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Feb 7, 2001 08:59 PM

Rare duck breast

  • t

Why is it ok to serve duck breast rare, while other fowl must be cooked well-done?

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  1. Duck breast is dark meat that gets chewy and dry if not cooked rare or medium rare.Prob the rest of the duck has more fat then the breast.Huey, Dewie and Louie would know.

    1 Reply
    1. re: howard

      Duck, as many fowl, are naturally low in salmonella. However, when placed in factory farm situations with other infected fowl can become infected. Deal only with trusted purveyors who use humane and natural animal husbandry techniques and that rare duck will be both delicious and healthy.

    2. b
      Brandon Nelson


      Leaner cuts of meat get tough quickly when cooked. The leanest meat in poultry is found in the breast and wings ("white meat"). The leanest cuts of grazing animals are the loin and tenderloin cuts. These cuts all have a high concentration of protein and little fat. Protein toughens quickly as it cooks. It's much easier to ruin a chicken breast or a filet mignon by overcooking than it is fattier cuts of the same meat. Lean cuts of meat are often quickly cooked with direct heat methods; grilling, broiling, or searing. Most fish is approached the same way because it's high in protein, and low fat.

      Meat with a greater fat content can cook much longer without getting tough. Beef brisket, pork shoulder, and poultry legs and thighs are examples. They can be cooked slowly with low heat.

      The guidelines for cooking chicken and turkey are to kill any present salmonella. I don't know why that isn't such an issue with birds like duck ,squab, and pheasant. I'm pretty sure that there are federal guidelines for proper internal temperature for chicken and turkey, because of salmonella. Pork follows a similar suit because of the possibilty of trichinosis.

      Larger more complete cookbooks have a section devoted to the proper internal temperatures for cooking meat. When in doubt ask your butcher. They should know. California requires lables for the cooking guidelines of some fresh meat. I'm not familiar enough to write about them.

      I hope I didn't add to the confusion.


      6 Replies
      1. re: Brandon Nelson

        Brandon - thank you for posting this very useful information! I guess my question was more about the health issues than the cooking technique.

        Other poultry in a farm-raised situation requires full cooking re salmonella. The duck most of us buy is from the same sort of environment, yet the same warnings don't appear. I'm curious whether salmonella is not an issue with duck, or if we are just not fully informed.

        1. re: Terrie H.
          Brandon Nelson


          Something that often gets ignored with salmonella. It is not a poultry disease so much as it is a dirt disease. Industrial poultry farms are, sadly, cramped dirty places. The birds have a lot of contact with their own droppings, and those of neiboring birds. One sick bird makes cross contamination all to easy.

          It's my guess that less popular poultry doesn't find itself in such cramped unsanitary conditions as often. If this is the case their environment would make them far less suseptable to salmonella.

          We had a salmonella outbreak here in California (I don't where you live) about 10 years ago that was eventually traced to cut cantaloupe. It seems the market where these melons were purchased didn't properly maintain their knives, cutting boards, or wrapping area. Refrigeration was also an issue. This made for a salmonella friendly evironment. There are now strict regulations on the conditions under which cut melons are sold.

          More trivia for you!


          1. re: Terrie H.
            Gabriel Solis

            Actually, chicken does not need to be cooked anywhere near well-done to kill off any salmonella (much as pork does not need to be cooked well-done to kill trichinosis). something like an internal temp of 135 C will kill salmonella, but I, for one, have no interest in eating a chicken breast cooked to 135. On the other hand, the guidelines for how hot to cook pork have come down significantly over the years. My 1940s edition of Fanny Farmer suggests an internal temp of 190 for pork, whereas I've seen recent recipies for tenderloint that suggest an internal temp of more like 145-160. This is a nice thing, since a pork tenderloin cooked to 190 is a sad, tough, unappetizing waste of time and money, while at 160 the same bit of meat is pink, juicy, and delicious.

            As for duck breast, I assume the deal is that people like to eat it rare and recognize that an internal temp well below well-done is safe. (anyway, the risk is much higher that there will be salmonella on the outside, which would be much hotter than the internal temp, than the inside of a solid piece of meat--no rare ground duck breast patties, if such a thing exists).

            That said, I haven't had any duck except the very well done stuff hanging in Chinese shop windows in so long I really couldn't speak to the deliciousness angle of cooking duck breast rare, but I gotta admit, the notion of rare poultry--any poultry--safe or not, is more than a little off-putting to me.


            1. re: Gabriel Solis
              Josh Mittleman

              I suspect Gabriel has the right of it: Duck breast tastes good rare, while chicken and turkey are nasty when less than well done. Ostrich is also served rare, just to offer another data point.

              1. re: Gabriel Solis

                interesting discussion - duck seems to be safer from salmonella than chicken, to be sure. all those ducks hanging in the windows of Chinatown are evidence...there have been occasional attempts to legislate their display but there has never been a health issue over the many years so those attempts went nowhere. Whether chicken's problems stem from the way they are raised is another issue. But as stated in some of the other posts, salmonella is largely found on the surface of the item - a good thorough rinsing, inside and outside, will go a long way to increasing your safety. Most temperatures that are listed for safety are conservative and more health related, than diner friendly. These temperatures have fluctuated over the years....but an important relationship is that of time and temperature. According to an article from Cook's Illustrated Nov/Dec 1993 - bacteria (including salmonella & campylobacter) can be destroyed at 143*F for 30 minutes or 160*F for 15 seconds....given the vagaries of thermometers, 165 is often listed. Enough of the science. It's interesting that the chinese ducks are always cooked thoroughly but that might be partly due to the small size of those birds....where the skin is really the prize and the melting fat bastes the breast meat to keep it relatively moist anyways. On the other hand, when chinese folks steep chicken they like it pink at the bone and adore the velvety smooth texture of chicken that results. At any chinese banquet the last remaining pieces of chicken are usually pieces of breast meat.

            2. re: Brandon Nelson

              Trichinosis hasn't been a risk of any significance in pork for many years. Feedlot/agribusiness poultry, OTOH, chickens frex, have been found to be infected with salmonella and/or campylobacter at a rate of 70%.