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I've just purchased some locally reared organic duck breasts from a local farmers market and have decided to cook them according to the Five-spiced duck breasts with honey and soy recipe.

My concern is that having not cooked duck breasts before (yes, I know, shameful! =) and having picked the recipe based on the fact that it sounds good and appears to have fairly detailed instructions, my inexperience in handling duck could result in a poor end result. So:

  • Are there any tips, things to look out for or techniques when cooking duck breast to obtain a great outcome?
  • Are there any glaring mistakes in the method for cooking duck breast in the recipe detailed?
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5 Answers 5

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I would say that recipes technique sounds ok, but when I have cooked duck before I have always cooked skin side down on a medium heat till the fat all runs out and skin is golden but this always takes longer than 3 minutes more in the 10 minute range.

Maybe this is because I use a lower heat. the recipe doesn't say how hot the pan should be. The aim is to render most of the fat out from under the skin of the duck.

I usually baste with the fat whilst it is cooking then finish off under the grill (broiler - not underneath the BBQ :)), but some times finish in the oven too.

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+1 I forgot to meantion frying cooking skin side down –  Willbill Sep 8 '10 at 13:12
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A tip from South West of France, where duck is cooked everywhere: keep the fat and use it later for frying. It is actually better for health than many vegetal oils (and its taste is wonderful). –  mouviciel Sep 11 '10 at 11:22
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A quick peruse of the recipe doesn't show any red-flag items.

Scoring the skin is indeed important. Another thing that is good to know is that duck fat, as you bake it, can turn really really black but this need not necessarily affect your dish badly - it doesn't look like this recipe will take things this far, though.

Good luck and good eating! :)

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My only suggestion would be not to overcook the breasts if cooked a bit rare and this makes a big difference to the succulence of the meat. The best results for me seem to be at medium rare (slightly pink in the middle).

Edit: It turns out there is a risk of salmonella with duck as with chicken but I have only ever seen it cooked medium rare even in restaurants. Continue at your own risk.

I googled this information for safe temperature "Duck is done when internal temperatures read a minimum of 165°F (74°C)" but I do not know if the duck is still pink at this temperature.

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how do I know how long to cook for rare vs. raw? Is it the same as testing steak, i.e. the meat of the thumb test? I'm guessing not as they're wildly different animals, but a hint would be good =) –  Rob Sep 6 '10 at 12:14
    
A quick search on Google tells me that there is more to this than I first thought. I edited my post with the new information. –  Willbill Sep 6 '10 at 12:31
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After marinating the duck fillets I pat them dry and heat a frying pan to medium heat, pan fry the duck skin side down ( I have already made slashes in the skin prior to marinating). I fry for approximately 2 minutes (be careful as the honey soon burns). Then transfer to a 200C oven on a roasting tray for 5-7 minutes depending on thickness. This is usually slightly pink inside. I generally baste some of the marinade over the fillet as I put them in the oven. I have never had a failure with this method

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I've had some success on the gas grill. The key is to use a hot grill, and keep flipping the active burner. You want the steel or porcelain grills to be hot, but minimal flame underneath (i.e. Conduction cooking, not convection or radiant) . For simplicity, I'll assume a two burner grill, with left and right controls. If you have horizontal burners, then think front and back.

Generally, I score the skin in a diamond pattern, about 1 inch in size. Get the grill as hot as you can. Place duck on the left side, and as soon as it starts to drip, turn the left burner off. If you get flare ups, slide the breast along the grill in such a way to preserve the grill marks while moving it away from the flare.

After a minute or two, check the skin for crispiness. Turn the left grill back on, and the right grill off. Flip the breasts, and move them to the right hand side. Close the lid and let them bake for about 3-4 minutes. Again, watch for flare ups through the window, and relocate breasts to avoid them. (It might take a couple attempts to get it right on your grill.)

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