Who else thinks that duck meat is highly under-utilised as a protein source? I often order duck when I eat out and I have also cooked it at home on many occasions, but there are many people that have never tried it or they simply never use it in home cooking. People think it’s too expensive (actually, duck is about the same price as chicken), it’s not always noticeably available, or they are not sure how to cook it. In today’s post I am going to give you a few tips on how to easily cook duck breast (we’ll start there) and share 15 duck breast recipes that are paleo friendly and delicious.
First things first, duck is tasty and it is good for you. It’s a great source of protein, B-vitamins, iron and essential minerals.
Like chicken, it belongs in the poultry group, although its meat is darker in colour and has a more flavoursome, distinct flavour than chicken. When cooked, it develops a lovely umami (savoury) flavour, and even a little salty without any seasoning. When cooked correctly, it is juicy and tender, and the duck fat is….oh-so-tasty! No wonder the French love cooking with it.
Speaking of duck fat, it has its own unique selling points. Unlike chicken fat, duck fat is quite low in polyunsaturated acids. Duck fat contains 35.7% saturates, 50.5% monounsaturates (high in linoleic acid) and 13.7% polyunsaturated fats. So its composition is actually closer to olive oil. Why is this important? Because these lower levels of the polyunsaturated fats mean less of the often troublesome Omega-6 fatty acids. This gets even better with wild duck meat.
It’s important to source good quality duck meat from ducks that have been raised ethically, with good diet and plenty of sunshine and space. In general, duck growers are small operations, partly because duck is perceived to be fit for a special meal or a restaurant only menu, so the demand is not as high as for chicken. But duck is not difficult to prepare, and if you buy from the right source, you can feel assured that you are not supporting ill factory farming practices. Look for duck meat in the poultry section of the supermarket or chat to your butcher.
What goes well with duck meat?
Duck meat goes really well with sweet and sour food pairings – think caramelised onions, balsamic reduction, orange sauce, hoisin, dried and fresh fruit. It likes warm spices such as cinnamon, pepper, Chinese five-spice powder, allspice, vanilla and fennel. You can serve it with roasted vegetables, anything cabbage, fresh salads, and it’s great in curries. There are many ways to serve duck (see more ideas below) but to start you off, I am going to give you a simple method for how to cook duck breast at home.
How to cook duck breast
1) Bring the duck breasts to room temperature before cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Salt will help to draw out the fat while the meat is cooking. You can also season with other spices. You can score the skin if you wish. Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F.
2) Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in a cold skillet. Then turn the heat to medium. This will start to cook the skin gradually, allowing the fat to render (or dissolve) without getting over-cooked or burnt too quickly. Cook skin side down for about 10-12 minutes.
3) When the skin is golden brown and crispy, and the fat layer has visibly reduced, turn the duck breasts over and cook flesh side down for 2 minutes. You can bathe the duck with some of the rendered fat. And you can remove some of the excess fat to a bowl. Reserve this liquid gold for later as you can use it cook veggies.
4) Then transfer the duck breasts to the hot oven, either in the same pan if it’s oven-proof or place them on a roasting tray. Finish in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Then remove, turn upside down (to let the juices flow back) and rest for about 5-6 minutes.
5) Facing the ducks skin side up, cut the breasts into thick slices. It should be pink and juicy on the inside.
Another way to cook duck breast is by roasting them in the oven. Heat the oven to 200 C/ 400 C. Place the breasts, skin side down on, on a flat oven tray and pop in the oven, middle shelf. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn the meat over, and cook for a further 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for 5-7 minutes before slicing.