If you’re looking for a delicious homemade meal (that isn’t turkey) this Thanksgiving, you must make this Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Autumn Apple Compote. This elegant main is a fun alternative to make and is suitable for serving a small crowd. While the duck is perfect on its own, the addition of a simple apple compote with autumn spices really makes this recipe extra special for the season!
How to Cook a Duck Breast- the Easy Way!
Don’t be intimidated by cooking a duck breast. If you can cook chicken breast, you can definitely pull off cooking duck. There are just a few differences to account for, particularly the amount of fat that is present in duck meat. Luckily, here are some tips for cooking the perfect duck breast below!
- Score the fat with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern. Ensure that you do not cut through the fat into the meat below.
- Season thoroughly with salt. This will help pull the fat from the duck and will season the meat nicely.
- Start cooking the duck in a cold pan. This allows the fat to slowly render out without overcooking or burning the duck.
Rather than the traditional method of cooking the duck breast in a pan and transferring it into the oven to finish cooking, this duck breast is fully cooked on the stovetop. This process does take a while (about 15 minutes on the fat side alone), but it is cooked over a low temperature to ensure the duck meat does not overcook. This yields the perfect duck breast every time, and you can avoid turning on the oven!
A Seasonal Autumn Apple Compote
While this duck breast is incredible on its own, serving it with this easy Autumn Apple Compote really makes it festive for the holiday season.
This Autumn Apple Compote is made with Honeycrisp apples, although you can also substitute this with Cortland, Salish, Gala, or even McIntosh apples, which are all great for cooking. The addition of autumn spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are classic for apple compote and are further enhanced by apple cider vinegar and maple syrup for extra autumn flavour in this recipe. The addition of onion also makes this recipe a little bit more savoury—which is perfect to go with duck!
Feel free to make this Autumn Apple Compote 1-2 days before you want to cook this recipe. It will even store well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, which is great for Thanksgiving prep!
Get the Recipe!
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes
For the Duck Breast:
• 2 duck breasts
• ½ teaspoon sea salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Apple Compote:
• 2 cups Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1-cm thick slices
• ½ cup yellow onion, sliced into 1-cm thick slices
• ¼ cup water
• 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Remove the duck breast from the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the duck to cook more evenly.
2. Use a sharp knife to score the duck fat in a criss-cross pattern, ensuring that you do not cut all the way through the fat into the meat.
3. Season both sides of the duck breasts with the sea salt. Then season the meat side of the duck breasts with the ground black pepper and ground cinnamon. Rub the spices evenly over the meat.
4. Place the duck breasts fat-side down into a cold frying pan. Turn the heat to medium and let the duck breasts cook for 12-15 minutes on the fat side, rotating often to ensure even browning.
5. Next, flip the duck breast to cook on the meat side for 2 minutes. Additionally, sear the sides of the duck breast for 1 minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.
6. Drain the duck fat so that there is only 1 tablespoon of fat left in the pan. Add the apples and onions and cook over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until the apples and onions have softened. Add the water halfway way through cooking to avoid burning.
7. Next, add the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and cinnamon to the apple compote and cook for 2 minutes to allow the flavours to come together.
8. Reduce the heat to medium and place the duck breast back in the pan, meat side down, for 2 minutes to warm through and absorb some of the apple compote flavours.
9. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving with the apple compote. Enjoy!