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Plancha-Grilled Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa

I like to think of duck breast as the beefsteak of poultry—a dark, rich red meat you serve medium-rare (certainly unlike chicken breast)—with an added benefit: crisp, bacon-like rich skin. I like to serve it with a fresh cherry salsa (duck has a natural affinity for red fruit), and you can build on the cherry theme by smoking the duck with cherry wood. If you don’t normally grill duck, this is a great way to try it, and it’s a lot easier and neater than cooking a whole duck.

Buying Duck Breasts

Duck breasts are available at many supermarkets, or you can special-order them from
your butcher or online from mapleleaffarms.com. Five-spice powder is a Chinese spice mix with the smoky, licoricy flavor of star anise. Find it in the spice aisle of your supermarket or online.

Insider Tip for Perfect Duck Breasts

Imagine the perfect duck breast: dark, crisp skin; meat moist and rosy in the center. The best way to achieve this is to use a 2-step grilling process: First, brown the skin on a hot cast-iron plancha or skillet, then finish cooking the breast on the grill.

 

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Plancha-Grilled Duck Breasts with Fresh Cherry Salsa

Recipe Notes

  • Advance Prep: 10 minutes for the duck; 10 minutes for the salsa
  • Grill Time: 4 to 7 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Method: Plancha grilling
  • Equipment: Can be grilled over charcoal or gas. You also need a plancha (cast-iron griddle); 2 cherry wood chunks or 1 cup wood chips (optional; if using the latter, soak in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drain); and an instant-read thermometer.

Ingredients

  • 4 skin-on boneless duck breasts (each 7 to 8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw, or granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea or kosher)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate and plancha
  • Fresh Cherry Salsa, for serving

Recipe Steps

1: Trim any tendons off the duck breasts with a sharp knife. Score the skin on each breast in a diamond pattern. The cuts should be about 1⁄8 inch deep and 1⁄4 inch apart. (Cut the skin only, not the breast meat.)

2: Make the rub: Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, and five-spice powder 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. Let marinate in the refrigerator while you make the salsa and light the grill.

3: Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well. Place a cast-iron plancha on the grate and heat it as well. To test whether it’s ready for grilling, sprinkle a drop or two of water on the plancha—if it evaporates in 1 to 2 seconds, the plancha is hot. Lightly oil the plancha. Add wood chunks or chips to the coals (if using). If working on a gas grill, use one of the gas grill smoking methods found on page 22 of Project Fire. When you smell smoke, you’re ready to go.

4: Arrange the duck breasts, skin side down, on the plancha. Sear until the skin is nicely browned and has begun to render its fat, 3 to 5 minutes. Close the grill to seal in the smoke.

5: Invert the breasts and move them from the plancha to directly over the fire. Cook until the meat side is seared and the duck is cooked to taste, 1 to 2 minutes for medium-rare. The internal temperature will be 130° to 135°F on an instant-read thermometer.

6: Serve the duck breasts whole or sliced crosswise and fanned out, with Fresh Cherry Salsa spooned over the meat or on the side.

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Project Fire

A modern approach to grilling from Steven Raichlen, America’s “master griller” (Esquire). With 100 recipes, Project Fire shows how to put the latest grilling methods to work—from spit-roasting to salt-grilling—using favorite ingredients and adding a dash of daring in flavors, technique, and presentation.

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