Duck Pastrami Recipe

Closeup of a sliced duck breast pastrami on a wooden cutting board

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Spice amounts and curing time are adjusted for the smaller duck breast.
  • The addition of juniper berries complements the duck flavor.

The American tradition of having corned beef on St. Patrick's Day often makes me think of other cured meats. For example, brisket done as pastrami and Montreal smoked meat. Building on past pastrami success, I changed things up by using duck instead of beef for this recipe.

Since my process for pastrami is already good, I kept things fairly similar for this duck pastrami, only adjusting amounts of the dry cure and the curing time to fit the much smaller duck breasts, plus the addition of juniper berries in both the cure and rub. This recipe has the breasts curing for three days in the fridge, a soak to remove some saltiness afterward, then they are rubbed and smoked until just cooked through.

Straight out of the smoker, the thick layer of duck fat was incredibly luscious, and I found myself pulling it off and enjoying the salty, rich fat on its own. The meat tasted like pastrami should, except being ducky rather than beefy. More delicate in flavor than beef brisket, this duck pastrami can be enjoyed on its own, but it does just as well piled onto rye with swiss and slathered with mustard.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 77 hrs
Serves: 8 to 10 servings

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Ingredients

For the Cure:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground juniper berries

  • 3/4 teaspoon pink salt (see note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 4 pounds duck breast

For the Rub:

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander

  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground juniper berries

  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 1 to 2 fist-size chunks of light smoking wood, such as apple or cherry

Directions

  1. For the Cure: In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, coriander, dark brown sugar, juniper berries, pink salt, ginger, garlic, and cloves. Coat duck breasts entirely with cure and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 72 hours, flipping bag twice a day.

    Two duck breasts covered in salt and spices on a plastic cutting board.
  2. Remove duck breasts from bag and wash as much cure off as possible under cold running water. Place breasts in a large container, fill with water, and let soak for 2 hours, replacing water every 30 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.

    Duck breasts soaking on a metal mixing bowl filled with water.
  3. For the Rub: Mix together black pepper, coriander, juniper berries, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Coat duck breasts entirely with rub.

    Raw duck breasts covered in ground spices on a white plate
  4. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F (110°C), adding smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place duck breasts in, skin side down, and smoke until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F (74°C) when inserted into center of breasts, 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

    Duck breasts coated in a crust of spices on the grill of a barbecue
  5. Remove from smoker and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to a week, slicing and serving as needed. For best results, steam slices to reheat.

    A sliced duck breast coated in a crust of spices resting on a wooden cutting board

Special Equipment

Smoker

Notes

Pink salt, used for curing (not to be confused with popular specialty salts, like Himalayan pink salt), is a mixture of sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium nitrite. It is dyed pink so it’s not confused for regular salt and used in excess. When used for curing, it helps preserve color, promote flavor, and prevent undesirable bacteria growth. You can find pink salt (also called Prague powder) online or in larger grocery stores.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
379 Calories
20g Fat
3g Carbs
45g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 379
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 247mg 82%
Sodium 871mg 38%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 5mg 26%
Calcium 35mg 3%
Iron 6mg 35%
Potassium 54mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)