Some recipes are perfect the way they are. For example, this recipe is one that requires no modification whatsoever, and I’m going to use it to show you how to cook a perfect duck breast.*
There are more than one methods to cook duck breast, but the one described here always gives a perfect result. The reason is that you first sear your meat in a pan in its own fat, making sure the skin turns out crispy and you seal in the juices. Then, by placing it in the preheated oven, you can perfectly control the doneness of your meat.
So not only will you learn how to pan fry and cook duck breast in the oven, but also how to cook it the way you like. Be it rare, medium rare, medium, or well done, cooking duck breast at home has never been easier.
What You’ll Need
It’s best to use a pan that you can also place in the oven. For this, I would recommend a cast iron pan. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, you can just move the duck breast over onto a baking tray before cooking it in the oven.
You don’t need anything else, except the duck breast fillet and of course some seasonings. But it is such a tasty meat that I wouldn’t overwhelm it with anything more then salt and pepper. See my seasoning tips below.
How To Season Duck Breast
As I mentioned above, duck breast is such a superior meat that in my opinion it doesn’t need any special seasoning. The old salt and pepper, the latter freshly ground, will not only do, but they’ll allow the taste of the meat to be the star of the dish.
On the other hand, any seasoning would be great that you would add to red meat. Thyme and rosemary are a nice paring for your duck breast, but you can also try it with something more exotic like Chinese five-spice seasoning.
Garlic, chili peppers, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, star anise, as well as honey, are all great if used as a seasoning for duck breast.
Make sure to add enough seasoning though. This is a question of personal preference, but duck breast is quite a big piece of meat, it will take up a lot of salt and pepper.
Duck Breast Cooking Time
These are the oven cooking times required for different doneness of duck breast. Pleas note that oven temperature is 430 F (220 C), without fan, and the meat is precooked in a pan for 6 minutes. See details in the recipe below.
- Rare: 10 minutes.
- Medium rare: 15 minutes.
- Well-done: 18-20 minutes.
- Start cooking your duck breasts skin side down, in a cold pan. No need to add any additional fat.
- The oven needs to be preheated though, make sure you turn it on ahead of time.
- No need to use the fan in the oven to cook your duck breasts.
- I usually only season the meat side, but some prefer to season the skin, too.
- Like every meat that’s been cooked on high temperature, duck breast also tastes a lot better after 5-10 minutes of rest before serving. This ensures the meat stays juicy and tender.
- Make sure to use an oven-safe pan for cooking. Cast iron pans work best, but use any skillet that has no plastic parts.
- If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, sear your duck breasts in any pan (see the first part of the recipe), then place them onto a baking tray and then into the preheated oven.
- The most preferred way of cooking duck breast is to medium. This in French has the name Magret de canard rosé, the word rosé referring to the pinkish color of the meat when cooked perfectly.
- One portion is one duck breast.
How To Serve Duck Breast
Duck breast can be a nice meal to serve on a holiday. It could also be a good substitute for a Sunday roast but it is indeed an ideal tip for a special weekday dinner too.
Serve your duck breasts warm. Once they finished cooking, make sure to let them rest on a plate or wire rack for 5-10 minutes to let the juices spread around. Then serve them immediately.
I would suggest to prepare an easy pan sauce while the breasts are resting. It is the perfect accompaniment to not only steaks but also duck breast. If you don’t want to put in the extra energy of cooking the pan sauce, serve the duck breast with the juices accumulated in the pan and during resting.
You may also want to work around the preparation/cooking/resting time so the breast is ready by the time you’re planning to serve it. This ensures the duck’s skin is crispy, while the meat is perfectly tender. Simply count backwards, allowing 30 minutes for rare, 35 minutes for medium and 18 minutes for well done duck breasts. (Please note that these are not cooking times but rather the total time needed to prepare the meat for the desired doneness.)
Duck breast goes well with just about any standard garnishes; however, I personally prefer a lighter side to go with. For example, any steamed vegetables (I serve it often with steamed carrots or asparagus), perhaps a simple Olivier or green salad, the latter with a light vinaigrette dressing. Plum sauce is also a popular choice to accompany duck breasts. But feel free to serve it with whatever you or your guests like.
Or check out this yummy idea where the duck breasts are served with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.
How To Cook Duck Breast
- Oven-proof pan
- 4 duck breast fillets
- black pepper freshly ground is best
- Preheat your oven to 430 F (220 C), no fan.
- Prepare the duck breast: clean it if necessary (so only the skin and meat remain), then score the skin with a knife in a cross-hatch pattern – be careful not to cut the meat.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the duck breast skin side down in an oven-proof cold pan. Turn the heat up to medium. No need to add oil or fat!
- Sear the duck breast skin side down for 6 minutes until it’s golden brown, pouring off the fat regularly. Careful, this is extremely hot!
- Turn it, and cook it on the other side for only 30 seconds.
- Place the pan in the oven, duck breasts skin side up, and cook to your liking. Cooking time is 10 mins for rare, 15 mins for medium rare and 18 minutes for well-done.
- Take the duck breasts out of the oven, and let them rest for 10 minutes.
* The original recipe linked from the first paragraph now gives 200°C (390 F) as cooking temperature for the duck breast. However, when I first tried this recipe back in 2016, the cooking temperature was 220°C (430 F), you can check it on the link. I still use the original cooking temperature, as you can see it in my recipe, and the duck breasts always turn out great.