How To Cook Duck Breasts – The Classical Recipe

by Tatiana
how to cook duck breast

Duck breast – how to cook it according to the simple classic recipe? How to cook the duck breast in a pan so that it has brown and crispy skin, yet tender and juicy meat? How long should you cook duck breasts for? Pan-fried or oven-baked duck breasts?

duck breast

When you cook a duck breast for the first time, there are definitely a few questions that come to mind. Since it is not a dish to cook daily, there can be many doubts. For this reason, I decided to prepare an article with the best and easiest recipes that you can use, especially if it is the first time you cook such a dish. I will tell you everything I confronted and a few success tips. 

The key to proper cooking lies in the fact that it must be shaped, arranged, notched in a certain way that allows the proper browning of the meat. Next, I will describe everything there is to know to cook a tender duck breast in an easy way. It is one of the most elegant, appetizing, and plausible courses to serve at any table no matter the occasion. 

duck breast recipe

Must-know tips before frying the duck breast

The first rule is to never fry pieces of meat taken straight from the fridge! Remove the duck breast at least 1 hour from the fridge and let it get to room temperature. 

Duck breast should not be wet, that is the second valuable tip that ensures optimal results for brilliant oven-fried duck breasts. The remaining water will turn into steam, and when you put the meat in the pan, the fat will boil instead of frying. What you need is for the duck breast skin to fry in its own melting fat to get the caramelized and beautiful color and texture. Wipe the pieces of meat with a paper towel before you start shaping and notching the duck breast.

how to score duck breast skin

How do you score duck breast skin?

You’ve probably seen skin and fat scored on duck breast fillets before, and it’s not a matter of aesthetics only. By trimming the skin and the fat, the heat penetrates and melts the fat which caramelizes the skin. This is one of the substantial things to do when cooking duck breasts. The pattern of the cut is not important, the most common one is the cross-hatch pattern. What is truly important is for the cuts to be only superficial. The cuts should pass through the skin and fat only, never through the meat! Any cut in the meat leads to its drying because natural juices are lost upon cooking. That is why it is not recommended to notch the thighs or steaks.

how to fry duck breast

When do you season a duck breast, before or after frying?

It is one of the aspects where the opinions are divided. Salt removes water from the tissues and helps brown the skin but can strengthen the flesh. So it is recommended that in the first phase you salt only the skin of the duck breast, and you will fill it with salt after the first stage of frying while in the pan. However, I prefer to salt the breasts with coarse salt right before adding it to the hot pan. The coarse salt dissolves longer and that allows the meat to get browned while absorbing small quantities of salt. The pepper can be placed at the beginning on both sides.

how to fry duck breast

Do you fry the duck breast in a pan then bake it in the oven?

Yes, because duck breast is a thick piece of meat, it must be cooked in 2 stages. First, you fry the breast with the skin down so that the fat melts, the turn side. Second, bake it in the oven to penetrate the core of the meat. It is best to fry the meat on a thick pan, cast iron is best.  and to be cold! Why? Because we want to melt the layer of fat under the skin as well as possible and get a brown crust. When the pan is already hot, the skin pores would close immediately due to the thermal shock and would not allow the slow melting of fat. The unmelted fat under the skin of a duck breast is unappetizing… not to say disgusting.

After frying in the pan, place the duck breast in the preheated oven at 360 Degrees for 5-6 minutes. This is how you get the pink meat, that succulent medium-rare duck breast.

how to fry duck breast

How to cook duck breasts?

After you have cleaned, pat-dried the fillets, and scored it, it’s time to season it with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. Also here, turn the oven to 360 degrees and let it preheat well. 

Put a pan on a medium-high flame and add the breast on the skin side. This way all the fat will melt and drain into the pan, so you don’t need to add oil. Never add any extra grease or butter. The duck breasts skin is very fat, it will release the needed amount of fat needed to fry. Let the meat fry on the skin side for 5-7 minutes. Add some smashed garlic cloves and some fresh thyme to the grease. The herb will leave its essential oils and will spread a mouth-watering aroma along with the aroma of the garlic.

how to oven bake breast duck

Turn the duck breast using special tongs, without pricking the meat. Even small penetrations will cause losing the juices, and this is something you surely want to avoid. Turn sides and let it the meat fry for additional 2 minutes. In the meantime line a baking tray with parchment paper.

After frying the pieces of meat, put them with the skin up in a clean, oil-free tray lined with baking paper. Put the tray in the preheated oven for additional 5-6 minutes.

Finally, season the duck breast with pepper if you like it spicier. 

duck breast recipe

How to serve the duck breasts?

The duck breast needs 5 minutes to rest after you’ve taken them out of the oven. Otherwise, all the juices will run all over the cutting board or on the plate. 

This is the classic, yet the simplest recipe for duck breasts. It doesn’t take more than twenty minutes to cook a caramelized and tasty duck breast. You can serve it with a salad, various garnishes such as mashed potatoes or you can even prepare a delicious orange sauce. 

duck breast

duck breasts

How to cook duck breasts - the classical recipe

How to cook the duck breast in a pan so that it has brown and crispy skin, yet tender and juicy meat? How long should you cook duck breasts for? Pan-fried or oven-baked duck breasts?
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4 people
Calories 283 kcal


  • cast iron pan


  • 4 duck breasts
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3-4 thymes stalks


  • Wash then pat dry the meat
  • Score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern
  • Season with ground pepper and little coarse salt
  • Set to fry on a skillet, medium-high flame, skin down
  • Fry for 6-7 minutes, the skin contracts and the fat melts all the fat in between layers
  • Preheat Oven at 360 degrees for 10 minutes
  • Turn sides of the duck breasts. Let cook for about 1-2 minutes
  • Transfer meat in the oven over a lined with parchment paper tray
  • Bake for 5-6 minutes at 350
  • Take out of the oven and let rest for 5 minute
  • Serve with pleasure


Calories: 283kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 45gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 174mgSodium: 139mgPotassium: 618mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 120IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 10mg
Keyword duck breasts, how to cook duck meat, pan-fried duck breasts
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