Gallery: How to Pan Sear Foie Gras | The Food Lab

  • Seared Foie Gras with Fig Mostarda

    Seared Foie Gras with Fig Mostarda

    Perfectly seared foie gras should be crisp and well-browned on the exterior, with a medium-rare center that is just beginning to soften, almost custard-like in texture. Figs are a classic combination, and it's no wonder why. Their jamminess and rich flavor go perfectly with the unctuous qualities of foie gras.

    Get the recipe for Pan-Seared Foie Gras With Fig Mostarda and Fresh Figs »

    1 Whole Liver

    Foie gras is grown on only three farms in the United States. All three of them are small and follow very strict animal welfare and quality standards. American foie gras ducks are amongst the most well-treated farm animals in the country. (For more information, read here).

    I prefer the grade "A" lobes from Bella Bella Gourmet, who sells foie produced by La Belle Farms, a small-scale poultry farm in Ferndale, New York.

    Split the Liver

    A whole foie gras can be split easily into two lobes. Use your hands to pull them apart. Work quickly so that the foie gras stays relatively cool and solid. It softens quickly and can smear if it gets too warm.

    Warm Your Knife

    The key to clean slices of foie gras is to get your knife nice and hot before attempting to slice. A hot knife should be able to slide through the foie gras with little resistance. A cold knife, on the other hand, will cause it to crush or tear.

    Slice Away!

    In restaurants, you may occasionally see slices of foie gras as thin as a quarter inch or so, in an attempt to save money. All that the chef is really doing is robbing you of a true foie gras experience. In order to maximize its flavor, slices of foie gras should be at least a half inch thick, in order to be able to appreciate the contrast between the crusty brown exterior and the molten medium-rare center.

    The end slices will naturally have a curved surface, but every slice from the middle should have two parallel faces. If you want a smaller portion size, cut thick slabs first, the split them crosswise to make smaller slabs of equal thickness. Make sure to warm your knife thoroughly between each and every cut you make!


    Duck skin is often scored lightly in order to prevent it from shrinking and causing the duck breast to curl up. With foie gras, there is no technical reason to do this as it does not buckle like a duck breast, but the practice continues, mainly for appearances. I score one side—the side I'm going to serve facing up—in a light cross-hatch pattern.


    Season the foie gras very liberally with salt and pepper. Much of the seasoning will come off and float away as the fat renders, so it's important to go heavier than you believe is necessary.

    Hot Skillet!

    Heat a very hot cast iron, stainless steel, or high heat-safe nonstick skillet over high heat for at least a few minutes before placing the foie in it, scored-side down. It should immediately start smoking and sizzling. If not, quickly remove it and let the pan get hotter before trying again.


    It goes fast from here on out. Let the foie gras cook until its golden brown on the first side. This will take about 30 seconds to a minute, max.

    Flip and Keep Cooking

    Flip the foie with a thin metal spatula and keep cooking. If you have particularly thick slices of foie, you can hasten their cooking by basting them with their own hot fat using a spoon. They should take only another 30 seconds to a minute to finish cooking.


    Transfer the foie gras to a paper towel-lined plate or cutting board and let it rest for about a minute. During this time, the interior should be warm and soften completely.

    Medium Rare!

    If all went well, your foie gras should be perfectly medium rare in the center—just beginning to soften. For the record, do NOT slice it open like this. This is for demonstration purposes only.

    Pan-Seared Foie Gras With Spiced Citrus Purée

    The bright acidity of citrus is not a great combo with foie gras (It makes it taste like curdled milk), but if you tame that acidity by cooking it down in a spiced sugar syrup for a long time, you can make a great sweet-bitter citrus-scented puree that perfectly accentuates the flavor of foie gras. Think of it as orange duck in another form.

    Get the recipe for Pan-Seared Foie Gras With Spiced Citrus Purée »