Sous-Vide 101: Duck Breast

This recipe requires the use of a sous-vide cooker or the beer cooler hack.

As a meat that is best served medium rare, duck breast makes an ideal candidate to cook sous-vide. By cooking it at 135°F for two hours, much of the fat under the skin begins to soften and render out while the proteins in it begin to set, making it easier to crisp without shrinking on the stovetop just before serving.

The thickness of the skin means that you can also crisp it more gently post sous-viding, unlike a steak which requires blazing high heat to cut back on cooking time and prevent the interior from overcooking. The skin acts as an insulator, preventing the meat inside from taking on any more color. The result is supremely tender, evenly cooked meat with super crisp skin.

For best results, I like to let the breasts sit uncovered in the fridge at least overnight to allow some moisture to evaporate and concentrate its duckiness. Isn't that just ducky?

Duck goes great with a sprinkle of fried shallots and Sichuan pepper, as I've done here. Extra fried shallots can be stored in a sealed container for up to one month. Make sure they're completely cool before sealing them, or they will soften.

Fruity sauces and some steamed greens round out the dish. Try the lingonberry jam from IKEA. It's splendid.

Sous-Vide 101: Duck Breast


  • 4 boneless duck breasts, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 6 shallots, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns


  1. 1

    Place duck on paper towel-lined plate and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. Meanwhile, add vegetable oil and shallots to small saucepot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly until shallots are light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Immediately strain oil through a fine mesh strainer set in a heatproof bowl. Transfer drained shallots to paper towel-lined bowl and blot with more paper towels. Season with salt and allow to cool completely before storing in airtight container. Excess shallot oil can be used for stir-fries and salad dressings.

  2. 2

    Season duck breasts with salt and pepper and seal in vacuum bags. Place in 135 degree water bath for at least 45 minutes and up to 4 hours. Remove from bags and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

  3. 3

    Place breasts skin side-down in heavy-bottomed 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet and set over high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, moving and pressing breasts to ensure good contact between skin and pan until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook second side until barely covered, about 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

  4. 4

    Slice breasts crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and serve, topping with fried shallots and Sichuan peppercorns.


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