Cooking duck does not have to be intimidating. This Smoked Duck Breast recipe is so easy to prepare and cook the most flavorful duck you have ever had. Finish it with Maple Bourbon Glaze to take it to the next level. You will be licking the plate clean.
The first time I had duck, I was in my late 20s and we were at a fancy restaurant. It was pan-seared and served with a blackberry balsamic reduction. It was delicious. Since then I have tried several different ways to cook it. I think I have found my new favorite with this recipe. The flavor from the brine, the crust from the smoker, the sear from the cast iron pan, and the sweetness from the Maple Bourbon Sauce make this one of my new favorite dishes.
How to make Smoked Duck Breast
First Step - Prepare the duck breast by scoring the skin and marinating it in an easy duck brine.
Second Step - Smoke the duck breast to your desired doneness.
Third Step - Reverse sear for a nice crispy smoked duck breast.
Fouth Step - Serve with an easy Maple Bourbon sauce.
Prepare the Duck Breast
Use a sharp knife to make small slits in the skin side of the duck breast. You do not want to cut into the flesh, we are just scoring the skin to allow the brine to permeate it easier, the cuts will also allow us to better render the fat when we finish cooking with a reverse sear in a cast iron pan.
Ingredients to make an Easy Brine for Duck Breast
Apple Juice - Or apple cider. Whatever you have on hand. This is the base for this marinade brine. It will add a little sweetness and flavor and compliments many different smoked types of meat especially duck and pork.
Salt - The required staple in so many brines and marinades. This will season the duck well enough that we shouldn't need any more salt later on.
Ground Ginger - This adds a little punch of flavor. Ginger goes very well with duck and with other applications where you are looking to balance sweetness with a hint of spicy. Fresh ginger can also be used.
Garlic Powder - We add garlic to most things we make. Garlic is one of my favorite spices. A little bit goes a long way here. we are only using ½ teaspoon.
Balsamic Vinegar - You need a bit of acidity to balance out the honey. Balsamic vinegar provides a great flavor with acidity.
Honey - The honey adds a subtle sweetness to this dish. You could also use sugar or even maple syrup.
How to brine duck breast
Combine all brine ingredients into a self-sealing gallon-sized bag. Mix the ingredients well to thoroughly combine. Next, add the duck breasts and seal bag. Massage bag to ensure the brine completely coats and covers the duck. Place in the refrigerator for about three hours.
Be sure to mix and flip the duck in the brine every 30 to 40 minutes to ensure even brine. The beauty of doing this in a bag is you can easily mix and flip without making a mess.
Once the duck is finished in the brine, remove the duck and give it a quick rinse under cold water. The goal here is to remove any excess seasoning or salt. Once rinsed, pat it dry with a paper towel and let it rest while you fire up the smoker.
How to Smoke duck breast
Preheat your smoker to 225°F. I used hickory pellets in my Traeger Grill. The duck will also smoke well with cherry or applewood pellets. If you are using a charcoal grill, be sure that the duck is cooked over indirect heat and use your favorite wood chips for a smoky flavor.
Once the smoker reaches temperature, place the duck breasts directly on the smoker rack. The skin side should be up, this will allow the melting duck fat to naturally baste the duck as it cooks. One key to smoking duck is to cook it at a low enough temperature that you can get a nice smoke flavor without over-cooking the meat.
After you put the duck on the smoker, preheat your oven to 450°F and place a cast iron pan in the oven to heat it up. We will use this to reverse sear the duck when it is finished smoking.
What is the best internal temperature for duck breast? 130°F is your target for Medium Rare, 140°F is medium and if you are looking for well done the finish temperature is 155°F. I am looking for medium as my final temperature. That means that I will smoke the meat until it is 10 degrees away from my desired doneness. Once I reverse sear, it will bring the temperature up to my final internal temperature of the meat.
Once the duck breasts' internal temperatures reach 130°F you are done smoking and ready to sear. This took about 60 minutes with the smoker at 225°F.
At this point, get your hot cast iron pan from the oven and place it on your smoker. Place the duck breasts into the pan skin side down. There will be a lot of grease splatter as the duck fat renders. The goal here is to let the fat melt away. It will begin to render and then get nice and crispy. This will only take about three to five minutes. Keep your internal meat temperature probe in the duck to monitor the internal temperature to ensure you don't overcook the duck. Once it reaches your desired doneness, remove the duck from the pan and let it rest for five minutes.
Slice the duck breast on a bias and plate. Drizzle the maple bourbon sauce over the duck and serve.
How to make Maple Bourbon Sauce
In a medium saucepan or small pot, add 1 ounce of bourbon and 1 ounce of maple syrup. Be sure to burn off the alcohol and then let it simmer over low heat. Simmer the sauce for five minutes until it thickens. I like to add some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Once it is done, drizzle it over the sliced smoked duck breasts.
What to do with Smoked Duck Breast
- Serve it on a bed of your favorite mash and drizzle with sauce. We love these Boursin mashed potatoes.
- Serve it as the protein on your favorite salad like this grilled grapes and brie salad.
- Add it to a charcuterie board to impress your guests.
Want to cook a whole duck? Check out our Traeger Duck recipe.
And then try Smoked Pheasant!
- 2 Boneless Duck Breasts
- 1 cup Apple Juice
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
- ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Sea Salt or Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Honey
Maple Bourbon Glaze
- 1 oz Bourbon
- 1 oz Maple Syrup
- Mix brine ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Use a sharp knife to score the skin side of the duck breast in a cross pattern.
- Combine duck breasts and brine into a sealable plastic bag. Place in fridge to marinate for up to three hours.
- Remove duck from brine. Give the duck a quick rinse under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Place duck breasts in a preheated smoker at 225°F for approximately 60 minutes. Cook until it has an internal temperature of 130°F.
- While the duck is smoking, heat up a cast iron pan in the oven at 450°F.
- Once the duck reaches 130°F, sear it in the cast iron pan, skin side down for about five minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F.
- Let the duck rest for 5 minutes.
Maple Bourbon Glaze
- Combine bourbon and maple syrup in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Drizzle over the sliced duck and serve.
Followed the recipe to the letter including exact temperature settings and the duck came out like rubber. Maybe a bad cut of meat? Who knows. Best to everyone else if it worked for you. Cheers
Paul & Taryn
I'm sorry this didn't work for you. Were you using an internal thermometer? If you took off the duck at 130 it shouldn't have been rubbery. I agree that it might have been a bad piece of meat. We've had this happen with chicken lately.
I am now a fan of duck, thank you!!
This was delicious! I can't believe how it was to make. I had been so intimidated to try and cook duck. Thanks for the recipe!