Pan Seared Duck Breast

I have several duck breast recipes, but this is my favorite. It’s close to fine-dining restaurant duck and possibly better. I usually serve this with pan roasted Brussels Sprouts (using the duck fat), mashed potatoes (you can use duck fat instead of butter) mixed green salad and dessert.

Pan Seared Duck Breast

I have several duck breast recipes, but this one is my favorite. It’s close to fine-dining restaurant duck and possibly even better. I usually serve this with pan-roasted Brussel Sprouts (using some of the duck fat and a little bacon fat), mashed potatoes (you can use duck fat instead of butter), and a mixed green salad with a simple dessert.  
5 from 1 vote
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4 people


  • 12" Fry Pan
  • Meat Press or Cast Iron Skillet
  • Small Ladle
  • Heat Resistant Wide Mouth Mason Jar, Cup or Bowl
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Long Sharp Butcher Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Wine Glass


  • 2 ¼ lbs Duck Breast, Double Lobed
  • 1 tbsp Course Kosher Salt
  • 1 tbsp Course Ground Pepper
  • 1 Bottle of Good Wine


  • Remove duck from packaging, dry both sides of breast thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Wash hands, open and pour the wine.
  • Taking a long sharp butcher-style knife gently score the fat in a cross-hatch pattern,being careful NOT to cut into the meat. Be sure your knife for this and gently start on one side and pull the blade across in a straight line, repeat, rotate breast and, repeat. Salt only the fat side with coarse salt at this point. You want to be fairly liberal with the salt on the fat at this point, as you’re going to rub it off later. This scoring of the fat will help it render and help the heat penetrate the duck breast. 
  • Salt only fat with coarse salt. You want to be fairly liberal with the salt on the fat at this point, as you’re going to rub it off later.
  • Tightly, wrap with plastic wrap and bring to temperature on the kitchen counter. This should take about 30 minutes. If you’re having wine it should be ready to drink, if not go ahead and chill the salad plates in the frig, and start prepping the other components of your meal.
  • After reaching temp, remove the plastic wrap, wipe off the salt from the fat as best you can. Salt and pepper the meat side only.
  • Lay the breast into a cold frying pan. Do not crowd the pan. Start the heat on medium-low to slowly begin the rendering process.
  • Have a cup or bowl along with a ladle to remove the duck fat from the pan as it accumulates.
  • Once the fat begins to render, use the ladle to remove the rendered fat from the pan.
  • Set a meat press or cast iron skillet on top of the breasts. Continue to remove the accumulated fat as the duck cooks.
  • When checking to see when to turn the duck, looking at the fat side you are wanting just a thin line of fat remaining. Somewhere around an 1/8” inch or so of fat. At this point it’s probably been around 10 minutes cooking the duck. You are looking for a nice golden color.
  • Remove the meat press and flip the breast. Turn the heat to about medium and continue cooking. You are removing any of the duck fat by now.  After approximately 5-8 minutes remove pan from heat and temp center of breast. You are looking for 145 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes that’s a broad range of temp but it will continue to cook once you tent it to rest. So it's best to remove it earlier than too late. A thicker breast I would cook closer to the higer temp range. Duck breast is best served medium rare, pink in the middle as overcooking can cause it to dry out. 
  • Remove from the pan, place on deep cutting board that has gutters to catch any jus that will flow while resting and slicing. Tent with heavy foil, shiny side down if you want it to continue cooking or shiny side up if you want it to just rest. Rest for approximately 5 minutes while you serve up the salads.
  • After well rested slice on an angle and serve.


A great tip that will help you not mangle the skin is to firm up the duck breast by placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will make it much easier to make intricate little squares.
Bringing the duck to room temp helps with even cooking because if the center of the piece of meat is at room temperature rather than fridge temperature when you’re ready to cook, it will take less time for the center to reach the desired internal temperature. 
“If you overcook duck it will be flavorless, chewy, dry and very hard to eat,” says Damien Rigollet, head chef of Coq D’Argent. “If you cook your duck pink, it will be tender, juicy and full of flavor.
You will want to save and store the duck fat in a sealed jar in the frig.  You will find it tasty, full-favored and wonderful to use in cooking. Think: eggs, Brussels sprouts anything where you fry or sauté in butter or oil you can use duck fat! If you’ve been to the Duck Fat Restaurant in Portland Maine, then you know how good it can be! Here’s a link on “What to do with reserved duck fat.”
Wine suggestions:
There’s one wine that’s invariably recommended as a pairing for duck and that is Pinot Noir but of course duck, like any other meat, can be cooked in a lot of different ways. The common factor is that duck is a fatty meat that tends to need a wine with some sharpness and acidity to cut through and some ripe fruit to contrast with the rich flesh (duck is often cooked with fruit, plums, cherries, etc).
We like to serve a Gruner Veltliner, Syrah, or Pinot Noir. Duck and Pinot Noir is a match that can never go wrong.  It has lower tannins so it won’t overwhelm, but it also has good acidity to complement the fat that duck does contain. Pan-seared duck can take on stronger flavors, but the flexibility of Pinot Noir means it can handle the change. Sangiovese and Tempranillo are also good choices as you want something on the lighter-bodied style.
However, when in doubt on what to serve just open a good bottle of French  champagne.  
Keyword Duck
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