Recipes & Techniques

How to Grill the Perfect Duck Breast

Plancha-Grilled Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa

We recently received the following question from a writer posting on Reddit.


I enjoy grilled duck breast. I am typically using farm raised breast that can vary in weight from 8-10 ounces all the way to 14-16 ounces. I score the thick fat cap and then cook them skin side down on direct heat using a Big Green Egg. The flammable duck fat causes intense flames. I will normally cook them skin side down for about 8 minutes. I then turn them to the breast side down for another 2 minutes, pull them and let them rest. This technique is not as consistent as I like. Sometimes it is perfectly medium while other times it can be overcooked or under. I like for the duck fat to be crispy and the internal breast meat nice and pink. I tried another technique using a skillet and pouring off the duck fat every couple of minutes. Still, not very consistent.

What have you found to be a more consistent method? What internal temperature to you aspire to for a perfectly cooked duck breast?

Thanks so much! — L.

Great question, L. I like to think of duck breast as the beefsteak of poultry—a dark, rich, red meat best served medium-rare, quite different from chicken breast.

Duck breast can be intimidating. Not only is it more expensive than most forms of poultry at as much as a dollar an ounce, but a thick layer of insulating fat often thwarts attempts to achieve crackling-crisp skin. That same fat can cause dramatic flare-ups when it meets the flames. The meat itself, however, is lean; care must be taken not to overcook it.

How to Grill the Perfect Duck Breast

Here is Steven’s multi-step strategy for grilling perfectly-cooked duck breast every time:

1. Score the skin and fat in a diamond-shaped crosshatch pattern.

Using a sharp knife, score the skin and fat in a diamond-shaped crosshatch pattern, the cuts about 1/2 inch apart. Be careful not to nick the meat.

How to Grill the Perfect Duck Breast

2. Use a plancha to grill your duck breast.

Build a medium fire in your grill and preheat a plancha or cast iron skillet. Because of the skin’s high fat content, you’re better off grilling on a plancha so the fat doesn’t drip directly on the flames. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the plancha; the water should skitter across the surface and evaporate quickly.


3. Add wood chunks or wood chips to generate flavor-enhancing smoke.

If desired, add wood chunks or soaked, drained wood chips to the fire to generate flavor-enhancing smoke.


4. Slowly sear the duck breast.

Slowly sear the duck breast, skin side down, to render the fat and crisp the skin. This could take 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the intensity of the fire.

Searing duck breast on plancha

5. Turn the breast over and grill meat-side down.

Turn the breast over and grill meat-side down, about 2 minutes, depending on the size of the breast.

Grilling duck breast meat side down

6. Let the meat rest.

Let the meat rest (uncovered) for 5 minutes before cutting it crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Fan the slices onto a platter or plate.


Here’s one of our favorite recipes to get you started, Plancha-Grilled Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa.

If you cannot find duck breast at your local supermarket, you can order online from,, or


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