How to cook duck breast following easy, inexpensive techniques

5 min. reading


In discovering the art of how to cook perfect duck breast, you're embarking on a culinary journey that spans diverse cooking methods and flavour profiles. Whether you opt for the intricate Chinese style, the efficient air fryer, the classic oven bake, or the patient slow cooker, each method has its own merits. Let’s explore it all together.


Join us on a journey through the art of cooking duck breast as we explore Chinese techniques, delve into air fryer perfection, embrace the slow-cooking magic, and uncover the secrets to achieving a crispy and juicy masterpiece. Get ready to elevate your culinary skills and leave a lasting impression on your dinner table.

Let’s start by exploring how to choose the perfect duck breast for your meal.

Selecting the Right Duck Breast

Before embarking on your duck cooking adventure, it's crucial to start with the right foundation — choosing the perfect duck breast. Selecting high-quality duck breast ensures a delightful culinary experience. Consider opting for fresh, plump breasts with a layer of fat, as this will contribute to the rich flavour and succulence.

Tips on Choosing High-Quality Duck Breast

Appearance Matters: Look for breasts with a deep, rosy hue and creamy-white fat. Avoid any with a grayish tint.

Consistency in Size: Aim for breasts that are uniform in size for even cooking.

Skin Quality: A thick, evenly distributed layer of fat beneath the skin is key. This contributes to a crisp finish.

Understanding Different Types of Duck Breast

Duck breasts come in various types, each offering distinct flavours and textures. Understanding these differences allows you to tailor your cooking approach to suit your preferences.

Mallard: Known for their gamey flavour, mallard breasts are smaller and leaner. Ideal for those who appreciate a stronger taste.

Pekin: More readily available, Pekin duck breasts are larger, milder, and have a higher fat content. Perfect for those seeking a balance between richness and subtlety.


Now that you've selected the canvas for your culinary masterpiece, let's move on to the next crucial step: preparing the duck breast for cooking.

Preparing Duck Breast for Cooking

With your carefully chosen duck breast in hand, the next step is preparing it to unleash all its goodness. Proper preparation ensures that your chosen cooking method can work its magic to perfection.

1. Thawing Techniques 

If your duck breast is frozen, a slow and controlled thawing process is essential to maintain its quality.

Refridgerator Thawing: Place the frozen duck breast on a plate in the refridgerator for 24-48 hours. This gradual thawing minimises the risk of bacterial growth and ensures even defrosting.
Cold Water Thawing: For a quicker thaw, seal the duck breast in a waterproof bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.

2. Optional Marinades and Seasonings

While duck breast possesses a natural richness, enhancing its flavour with marinades and seasonings can take your dish to new heights. Consider the following options:

(i) Chinese-inspired Marinade: Combine soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a hint of honey for an authentic Chinese flavour profile.

(ii) Herb-infused Seasoning: Mix rosemary, thyme, and crushed garlic for a classic herb-infused taste that complements the duck's richness.

Allow the duck breast to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or ideally, refridgerate it for a few hours to let the flavours penetrate the meat.

Now that your duck breast is thawed and infused with flavourful goodness, let's explore various cooking methods to bring out that perfect meal. We'll start with the artistry of Chinese-style duck breast.


How to cook duck breast Chinese style

Overview of Chinese Cooking Techniques

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its intricate flavours and delicate cooking methods. When preparing duck breast Chinese style, it's about achieving a harmonious balance of sweet, savoury, and umami notes.

  • Velvetizing Technique: For a tender result, employ the Chinese velvetizing technique. Marinate the duck breast with a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. The cornstarch forms a protective layer, keeping the meat tender during cooking.
  • Searing and Roasting: Start by searing the duck breast in a hot wok or skillet to render excess fat. Transfer it to the oven for roasting, ensuring a crispy skin while maintaining a juicy interior.

Marinating with Traditional Chinese Flavours

The key to an authentic Chinese flavour profile lies in the marinade. Here's a simple yet flavourful marinade for your duck breast:

Chinese-Inspired Duck Marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine these ingredients and let your duck breast soak up the flavours for at least an hour. Go on and roast it in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C) for medium doneness. Allow the duck breast to rest for a few minutes before slicing it thinly. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavourful outcome. Once sliced, serve it with some creamy polenta or yummy quinoa and mixed vegetable pilaf.


Quinoa and Mixed Vegetable Pilaf


This heart-healthy, gluten-free and vegan recipe will undoubtedly brighten up your meal times!

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Polenta, writes Chez Panisse’s Cal Peternell in Twelve Recipes, is “more ratio than recipe.” The standard is 4 parts water to 1 part polenta, simmered for 30 minutes. Be careful to add the polenta to the boiling water in a slow, steady stream with one hand as you whisk with the other—this will prevent lumps from forming. (If you end up with a few lumps despite your best efforts, don’t sweat it; it’ll still taste delicious.) Enriching it at the end with butter and cheese isn’t strictly necessary.

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How to cook duck breast in air fryer

Benefits of Using an Air Fryer
The air fryer, known for its efficiency in producing crispy and golden results, is a game-changer when it comes to cooking duck breast. Here's why it's worth considering:

Crispiness with Less Oil: The air fryer uses hot air circulation to achieve a crispy exterior, requiring significantly less oil than traditional methods.

Time-Efficient: Air fryers preheat quickly, and their rapid cooking time makes them ideal for those seeking a quick and convenient cooking solution.

Seasoning and Preparing Duck Breast for the Air Fryer

To make the most of your air fryer experience, it's essential to season the duck breast thoughtfully and prepare it for the air frying process.

Simple Seasoning: Pat the duck breast dry and season it with salt and pepper. This minimalist approach allows the natural flavours of the duck to shine.

Skin-Side Up: Place the duck breast in the air fryer basket, skin side up. This positioning ensures that the fat renders out, contributing to a crispy skin.

Cooking Time and Temperature Settings

Achieving the perfect air-fried duck breast requires precision in time and temperature settings. Follow these steps for optimal results:

Preheat: Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for 5 minutes. We’ve found this to be the perfect temperature for duck breast.

Cooking Time: Air fry the duck breast for 15-20 minutes, flipping it halfway through the cooking time. This ensures even crispiness on both sides. 

Check for Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, aiming for 145°F (63°C) for medium doneness.

Slow Cooker Duck Breast

Advantages of Using a Slow Cooker
The slow cooker, a kitchen workhorse, is celebrated for its ability to transform tough cuts of meat into tender, flavourful masterpieces. When it comes to duck breast, the slow cooker offers several advantages:

Hands-Free Cooking: Once ingredients are in the slow cooker, minimal supervision is required, making it an ideal option for busy schedules.

Infusion of Flavours: The slow, low-temperature cooking allows flavors to meld, resulting in a deeply infused and rich taste.

Ideal Cooking Times for Slow-Cooking Duck Breast

Wondering how long to cook duck breast in a slow cooker? Well, it requires patience,but the result is well worth it. We would say dedicate about 8 hours for this experience.  Follow these guidelines:

Preparation: Season the duck breast with your choice of herbs, spices, and liquids. Common additions include thyme, rosemary, garlic, and red wine.

Low and Slow: Set your slow cooker to the low-temperature setting. Cook the duck breast for 6-8 hours, allowing the meat to become fork-tender.

Oven-Baked Duck Breast
Preheating the Oven and Preparing the Duck Breast

Oven-baking is a classic method that allows for controlled cooking and the development of a crispy skin. Follow these steps on how to cook duck breast in the oven to achieve baked duck breast perfection:

Preheat: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). A properly preheated oven ensures an even cooking process.

Score the Skin: Using a sharp knife, score the duck breast skin in a crosshatch pattern. This helps the fat to render out, resulting in a crispier skin.

Roasting Techniques for a Perfectly Cooked Result

Roasting is a two-step process involving searing on the stovetop and finishing in the oven. This method ensures a delightful contrast between a crispy skin and a succulent interior.

Sear on the Stovetop: In an oven-safe skillet, sear the duck breast skin side down over medium heat until golden brown. This usually takes 5-7 minutes.

Transfer to the Oven: Place the skillet with the duck breast in the preheated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes. Baste the duck breast with its own juices halfway through the cooking time for added flavour.

Check for Doneness: Ensure the duck breast reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) for medium doneness. Adjust the cooking time if needed.

Tips for Achieving a Crispy Skin

Broil for Extra Crispiness: If the skin needs an extra crisp boost, turn on the broiler for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Keep a close eye to prevent burning.

The Reward: A Perfectly Balanced Dish
Oven-baked duck breast provides a harmonious blend of textures — a crispy exterior and a tender, succulent interior. The controlled cooking environment of the oven allows you to showcase the natural flavours of the duck while achieving the desired crispiness.

Serving Suggestions

Pairing Duck Breast with Complementary Side Dishes

The beauty of duck breast lies not only in its preparation but also in its versatility when it comes to pairing with side dishes. Consider these options to elevate your duck dining experience:

1. Mixed Vegetable Stir-fry: The earthy flavours of stir-fried vegetables provide a delightful contrast to the richness of duck breast.

2. Creamy Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Creamy mashed sweet potatoes serve as a perfect canvas for soaking up the flavourful juices of the duck.

3. Creamy mushroom risotto: This mushroom risotto with parmesan never disappoints. It works perfectly well with duck breast.

4. Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onions: The flavour profile of duck breast is enhanced by the succulent, caramelised Brussels sprouts and crispy bacon that make for a delicious side dish.

5. Grilled Lemon Asparagus: This is a quick, delicious, and healthy side dish for duck breast that brings a fresh, vibrant element to the meal. 

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