seared duck breast - rendering the fat without overcooking

Joined Aug 15, 2009
I have not been able to master a simple seared duck breast.  I always end up with more of an uncooked fat layer than I find palatable, or I overcook the breast.  What I'm trying to do is slowly render out as much of the fat layer as possible (which I usually reserve and use for cooking potatos), and then sear over high heat to get a crispy skin.  I typically place the breast skin-side down in a cold pan and put the burner as low as possible.  I pour off the fat as it renders, but I think even at that low temp I'm eventually cooking the breast before the fat is rendered.

How do others do it more successfully?  I recently saw a technique on FN where the breast was parboiled first to render the fat, but that just seems wrong.  But what do I know!

I appreciate any help anyone can offer!

Joined Feb 17, 2010
Are you scoring the skin? When you score it, cut into diamond shape, cuting through the fat layer, but not into the meat. This will render much more of the fat than your method.

I would use a medium high heat with a small amount of fat, turn when skin is brown and crispy, finish in the oven for a few minutes. Don't over cook. Rest, slice, serve about medium.
Joined Oct 2, 2010
Exactly as chefbuba suggests.

Normally, I will never eat the skin as it still contains some fat, something I have a real aversion for. What I often do is after cooking the magrets, is take off the skin with the minimal remaining fat, cut in thin slices and fry. Now that's delicious, like crispy bacon...
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Chef Bubba is on the money., another thing to think about with duck is the day before unwrap either whole or breast and leave unwrapped in fridge, the drying effect of refrigeration overnight  dries the duck thoroughly and helps when either searing or roasting.. As he says score skin down to fat but don't cut the meat. Sharp knife using  very lightly.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I also score the skin and place skin side down in a cold pan (unseasoned).  Render the fat as it melts with a spoon.  I've never had any problem with this method overcooking the actual duck breast.  I think the key is to finding the right temperature and using the right pan.  Make sure you use a heavy pan that conducts heat well and experiment with the temperature.  Too high and the skin will burn.  Too low and you'll slowly steam the mean itself. 
Joined Aug 15, 2009
Thanks, all.  I should have mentioned that I do score the skin, but maybe I'm scoring too deeply.  I don't cut into the meat, but I do cut pretty much all the way through the fat layer down to the surface of the meat.  Perhaps I should only score into but not through the fat layer?

I'm looking for 3 elements in the completed dish: 1) nicely browned crispy skin, 2) fully (or mostly) rendered fat layer between skin and meat, 3) medium-rare to medium doneness.  So far I can consistently get any combination of 2 out of these 3 elements.  I'll have to experiment a bit more with different heat settings and timing.  I'm trying to get it right before I add it to the repertoire for dinner guests.

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