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How to Properly Pan-Sear Duck Breast

Most types of livestock meat are placed in a searing-hot pan to develop caramelization on the outside. However, this approach will not work with duck breast. Because duck breast typically has a thick layer of fat, you must take the heat down a few notches. This allows the fat to render out, leading to a beautifully crisp, golden brown piece of meat.

If you are wondering how to cook duck breast, keep reading to learn to properly pan-sear it:

Preparing the Meat

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Then, use a sharp knife to carve a crosshatch pattern into the skin at quarter-inch intervals. Make sure you don’t pierce the skin. Once done, season the duck breast with a generous amount of salt on both sides and place the meat in the refrigerator. Don’t cover it and leave it there for at least three hours or up to overnight.

Render the Fat

Place the meat, skin side down, on a dry, cold pan over medium heat. This allows the fat to render slowly. Placing the duck breast into a hot pan will cause it to seal the fat, leading to a chewy layer of fat. When the fat renders, pour the excess fat into a bowl. This will let the skin to brown and get crisp. The rendered fat can be used when cooking potatoes or dressing popcorn.

When pan-searing duck meat, do it with the fat side down, for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until the skin becomes golden brown, thin, and crispy. But, because the time varies depending on your stovetop, ensure to pay attention to the meat. After you sear the skin side of the meat, turn it over to the other side and cook for an extra 3-5 minutes for rare to medium-rare.

Helpful Notes

The duck breasts available in the majority of stores are from young, tender ducklings. Usually, they weigh 5-6 ounces.  If you can find bigger French-style breasts, described as “magret” or “moulard” on the packaging, they can weigh at least a pound and serve 2-4 dishes. While they are cooked the same way, your roasting time will approximately double.

Before serving your duck, ensure to let it rest for a few minutes to equilibrate the temperature and spread the moisture around. To make duck crackling, cut the skin into thin strips and fry until crisp. You can use this on salads or as part of your favorite duck recipe.

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