If you like duck but find that a whole duck is too much for your family’s consumption, you can buy duck breast instead. It is the meatiest part of the duck after all, and, with the uniform thickness and no bones to deal with, duck breast is much easier to cook. Cooks much faster too.
The downside? It is more expensive, kilo for kilo, than a whole duck. Plus, you don’t get bones that are so good for making broth.
The following tutorial is for cooking a slab of boneless duck breast meat. If cut into smaller pieces, as for a stir fry or a stew, I cook it like I would pork or beef. The cooking time might be different but the principle is the same.
But with a slab duck breast, whole or half, I employ a different cooking method.
There are only three steps in cooking duck breast — brown the duck, roast in the oven or braise in sauce, in the oven or on the stovetop. If you roasted it in the oven, you’d want to let it rest before serving. If you braised it in sauce, just slice and serve with the sauce.
There’s the duck breast before cooking. Unblemished skin with a good layer of fat beneath.
Now, how to cook it. Does it need marinade? You may do that if you like. Remember, however, that any marinade ingredient with sugar in it can burn the duck skin and meat faster during the searing stage.
The cooking part.
First, brown the duck skin in a frying pan and let it render fat. Flip to brown the meat. What happens next depends on whether you want to cook your duck breast in dry heat or with liquid.
Method 1: Roast the duck breast
Transfer the duck (yes, in the pan so your pan should be ovenproof) to a preheated oven. Cook at 375F in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes for medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes for just barely rare. I cooked mine for 15 minutes and that’s how it looked straight out of the oven.
See how much fat has been rendered? That’s very tasty. Store it in the fridge for future use.
Lift the duck from the fat and transfer to a cutting board. It needs to rest before cutting so that the juices can have a chance to settle. If you can manage it, lay it sideways so that loss of juice is minimal.
Cover the duck with foil. Not wrap; just cover loosely. Let the duck rest for at least 10 minutes.
For an idea on how you can serve the roasted duck breast, see my roast duck rice bowl recipe.
Method 2: Braise the duck breast in the oven or stovetop
Once the duck has been seared, pour off the fat in the pan and pour in whatever sauce you want to cook the duck in making sure that the liquid goes halfway up the thickness of the duck.
Set the heat to low, cover the pan and let the duck cook in the sauce slowly for 40 to 50 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the breast.
Remember to check the amount of liquid in the pan occasionally. If the liquid evaporates too fast and there’s a chance that the meat will scorch before getting cooked through, add more sauce, no more than a quarter cup each time.
If, by the time the duck breast is done, the sauce appears too soupy, you can always boil it down to reduce and thicken.
Examples of duck breast braised in sauce.