Pan Seared Duck Breast with Mushrooms – The Cook’s Digest
I adore a succulent duck breast cooked with a crisp, tasty skin on it. Yet achieving this in the Big Green Egg has proven less effective than the kitchen … until now. I found a way of getting that delicious, crispy skin using the Egg, whilst at the same time cooking a rich and complimentary mushroom side. It’s a simply trick, you just need a cast iron skillet. And a spirit level.
Pan Seared Duck Breast
|10 mins prep
20-25 mins cook
Getting Crisp Duck Skin in a Big Green Egg
I get great results in our home kitchen by searing the duck breast in a pan in the stove and then roasting in the oven. To achieve the same (or better) using the Egg, the method needed to mimic this way of cooking.
Big Green Eggs, and most other Kamado style cookers, have two standard modes of cooking:
- Direct … no heat shield (platesetter) between the charcoal and what you’re cooking. This is like using a stove (direct heat source) and great for directly searing meat and vegetables.
- Indirect … with a heat shield and an air gap between the heat shield and cooking surface. This is like using an oven.
For this recipe, I had the platesetter in from the outset and placed my cast iron skillet directly on top of it. This meant no air gap between platesetter and cooking surface, so it was effectively a stove top (pictured below). This technique heated up the skillet just as it would on a stove, and the duck breast sizzled immediately when added in skin side down.
I chose this approach for direct cooking because as I want to go indirect immediately after the sear. Introducing a platesetter into the Egg adds a heat sink (absorbs heat energy) and causes the temperature to drop which takes time to get back up. By having the platesetter in already, the only additional was a stainless steel grid, the effect of which was negligible.
Once the duck breast skin had crisped up, I put the stainless steel grid onto the platesetter and the cast iron skillet on top of the grid. And hey presto, the Big Green Egg turned from a stove into an oven.
For this recipe, I needed a cooking surface that would fit inside the Big Green Egg Minimax. I used a Lodge baker’s skillet to cook this. Lodge make a great range of cast iron cookware, and this skillet is a perfect size. It’s also considerably less expensive (more than £20 at time of writing) than the Big Green Egg cast iron skillet.
In addition, you’ll need:
For the grid, I used a multi-purpose BBQ rack (pictured above) that fitted into the Minimax, so I used that. This supported the duck over the top of the mushrooms.
The ingredients below are for two servings, cooked in a Minimax. This can be increased to more servings, a larger Egg would be required.
- 2 duck breast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 300g mushrooms
- 40g butter
- Olive oil
- Dizzy Pig Red-Eye Express (optional)
In this method, I dry-brined the duck breast skin for 24 hours in the fridge. You don’t have to do this, but it really does help get a crisp skin. Check out this blog post for more on this topic.
- Mix the salt and baking powder together. Sprinkle this over the duck breast skin. Place the duck breasts on a plate and put the plate into a refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to cook, light the charcoal in the Big Green Egg and let the charcoal start to glow. Put the platesetter in, place the cast iron skillet directly onto the platesetter and get the Egg to 180°C/350°F.
- Whilst the Egg is getting to temperature, chop the mushrooms into halves or quarters. If you have any, sprinkle over some Dizzy Pig Red-Eye Express, it’s great with mushrooms. Cube the butter.
- When the Egg is at temperature, pour a little olive oil into the surface of the hot cast iron skillet. Then carefully add in the duck breast, skin side down. Sear the breast for around 5 mins or until the skin has crisped up and rendered fat out into the skillet.
- With heat-resistant gloves, carefully remove the skillet from the Egg and set the duck breast aside. Place the stainless steel grid in the Egg, and put the skillet onto the grid.
- Decant the mushrooms into skillet and, using the spatula, ensure they are coated with rendered duck fat. Add in the butter in cubes and mix in with the mushrooms.
- Place the support grid on top of the cast iron pan and then place the duck breasts on the grid, skin side up. Close the Egg.
- Cook for around 20 mins. Halfway through, and using heat-resistant gloves, give the mushrooms a stir. Check that they aren’t done before the duck is too, if they are then remove them and set aside.
I did consider adding a cherry smoking chunk into the recipe, but to be honest it was great as it was. Also, I think that the cherry smoke wouldn’t have worked with the mushrooms.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- If you’ve read to here you might be wondering why I mentioned a spirit level in the opening paragraph of this post. It’s vital that your Egg is level prior to cooking. If it isn’t, one side of the cast iron skillet could loose it’s fat and the mushrooms will probably burn on that side. A spirit level can be used to verify this. I used some cardboard under some of the feet of the Minimax to ensure that it was.