Monday, August 27, 2012

Sous Vide Duck Breast with Balsamic Honey Sauce

Duck breasts are great because the meat is really dark and really flavorful and tasty. Most importantly to those who are health conscious, it is actually very low in fat. However, the duck skin on top has quite a bit of fat underneath it. But if you know how to properly cook a duck breast. You can actually get rid of almost all of that fat and just be left with a really thin layer of very tasty, crispy, duck skin.

Wife remarked recently that I rarely cook duck and requested to have duck for our weekend dinner. We bought some duck breast from Hubers and I decided to sous vide the breast meat instead of the traditional sear and roast method.

Unlike beef short ribs, beef cheek or even the coq au vin that I cooked using the sous vide method, duck breast need not be cooked in the water bath for long hours or days. In fact, I left the duck breast in my Sous Vide Supreme for only 2 hours.

After cooking the meat in the water bath at 57C for a couple of hour, the duck fat under the skin becomes soft and begin to render out while the proteins in it starts to set. This makes the final step of crisping the skin before serving much easier.

I made some roasted sweet potato mash and mango wild rocket salad to serve with the finished duck breast which had a golden crispy skin on the outside with just a thin layer of fat under it and the meat nice and pink inside.



Fresh Duck Breast
Thyme leaves
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

3 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon honey

Mango Wild Rockets Salad
1 Mango (Skinned and cut into chunky cubes)
A bunch of wild rockets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar


Wash and pat dry the duck breast meat.

Score the skin using a very sharp knife. Season the duck meat with sea salt on the skin side and sea salt, pepper and thyme on the meat side.

Pack the meat into sous vide bag (one to each bag) and seal.

Cook meat in Sous Vide machine at 57C for 2 hours.

Remove duck breast from bag and pat dry all sides with kitchen towel.

Heat a pan (no oil), and sear the duck meat skin side down for 5 minutes or until skin becomes golden and crispy.

Turn the meat over and cook the meat side for another 30 seconds.

Let the cooked meat rest for 5 minutes before cutting. This provides the juices time to redistribute in the meat and doesn’t run out.

Meanwhile, pour out the duck fat from the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan. Boil until the vinegar is very syrupy. Stir in the honey and return to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the duck breast and serve immediately with the balsamic vinegar sauce, roast sweet potato mash and mango salad.

Mango Wild Rockets Salad
In a mixing bowl,  toss the mango cubes and rocket leaves with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You may refer to this video on how to make the roasted sweet potato mash.

Simple ingredient

Scoring allows heat to penetrate into the skin and the breast. And it also allows more fat to render out of the skin. Objective here is to melt out the fat that is underneath the skin, while leaving the skin on, really crispy.

Season the skin side with sea salt

Thyme goes well with duck. Season meat side with sea salt, black pepper and thyme.

The duck meat sealed in sous vide bags

See the pink on the meat after 2 hours at 57C in SVS. Sear the duck skin side down for 5 minutes.

Allow the cooked meat to rest before serving. Notice the nice golden colour of the crispy skin.

I like this method of roasting the sweet potato instead of boiling to make the mash.  Roasting preserves the natural sweetness
of the potato.

Sous Vide Duck Breast with Balsamic Honey Sauce served with
Rosted Sweet Potato and Mango Rocket Salad

Crispy on the outside, pink and juicy inside.


  1. Oh my, these ducks looks really very appetizing and delicious! So good that you can get duck breasts for few pieces at the supermarket; whereas for me here either to get the whole duck or a packet of 8pcs duck drumsticks. I loves roast sweet potatoes too; so much delicious than the boiled one. What is Sous Vide Machine? Something new to me.

    1. Thanks, Mel!

      Sous Vide (pronounced "soo-veed") is French for “under vacuum” and describes a method of cooking food in vacuum-sealed pouches submerged in a water bath held at a precisely-controlled temperature. The sous vide machine, or water oven if you like, that I use is at home is called Sous Vide Supreme.

      I have experimented quite a number of recipes using the sous vide method. Check them out on my RECIPE Page. Click below link for my first sous vide experience:

  2. You are so pro cooking this dish... Very impressive!

    1. Thanks! Likewise, I am impressed with the way you bake. :)

  3. Congratulations on your 5-star dish - it looks wonderful and succulent. I SV my duck breast at 55C for only an hour, and I get a guaranteed medium rare.

    1. Thanks. I will try that 55C-1 hr combination the next time.

  4. I can tell from your photos that you have a deep passion for cooking. Those duck breasts are so beautifully done. They look like a dish served at a 5 star restaurant. What are your thoughts on food cooked encased in plastic. That is my main concern when it comes to sous vide. Would appreciate some advise, thanks.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, PH.

      I had the same concern and worries before I dived in and bought my sous vide machine. I googled and read up quite a fair bit on this cooking technique and concluded that it's safe as long as you use proper sous vide plastic bags which are "plasticizer free".

      Read more here:

      Most, if not all, top restaurants and chefs are usng this method. If this is unsafe, our government agency will be the first to ban this.

      My 2 cents. :)

    2. Many thanks for the information.

  5. looks great! how do you know that the duck only needs 2 hours in sousvide cooking, and what happens if you leave it for much longer? im just getting started on sousvide and hope you can help! thanks!

    1. You can refer to the Sous Vide Supreme site for the cooking temperature and time:

      I use that as a guide and also refer to other recipes. After few experiments, you should be able to get the optimum temperature/time combination for each meat type based on your personal preference.

  6. Tried it today- wonderful! thank you very much- love your blog. best regards, jochen

    1. Hi Jo! I'm glad that you tried and loved it! Any pics to share? :D

    2. yes, i have pics to share ;) how would you lilke to get them? email?

    3. Great! You can mail to

  7. I tried the recipe and my roommate said it was incredibly delicious and addicting. I am using this recipe for my sous vide cooking competition with some friends so will see how it goes. I too am impressed by the how simple and delicious it was.

  8. I am going to do your menu tomorrow for a dinner party. With so much sweet, what wine would your recommend?

    1. Hi.. Thank you for trying out my recipe. Hope you and your guests love it. Usually I'll pair duck with red but for this recipe with lots of sweet that you pointed out, something off-dry like a late harvest Riesling or Gewürztraminer would be perfect.

  9. Made this tonight and it was delicious and tender. My most successful sous vide so far. When I went to get my balsamic vinegar I realised I had used the last of it recently but I did have Carli Glassa Gastronomica which is already thick so just added the honey and heated it, excellent. Thank you for the recipe and the step by step instructions

    1. Hi hi, I'm glad that the recipe worked well for you!

  10. I don't think there is any need to let the meat rest - the juices are already evenly distributed.

    1. Hi there! Theoretically there is no need to but I am conservative, considering the last searing step that affects the temperature gradient within the meat.


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