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Pan-seared duck and roasted potatoes on a plate

Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Port Cherry Sauce

10 min prep, 8 hr resting
15 min

Brought to you by Ari from Well Seasoned Studio

Juicy and succulent, these pan-seared duck breasts will impress everyone! The trick to ultra-crispy skin? Dry the duck breasts uncovered in a refrigerator! Serve with a simple pan sauce made with port (or red wine) and cherries for an elegant date night in or intimate gathering during the holidays.


For the duck:

2 Magret duck breasts about 1 lb each

1 tsp Kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp canola oil

Flaky sea salt for serving


For the port cherry sauce:

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 large garlic cloves halved

¼ cup sour cherry jam can (or use fresh pitted cherries, if available)

3 large sprigs of thyme

½ cup port wine or red wine

½ cup chicken stock low-sodium

1 Tbsp unsalted butter


  1. ​The day before: score the skin of the duck breast to help render the fat. Use a sharp knife to score the skin in a criss-cross, diagonal pattern, being careful to only cut the fat, not going into the meat. Alternatively, you can use a sausage pricker by gently pressing down all over the surface of the duck skin and fat, creating lots of tiny holes.              
  2. Dry out the skin. Once the skin is scored (or pricked,) place duck breasts on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours, or up to 3 days. The cold air from the refrigerator will help to dry out the skin. This is key to getting crispy skin when you render the fat.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º F. Heat a small amount of canola oil (or other high smoke point oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable oil) in a large skillet over medium heat, no higher!
  4. Season the duck on both sides with salt and pepper, then place them skin side down in the skillet. Cook undisturbed for 5-8 minutes, or until the fat has rendered. You'll know the duck is ready to flip when it easily pulls away from the pan, the fat has shrunk significantly and the skin is crispy and golden brown.               
  5. Gently turn the duck breasts over, being careful not to puncture the skin. (If you’re adding any aromatics—garlic, fresh herbs, etc.—this is the time to do so.) Transfer the pan to a preheated oven and cook for 5–7 minutes (Pekin duck will only take an additional 3–5 minutes.) Check temperature to ensure desired doneness is reached. For medium-rare, look for an internal temperature of 135º F.
  6. Allow the duck breasts to rest for 5–10 minutes before slicing into ¼–½" thick slices. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
  7. To make the port cherry sauce, sauté olive oil, garlic cloves, fresh thyme and cherries in a sauce pan for about 1–2 minutes over medium-high heat, breaking up the jam with a spatula. Pour in port (or red wine) and chicken stock, then bring to a boil and reduce by half. Turn off the heat, add 1 Tbsp unsalted butter and swirl the pan until butter gently melts. Serve over sliced duck with flake sea salt sprinkled on top.


This recipe is written with a cook time for Magret duck breast. If you plan to cook Pekin duck breast, note that they are typically smaller and take less time to cook. Render them, skin side down, for 5–7 minutes, then flip and transfer to a preheated oven. Cook an additional 3–5 minutes, or until 130º F for medium-rare.

  • While it is recommended that the duck breasts rest uncovered in a refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours, nothing bad will happen if you cook them right away. However the skin will be crispier if you don’t skip the fridge time.
  • We’re aiming for a perfect medium-rare, which is reached when the internal temperature is 135º F. (Rare=125º F; Medium=140º F).
  • Do NOT discard rendered duck fat! Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator and use it in any savory recipe that calls for olive oil. We especially recommend using it to make duck fat potatoes.