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Jul 14, 2008 11:02 AM

Cooking duck breast--what temperature for done?

I'm planning to pan sear a piece of duck breast and finish it in the oven. A quick internet search showed wildly varying temperatures for doneness (from 125 to 180 degrees F). At what temperature should I stop cooking the duck for medium rare given the fact that the temperature of the meat will rise after I stop cooking it?


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  1. I'm sorry I don't have an answer to that question, but I couldn't resist asking about your handle. Are you Jeffrey Steingarten, author of Man Who Ate Everything? B/c if you are, I love that book!

    2 Replies
    1. re: anzu

      Sorry to disappoint, but I've assumed his identity b/c I'm a lawyer and only dream of becoming a food writer. If I were the real Steingarten, I'd probably know what to do with a duck breast.

      1. re: jsteingarten


        I would say 125 for medium rare but that is more an educated guess than anything. I was hoping you might get a more definitive answer by now.

    2. Depends on how you like it. 180 would be toast. If I were pan searing the breast I would want to shoot for medium rare. 130-135 would be a good range.

      1. Agree with scubadoo. If I might make an unsolicited suggestion-- score the skin, and start the breast skin side down in a COLD pan that you've put over medium-low to medium heat. This will allow you to render more of the fat (which you should ABSOLUTELY save), and give you the crispy skin that makes duck breast so delicious. Preheat your oven around 400F. Not sure how big your breasts are (yes, that wording was on purpose), but here's how I usually proceed... Let it brown really well on the skin side (about 8-10 mins), drain and reserve the fat, turn, and finish in said oven for about 4-5 minutes. this should give you medium-rare--medium (fairly pink in the middle), with lots of nice rendered fat through the meat and in the pan. let them rest for 5-6 minutes before carving/eating.

        1. Agree with pigloader but would add it is best if you rub salt into the scored skin and leave to rest for an hour or two. Then into heavy based pan at the absolute lowest heat possible and leave to render. I go often to sw France where duck is speciality and the breasts are well ridged with fat - it can take 20-30 minutes to melt. Obviously it needs to be drained off a couple of times to make great chips. Then wap the heat right up, crisp the skin - takes about a minute, turn and cook on the flesh side for 3-4 minutes then allow to rest for 3-4 minutes. Serve with chips and salad.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bron

            I usually let it render in the pan for about 15-20 minutes on low then turn the heat up to high and start basting the other side with the rendered fat. After 2-3 minutes flip it and let it go for for about another 3-4 minutes (or more depending on on size and preferred doneness).

            1. re: bron

              Thanks for the suggestions! One question: what is the purpose of rubbing salt into the scored skin? To flavor it? A dry brine?

              1. re: jsteingarten

                What kind of duck - Muscovy or pekin/Long Island?

                1. re: jsteingarten

                  Rubbing salt could be seasoning but rubbing it into skin would be to draw out the moisture thus helping the skin to get crispy. Oh damn, it was 7 years ago.

              2. agree with bron... i figured that seasoning the meat would go without mentioning, but the post is spot on. salting the fat side will flavor the fat that runs through the meat while cooking. I happen to disagree about salting more than a few moments before you cook, but this is a constantly debated point among avid cooks that has its place in another thread. about letting it rest before cooking, though-- you should definitely bring ANY protein (with the notable exception of chicken) to just below room temp before cooking it. throwing cold meat on the grill or in the pan is a common mistake for novice cooks. incidentally, reviewing my original post, i should note that when I say cold pan, i mean one that hasn't been heated, as opposed to a chilled pan.