums in half, remove pits, and then slice again Add plums to reduced wine and stockPlace fried rice in a small bowl before inverting
Pan-sear duck breast before roasting
Pan-sear duck breast before roasting
Slice plums in half, remove pits, and then slice again
Slice plums in half, remove pits, and then slice again
Add plums to reduced wine and stock
Add plums to reduced wine and stock
Place fried rice in a small bowl before inverting
Place fried rice in a small bowl before inverting

Recipe 5: Gordon Ramsay Cooks Duck Breast With Gooseberry Sauce

Do You Like to Cook Duck Breast?

I hope that you have enjoyed this article on duck breast recipes and that you have found it useful.

Thank you for visiting. Please comment below with any feedback.

Comments

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Stessily. I'm glad that you like the recipes and love your analogy of the houses. I obviously can't speak for Gordon Ramsay - but you can be sure I would happily share! :) Thanks for your visit and comment.

      Hi, Movie Master. I hope this gives you another option for using up your parsnips and that you enjoy the dish. I honestly believe the duck and parsnips worked really well together. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Gordon, duck is one of my favourite meats and I have plenty of parsnips in the garden, so that recipe is for me, but they all sound delicous, thank you.

    • profile image

      stessily 

      7 years ago

      Gordon: Superbly presented with clear, helpful photos. I love red currant jelly, and it's genius to incorporate those wonderful parsnips into the same recipe. Thank you for including Gordon Ramsay with his gooseberry sauce.

      My ideal neighborhood would feature your house on one side and Gordon Ramsay on the other; even if y'all didn't share your cooking, I'd still be euphoric from the aromas! All the votes.

      Kind regards, Stessily

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Tony. Interesting about the Chinese considering eating duck lucky - I didn't know that! Glad you like the ideas. Thanks.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      7 years ago from Yorkshire

      HI Gordon

      I love duck, and some of your recipes here sound really good. The plum and ginger sauce I will definitely have a crack at. The Chinese regard eating duck as lucky, not for the duck I hasten to add.

      cheers

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thanks, Brittany. I hope you get a chance to try out some of these ideas.

    • brittanytodd profile image

      Brittany Kennedy 

      7 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      These photos are making my mouth water! Great hub!

    • Gordon Hamilton profile imageAUTHOR

      Gordon Hamilton 

      7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Cheers, Jimmy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Best to you,

      Gordon

      Hi, lovepug. Thanks for visit and comment. Appreciate it.

    • lovepug profile image

      lovepug 

      7 years ago from Switzerland

      I know this recipe, I've seen several recipe from Gordon Ramsay as well. The duck taste amazing, yet the cooking technique is so simple. Credit goes to you to for writing it well!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      A very well written and Illustrated Hub Gordon, the duck looks mouth watering especially with the Plum and ginger sauce, that is a recipe i will be sure to try in the very near future.

      you are a man of many talents Gordon thanks for sharing.....jimmy

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