Forget duck à l’orange – duck breast fillet with charred pineapple slices is much superior!
How to roast duck breast in the oven
Can you roast a duck breast fillet in the oven? Of course you can. But the internet seems to think otherwise.
Although to my mind ‘roasted’ means cooked in the oven, everywhere you see this pointless ‘oven roasted’ tautology which is so annoying. What’s more, they lie. There doesn’t seem to be a single recipe out there which would actually roast that damn duck fillet in the oven.
‘Oven-roasted duck breast’ claims the title and the first line of instruction says: heat a frying pan on the hob. What? Cooking a duck fillet in a frying pan is a fantastic method, but it isn’t roasting.
What pan is best for roasting duck fillet?
Cast iron skillet is one of the favouritest things in my kitchen, though it does make my dodgy elbow flare up. Frying anything in cast iron is a dream, as it gives the meat a perfectly seared, full of Maillard’s caramelisation surface.
So indeed, sticking cast iron pan in the oven and flipping the duck fillet onto it should give the best results.
But it’s good news to those who think cast iron with all the seasoning and non-washing is more bother than it’s worth. A sturdy roasting tin works as well, if not better.
Salt is magic
My salt mentor, Samin Nosrat, taught me the importance of salting any meat as much in advance of cooking as possible. It proves gospel time and time again. Duck fillet, though it’s a finer cut, benefits too: the flavour is better, the tenderness increased.
Some people leave duck fillet skin on their plates – if I dine with them, I surreptitiously snatch it like a vagrant scavenging rubbish bins.
Salty crispy duck skin is mighty gorgeous so for cooking it needs to be dry, patted dry with kitchen towels after the salt has driven some moisture out to the surface, and showered with black pepper generously.
The scoring is not just for show either: it helps the heat penetrate to the meat and lets air onto the skin to help it crispen better.
How long should you roast a duck breast?
And then it’s easy as a dream. The oven heats up to full whack with the roasting dish set in the lower part so that the duck has plenty hot air circulating around it. When it’s screaming hot, the duck lands on it skin side down.
Five minutes later, with utmost care as it will be spitting hot fat inside, turn it over and roast for three minutes. That, plus resting for ten minutes on a warm plate, will give you the loveliest, pink, medium cooked duck fillet. Roasted. In the oven.
Bring back pineapple!
Don’t label me a seventies’ throwback please: pineapple certainly deserves a comeback. I know it had committed a multitude of sins back then, from sitting on pizzas to being slathered with mayo in the least appropriate salads. But it’s so, so good grilled that we must absolutely bring it back to the kitchen fold.
I like to spice it up with chilli powder or sauce and brush with oil so it doesn’t stick to the griddle. Griddle will give it the decorative scorch marks but off a regular frying pan it will be just as nice.
NOT cast iron though, mind you – the acid from the pineapple will eat through the seasoned pan surface. I know – sometimes they ARE a bit of bother.
So whether you arrange the duck slices on the pineapple or the other way round, make sure you drizzle some pineapple juice over the dish. Especially if you do as I suggest and build the fruit and meat on a pile of lettuce, thus dressing the whole dish.
More duck ideas
With five spice seasoning, this duck dish is as easy as it is impressive. But duck can also be sliced and stir fried – with the skin turned into duck scratchings!
If not orange or pineapple, try blueberries as a sauce ingredient for duck; you’ll be surprised how well it goes together.
Or don’t cook the duck fillet at all but cure it instead. Duck prosciutto is tender, flavoursome and really easy to prepare.