No Worries: How to Grill Duck Breast
My first experience cooking duck was at a cooking class my wife and I went to last year. I volunteered to cook the duck because it was something I had never tackled. What better way to learn? I make the same recommendation to students at Barbecue University.
We prepared the duck with a teriyaki-orange sauce. So, when it came time to grill duck breast, I wanted to incorporate an orange flavor. But I’m also familiar with Steven’s plancha-grilled duck breast prepared with cherry salsa. My wife suggested I pick one style to keep it simple, but I thought it would be fun to try both. Here is how it all came together.
How to Grill Duck Breast
I started with fresh duck breasts from D’Artagnan, a New Jersey-based source of many fine foods. Each duck breast weighed 12 ounces and were HUGE compared to my cooking class experience. Thank you, D’Artagnan.
Preparing all my ingredients and gear ahead of time makes the cooking process easier: I’m less likely to forget a step or an ingredient. Mise en place is the French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc., before you start cooking.
Once all the prep was completed, I made the cherry salsa, the rub, the orange-apricot sauce, and peeled and sliced the oranges.
Next, I heated up my gas grill, heated the plancha, and added cherry wood chunks to the smoker box. I chose the gas grill since it’s easier to control the temperature of the grill and plancha.
I trimmed the duck breast of any excess fat and patted them dry. I scored the skin side of the duck breasts with a crosshatch pattern (it’s like scoring ham). Scoring the fat side of the duck breast helps to release the fat. The duck was then seasoned and readied for the plancha.
Steven’s recipe for plancha grilled duck breasts was my guide. The cook time was longer due to the size of the duck breasts. The duck was grilled, skin side down, on the plancha for five minutes, and then an additional 8 minutes (skin side up) to reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees for medium-rare. If you are direct grilling the duck, be careful of the dripping fat,which creates flare-ups. Once the fat side is grilled and crispy, I suggest indirect grilling the duck to finish cooking to minimize the chance of burning the duck (if not using a plancha).
While the duck rested, I grilled the oranges, cut sides down, in the duck fat to create a twist on burnt oranges. The duck breast was then sliced on a diagonal and served with orange apricot sauce and the cherry salsa.
The duck was crispy on the exterior and tender and juicy on the inside. The doneness of the duck was spot on! I liked the contrast in texture between the crispy skin and the tender meat. The rub created a distinct flavor combining heat with sweet. My wife and I loved the orange-apricot sauce. Steven’s recipe makes more than needed for the duck, but it would be great on chicken, pork, and seafood. The orange-apricot sauce cuts the fat of the duck and livens up each bite without being too sweet.
The burnt oranges and cherry salsa were refreshing and balance the richness of the duck. My biggest failure was not being able to find fresh cherries. The salsa worked with the frozen cherries, but lacked some of the freshness you’d expect from in-season cherries.
D’Artagnan was generous with their shipment of duck—they sent more than my wife and could eat in one meal.