Episode 306: Where's the Smoke

Cherry-Smoked Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa



Cherry-Smoked Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4 as a main course
  • Method: Smoking / direct grilling
  • Equipment: Cherry wood chunks or chips, the latter soaked for 30 minutes in water, then drained


  • 4 boneless duck breasts, each 7 to 8 ounces

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt (sea or kosher)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Trim any tendons off the duck breasts with a sharp knife. Score the skin on each breast in a diamond pattern about 1/4 inch deep, taking care not to nick the flesh.

Step 2: Make the rub: Combine the salt, sugar, five-spice powder, and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Generously sprinkle the rub on both sides of each duck breast. Drizzle with sesame oil, turning to coat both sides.

Step 3: Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, preferably using cherry wood. Preheat to 150 degrees. (If your smoker will go lower, that’s fine, too.)

Step 4: Arrange the duck breasts, skin side up, on the smoker rack(s) and smoke for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the breasts is 100 degrees when read on an instant-read meat thermometer.

Step 5: In the meantime, set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 to 450 degrees). Be sure to leave about 1/3 of the grill fire-free for a safety zone. (The fat in duck skin makes it prone to flare-ups.) Brush and oil the grill grate.

Step 6: Arrange the duck breasts on the grill grate skin side down. Sear until the skin is nicely browned and has begun to render its fat. (If flare-ups occur, move the meat to the safety zone). Cook, turning as needed with tongs, until the internal temperature of the breast is 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare. (Higher if you prefer your duck cooked medium or medium-well.)

Step 7: Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 3 minutes. Thinly slice the duck breast on a diagonal and fan out on plates. Serve with the Fresh Cherry Salsa.

Recipe Tips

Our thanks to the sponsors of Project Smoke Season 3:

Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.

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