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Duck breast help

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

HELP!  I tried my first attempt at duck breasts tonight and I can't say that I was overwhelmed with the results.  I can see why people have trouble with duck.  Was attempting pan seared duck with a cherry/port sauce.  The sauce came out great but the duck was not what I was hoping.  I scored the skin but the amount of fat that accumulated in the pan while I was still searing the skin side seemed excessive.  Felt more like deep fat frying than searing.  I tried removing some of the fat during the cooking but there still seemed to be a lot in the pan.  When the skin side looked nicely golden brown I turned it over and cooked the flesh side until golden.  Total time in the pan was about 5-6 minutes per side.  The breast was still a bit too rare in the middle but if I cooked any further I think the outside would be burned.  So couple of questions;

 

1 - Would pounding the breast thinner, like a chicken cutlet, be a reasonable thing to do?  Seems like this would shorten the total cooking time and avoid under done center and over done skin.

 

2- Would oven finishing be a good idea?  Get the correct color on the outside and finish to temperature in the oven.

 

3 - I saw an episode of Good Eats about duck and Alton Brown recommends steaming the duck pieces for 40-ish minutes to help render the fat and start the cooking, then finish in a very hot cast iron pan to get the crisp skin and color.  Anyone ever tried this method?

 

4 - the sub-cutainious fat layer seemed really thick.  Is the majority of this supposed to be cooked off?  

 

I want to give duck breasts another try.  Any suggestions or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated.  

post #2 of 15

I'm not a duck expert, but this is what I do.

I score the skin and start the pan from cold. The amount of fat rendering is enormous!

I normally take out a little bit but besides that I just let it go and leave the duck on the skin side till the breast is closed to cooked. Then take out some more fat and turn the breast over and leave for a couple of minutes.

I would estimate that I leave it a good 15 minutes, maybe even longer, on the skin side and maybe 3-4 on the other side. After that I let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then slice thinly.

Don't throw away the fat, keep it for frying potatoes....

 

I think finishing in the oven would work very well, but I don't do is as the pan searing gives me no issues.

 

I can't really answer your questions about steaming the duck first. Somehow I would sooner do that to bone-in pieces than to a nice juicy breast.

Pounding: Never tried that either.

 

Good luck with your next attempt and I'm sure some other people will chime in shortly

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post #3 of 15

It's normal for a duck breast to render a LOT of fat. 

 

Make sure the duck breast is at room temp. I also score the skin, and place the breast skin side down in a COLD pan. Then put the pan over very low heat and let the fat render. Keep scooping it out. The idea is to get a thin crispy layer of golden brown duck skin, and not a trace of raw white fat underneath. This will take longer than 5-6mn. More like 12mn or so. At that point the skin should have a nice color, make sure there's no more fat in the bottom of the pan (the pan will still be greasy enough for the other side). Bring the heat to medium, flip the breast and cook for 2 or 3mn, that's it. Should be enough for a nice medium/medium rare duck. 

 

1. That sounds like a horrible idea to me. Why damage a perfectly healthy duck breast? 

 

2. My guess is you'd overcook the breast within a minute in an oven (but I've never tried it). 

 

3. Sounds like a horrible idea to me. Steaming a duck breast for even 10mn would probably overcook it. And who wants to eat steamed duck???

 

4. YES! You'll avoid that sub-layer of fat by starting in a cold pan and rendering the fat slowly rather than trying to "sear" the skin side. 

 

PS: Just read butzy's answer and noticed we have pretty much the same technique. smile.gif

post #4 of 15

After flipping it I'd say it's really under one minute for a good medium-medium rare.

post #5 of 15

Very good advice.  I do the same, put the breast skin-side-down in a cold pan (unseasoned!!) and turn the heat on medium low.  As the fat oozes out I scoop it out into a bowl continuously.  This does take some time and you have to keep the heat on low because you want to slowly melt that fat rather than sizzle and burn it.  Once the layer of fat is very thin you can stop this process.  Season it in the pan and turn it over to continue cooking.  You can put it in the oven at this point but as long as you keep the heat on low you can finish it off on the stove as most of us seem to do. 

 

Now you have a bowl of melted duck fat which is worth its weight in gold.  Strain it and put it in a plastic container and let it cool to room temp before putting it in the freezer.  In the future use it to pan roast some potatoes instead of butter or oil.  It's sinfully good. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #6 of 15

Duckfat and potatoes go together like, well, duckfat and potatoes. :D

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivanthetrble View Post

Would oven finishing be a good idea?  Get the correct color on the outside and finish to temperature in the oven.

 

 

 

 

You certainly can finish in an oven if you want. It's a very common technique for finishing steaks, dense meat fish etc. It looks to me like you seared your Duck at too high of a temp. This is pretty common for people starting with Duck because every one wants that nice crisp skin. I would not pound the breasts like Chicken.

As far as timing goes I'd agree with butzy. I'm a lot closer to 15 minutes skin side down.

 

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice!  It sounds like my pan was too hot and cook time too short.  I also added a bit of EVOO and butter to the pan but in hindsite this seems like it was not needed.  It seems to be a confusing item to cook.  I spent about 2 hours last night looking for information on-line and I found just about any combination of techniques from cold, dry pan cooked low and slow to 475* pan and oven and a total cooking time of 3-4 minutes.  I'm going to try again later in the week with the following plan.

 

1 - very dry, room temperature duck!

2 - cold, dry pan (Le Crueset 12 inch cast iron)

3 - scored skin

4 - seaseon with salt but no pepper (afraid it will burn with longer cooking time)

5 - heat at medium low to medium at most

6 - 10-12 minutes on skin side, spooning off excess fat as I go

7 - flip and sear maybe a couple of minutes on the non-skin side

8 - add pepper towards end of cooking, maybe just before breasts are turned

9 - check internal temp after #8, shooting for maybe about 140-ish internal temp for med rare

10 - have oven heated in case internal temp still too low after searing.  If needed, place pan in oven with breast skin side up??

11 - *Julia Child voice on* SAVE THE FAT! 

 

Does this sound like a more reasonable approach? 

post #9 of 15

If you use the oven put the Duck in skin side up. There's nothing wrong with seasoning your food after you cook it. Let your protein  rest before cutting. No need to add fat to your pan.

Sounds like a plan. Let us know how it turns out.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #10 of 15

Sounds like a plan.  But season after you've rendered the fat.  No need to season the fat if you are going to be storing it away and using it in a different dish.  Your cherry port sauce sounds wonderful.  My favorite way to serve duck breast is to season it with allspice and honey.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #11 of 15
There's nothing wrong with seasoning your food after you cook it.

 

I strongly disagree.  Also, pepper is not sugar.  It benefits from exposure to heat.

 

BDL

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

I strongly disagree. 

 

BDL

 

Shocked I am.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #13 of 15

Over here, it's scored skin, cold iron pan on medium-low, render fat until skin is crispy brown, flip, one minute more. Oven at 180°C for 7 minutes.

 

Having said that, the timing may vary greatly. I get very tender French duck breasts (with a relatively thin layer of fat) that are quite thick to start with but shrink quite a bit during frying/roasting. And of course, it depends on what your gas flame thinks is medium-low. So the skin-side frying takes about 4 minutes (I have never actually timed it with a stopwatch...)

 

Cheers,

Recky
 

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

I strongly disagree.  Also, pepper is not sugar.  It benefits from exposure to heat.

 

BDL

 

Roast some whole pepper in the oven.  But also, for different effect, a large flake salt adds texture all on its own.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hi all and Merry Christmas!  I wanted to update you on my second attempt to do seared duck breasts.  I actually cut the two breasts down the middle, where it is basically just skin anyway, to make 4 pieces.  I did two of them with the method I outlined above, (cold dry pan, long and slow, etc, see post #8 above) and I did the other two with a hot pan and finished in the oven.  Both methods came out much better than my first attempt.  I plated them and gave them to Mrs. Ivan without her knowing which was which.  While both were good and both were cooked to a nice medium rare, we both preferred the results of the cold pan, low and slow method.  The skin seemed to crisp a bit better and the overall texture was a bit more tender.  Served with the same cherry/port sauce plus turnip puree infused with garlic and thyme and wilted rainbow chard.  Also got about 1/4 cup of nice, clear duck fat out of the deal!  Thanks again to everyone for the input, it was very helpful!

 

Happy Holidays!

ITT

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