One of the easiest ways to cook perfectly medium-rare duck breasts is to cook them sous vide. The advantage of cooking duck this way is how easy it is to cook the breasts evenly, all the way through, while keeping them tender and juicy.
Perfectly cooked duck breasts should have crispy skin on the outside, be a beautiful pink on the inside, and so tender that it melts in your mouth.
In this piece
Let’s Cook Duck Breasts Sous Vide
The reason we love duck cooked this way is it’s the best way we’ve found to consistently turn out delicious duck time after time. Here are a few of our best tips.
To highlight the duck’s natural flavors, our recipe uses fresh thyme and smoked paprika to add some freshness and depth of flavor. The duck is rich enough that it doesn’t need a lot of seasoning but assuming you like your food to be tasty it should get more than salt and pepper.
An advantage to using sous vide over other techniques is it cooks the duck in its own juices, concentrating the flavors and cooking everything evenly all the way through, which can be a challenge with roasting.
The best way to get crispy skin is to brown the duck twice. Most of the work of browning takes place when the breasts are pre-seared in a cold pan before going into the water bath. The second time the duck is browned is when it’s finished cooking and gets a short sear to tighten everything up before serving.
In our testing the double browning method resulted in slightly smaller breasts, which was worth it because it reduced the amount of time it took to crisp the skin at the end of the cooking process, helping the duck maintain an even medium-rare throughout the entire breast.
A lot of recipes encourage scoring the duck before cooking. This is something we recommend if you’re pan roasting but don’t find necessary for sous vide.
For sous vide duck breasts we recommend a temperature of 131℉ for the water bath and 1-1/2 hours for cooking time.
If you like your duck cooked a little more, raise the heat to 133℉ or brown it on both sides for a little longer at the end of the cooking process. There’s no reason to cook the duck for longer than 2 hours.
For more tips and some background about this recipe read this piece.
Serving Everything Up
If anything in this world is magic, it’s duck fat! A small dab here and there can completely transform your favorite dishes. This is another reason we love cooking duck sous vide is it takes all of those beautiful juices and fat and wraps it up in a little plastic bag.
This liquid gold can be used to finish the potatoes, vegetables, or whatever you’re serving with the duck – just substitute it for some of the oil in whatever recipe you’re using or drizzle a little on top of the dish as it’s cooking.
A few dishes we like to serve with this duck recipe are Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme and Sautéed Green Beans with Balsamic Vinegar.
- 2 duck breasts
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- Start by combing the thyme, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Rub the spices on the outside of the chilled duck breasts. Place the duck skin side down in a cold pan and turn the heat on medium high.
- Let the duck brown for 3 minutes or until it starts to render out some fat. Seal the duck up in a plastic bag and cook the breasts in a water bath at 131℉ for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- Take the duck out of the bag and brown it, skin side down, in a hot pan until it is nice and crispy, this usually takes a couple of minutes.
- Let the duck rest for a few minutes before slicing it on the bias and serving.