Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Melt-in-the-mouth oven-roasted duck breast

There are lots of fancy ways to cook duck – sous vide, confit, whole-roasted, red-lacquered, tea-smoked.

Except, on the whole, most people don't cook duck. In fact, most people don't even eat duck.

Canada, so far as I can tell, is the only English speaking country with reliable statistics on the consumption of duck. Canadians consume around 200g of duck meat per annum.* That is: less than or equal to the daily (combined) consumption of pork, beef, lamb and chicken. One serve, approximately once a year.

Duck consumption isn’t even a blip on the statistical radar in America or the UK or Australia.** If we’re not eating it, we’re also not cooking it. And if we’re not cooking it, we aren’t learning how to cook it.

It is clear we have a general reticence to eat duck. Or indeed, any kind of meat you won’t find on a McDonald’s menu.*** It isn’t widely available, therefore we don’t eat it, therefore it is unlikely to become easily available.

I think some of this reticence is also about a fear of flavour. One of the most fabulous and misleading descriptions of not-so-common meat is that it is ‘gamey’. Which is fine, so far as it actually communicates anything. For those of us who have never actually tasted wild game, this makes no sense. What does ‘gamey’ taste like? Is it strong? Pungent? A bit sweaty? Rank? Nice? Compared to what?

In a sense we have been so gastronomically acculturated to tasteless meat (mass produced, heavily processed, fat-removed and salt enhanced) any hint of any flavour whatsoever can seem a little confronting. So what does duck taste like? Silky, rich, sweet, meaty, delicate and soft. A clean oiliness (like a lovely roasted chicken has around the drumsticks). Basically, quite delicious.

Because it is rich, duck goes well with citrus and vinegars and spices (as these cut through the richness). Because of the layer of fat between flesh and skin, high heats and/or long cooking times are also kind to duck. Peking Duck enhances its sweetness by marrying crispy roasted duck with a sweet and sticky hoisin sauce, and confit of duck involves overloading its richness, preserving the marylands by slow cooking in duck fat.

But the very, very easiest way to cook duck is to treat it almost like a really good steak. Sear, roast, rest.



*** Bacon, beef, chicken.

Duck breasts, medium-well done

Serves 2

Preheat oven, 220ºc

2 duck breast fillets, skin on.

Season skin side – salt, pepper.

Very hot cast iron grill pan on high heat.

3 minutes skin side down.


1 minute skin side up.

Oven, 8 minutes skin side up.


Rest, 4 minutes.

Eat with this, because it is delicious. And steamed green beans, because they are healthy and delicious.


  1. I have never tried duck meat! But it looks awesome. Like the color of the meat when it is cooked.

  2. Hi Dining Room Table - duck meat does have a lovely deep colour when cooked. This was farmed duck - wild duck is an even deeper red. A lot of chefs recommend cooking duck medium - or even medium-rare - which of course brings out the jewel colour even more brilliantly.