Pan-Fried Duck Breast

Chef's notes:

The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) also known as Barbary duck must be a big bird because its breasts are huge—we’re talking a couple inches thick here, people. I’m not one to be picky, but the last duck breast I ate was kind of on the small side. It tasted really good; kinda mild but still more flavor than chicken. The Muscovy breast meat, on the other hand, has a strong meaty flavor and a deep, dark, rich color. Muscovy should be cooked like red meat. And by that, of course, I mean medium rare. Once you cook it past medium rare, it gets tough as hell.

The Muscovy duck is native to South America and the southern part of North America. The wild, or feral, ducks are naturally stronger tasting than domestic ones. The Moulard duck, which is used to make Foie Gras, is the sterile offspring of a male Muscovy and a female Pekin duck. The breast meat of the Moulard is called a Magret, and it is very tasty, probably because of its intense diet—it’s force-fed in order to enlarge its liver.


  • 2 Muscovy duck breasts
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Muscovy Duck Breast Recipe: Pan-Seared over High Heat and then Finished in the Oven

  1. Prep the Muscovy duck breasts. Take the breasts out of the packaging and give them a quick rinse under cool running water. Then pat them dry with disposable paper towels, and set the dry breasts on a cutting board. Using a very sharp filet or boning knife to cut a crisscross pattern through the skin and into the fat underneath. Make sure not to cut into the meat. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper. No need to rub any oil on the breasts. They have plenty of their own.
  2. Fry the Muscovy duck breasts skin down. Heat up a heavy bottomed frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Melt a tab of butter in the pan, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the butter foam begins to brown, lay the breasts in skin side down. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and move the racks so the pan will fit. Let the breasts cook skin side down until the skin and fat are dark brown and nice and crispy. Flip the breasts and put them in the oven.
  3. Finish the Muscovy duck breasts in the oven. You could potentially finish the breasts on top of the stove, but these breasts are pretty thick and you run the risk of burning the meat when you do it that way. And you don’t want to put the lid on because that will create steam and steam will dry out the meat. So roasting it in the oven for a few minutes is the obvious choice. If you were using a smaller or thinner breast, I would recommend just finishing them on top of the stove.
  4. Check the internal temperature of the Muscovy duck breasts. You are gonna want to monitor the temperature of the breast meat as they cook in the oven. The best way to do that is to stick a thermometer in them while they cook. Otherwise, check the internal temp before they go in. Mine were at 80 degrees degrees, I wanted them to be 125 degrees F. So I put them in for 10 minutes and checked them. They were 125 on the nose. You may want to check them at 5 minute intervals.
  5. For some reason orange-flavored glazes go over really well with duck. I think that may be especially true for the milder-tasting domestic duck. But the Muscovy duck is a very strong-tasting duck, and for some reason I didn’t think the orange glaze would go very well with it. But I decided to give it a try. So I wrote a recipe for it, which is located on the right of this page. I liked it OK, but one thing I would suggest adding is a ½ cup lemon juice in lieu of some of the orange juice. But other than that it was great. If you can, use bitter oranges. I wonder if Kumquats would be good?

Tips & Tricks

  • Use the following temperatures for a guide: rare 120–125 degrees, medium rare 125–135, medium 135–145, medium well and well done are both overcooked, so don’t even bother asking.

Glaze Recipe

  • 1½ cups orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp tawny port
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp cane sugar
  • Salt
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp tarragon