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Duck in Orange Sauce – Duck a l’Orange [Gluten-free, dairy free]

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Do you know how easy it is to make duck in orange sauce? Just follow this recipe and prepare to be amazed! With a sweet & slightly acidic orange sauce it’s perfect to prep ahead and the best dish to make for a crowd – for the holidays, New Year’s Eve or your next dinner party. Best served with potatoes – and a nice glass of red wine.

The text in this post was updated November 21 2019 to provide an even better user experience. The pictures & recipe remain the same.

duck a lorange duck in orange sauce cut up on a wooden chopping board

Ever checked out a classic recipe for duck a l’orange and thought “nah, never gonna happen”. Me too. So I created my own version – with all the taste, but so much less work.

There’s a few steps involved, but they’re not difficult – you just need to know to do them. And I will show you how.

The finished dish? Perfectly cooked duck breasts glazed with a sweet and slightly acidic orange sauce, served with an extra drizzled just because it’s so good.

How to cook duck breasts

I know, cooking duck can seem a bit intimidating. And there are a few important points to keep in mind when you do. But these steps are not at all difficult – as I said, it’s just a matter of knowing what to do and when to do it. And that’s why I’m here.

Cooking duck is done in three steps:

  1. Rendering off the fat
  2. Finishing in the oven
  3. Resting

The basic process is to score the duck breasts, render off all or most of the fat and then flip and sear quickly on the other side. After this you stick them in the oven and cook until just a few degrees below your target point. You then take them out, wrap them in foil, and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. And that’s it.

If you want more guidance, then keep on reading and I will go through these steps in detail below.

How to render off the fat from duck breasts

This might just be the most important step when cooking duck, and what makes all the difference between an OK duck breast and one that will wow all your friends.

You might not think about the fattiness of the bird at first, but when you start rendering off the fat and see how much there actually was – you’ll be glad you did. Some say to render off all of the fat, I like to leave a little, for extra taste – the choice is yours.

scored duck breasts for duck a l orange duck in orange sauce

Now to render off the fat you start by scoring the skin of the duck, like in the picture above. You want to cut almost all the way through the fat – but without cutting into the flesh, as this can make the meat dry. Don’t worry, if you cut through the flesh at a point or two it will still be delicious – just try to avoid it as best you can.

duck breasts cooking skin-side down in a cast iron pan, for duck a l orange duck in orange sauce

After scoring the skin, season with salt and black pepper and place skin side down in a cold pan. Yes, a cold pan. Why? Well, just like when cooking bacon, placing the duck in a cold pan and letting it heat up with the pan allows for more of the fat to be rendered off. And – again, just like with bacon – allows for a crisper texture.

Rendering off the fat does take a bit off time. Don’t rush it. You might need to pour off the excess fat while cooking – it’s quite a lot – if you do, just please don’t pour it straight down the drain as this might clog it. Instead, pour it into a bowl and after you’re finished either put it in the fridge to cool and solidify before you throw it in the trash or soak it up with paper towels and throw them away.

duck breasts cooking skin-side up in a cast iron pan, for duck a l orange duck in orange sauce

When most, or all of the fat has been rendered off (you’ll know this when the amount of fat in the pan seems to have stopped increasing) and the skin is nice and crisp, turn up the heat of the pan and flip the duck breasts over. Cook for just a minute or so – both on the top and on the sides – to get a nice sear and seal the moisture in.

duck breasts skin side down on an oven tray, for duck a l orange duck in orange sauce

Now you place your duck breasts on an oven tray and either put it straight in the oven or – if finishing and serving them later – cover and set aside for now.

How to make sure you don’t cook your duck breasts too long

Now tip number two for cooking duck is basically to allow it to stay pink and juicy. Duck meat doesn’t run the same risk as chicken of carrying salmonella, so it can, and should, be eaten pink. Now, that being said, there’s always a risk related to eating “undercooked” meat, so you do you.

To me the perfect temperature for duck breasts is 62 C/143 F. At this point it’s a pink medium, almost medium-rare. Not dripping blood, but very juicy & tender. The trick to achieving this – or any temperature point you prefer – is to use a meat thermometer and cooking it to just a few degrees below (in this case, I go for 60 C/140 F). Then remove them from the oven, wrap them in foil, and let them rest. The temperature will rise by a few degrees while resting and you’ll end up with a beautiful pink duck breast.

If you instead like it rare you should cook it to 53 C/128 F before resting (temperature after resting should be about 55 C/131 F), and for a well-done duck breast cook to about 67 C/152 F and let it rest (temperature after resting should be about 70 C/158 F).

sliced duck breast on a wooden chopping board

Why your duck breasts need to rest

This resting part is really important, and the secret to an evenly cooked, perfectly juicy duck breast.

Why? After you remove your duck breasts from the oven they will continue to cook, as more of the heat spreads to the core of the meat. The temperature usually rises by 2-5 degrees while resting, and since you are not adding any heat, the risk of overcooking the meat is very small – unless you took it out at too high a temperture to start with. This is a great trick to use not just for duck, but for any meat.

What you do is take the duck breasts out at the tempterature stated above (or below in the recipe card), wrap them in foil, and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. Or longer, if you like. As I mentioned – the temperature won’t rise by more than a few degrees anyway. And genrally speaking – the longer the rest, the better and juicier the meat.

How to make orange sauce for duck

Making the orange sauce is really simple. There are just a few ingredients and you make it in the same pan you seared your duck breasts in, while the duck is being finished in the oven.

Keep a bit of the duck fat in the pan, add in all the ingredients for the orange sauce and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, until reduced by about half. Remove the sprigs of rosemary and the garlic cloves, and that’s it. Set aside to heat up later or serve straight away.

Expert tips for making duck in orange sauce

To recap, my best tips for cooking duck are:

  1. Render off the fat – this is the differene between a good duck breast, and a great one. Render off all the fat, or leave some (I always do, I think it adds extra taste) – just make sure most of it is gone.
  2. Don’t pour the fat straight down the drain as this might clog it (been there, done that) – instead, pour it into a bowl and go one of two routes:
    • Place it in the fridge to cool and solidify, then throw in the trash
    • Soak up with paper towels and throw them in the trash
  3. Know your temperature point – do you like it rare, medium or well-done? In the recipe card below you can see which temperature you should aim for depending on your preference.
  4. Use an oven thermometer to get your duck to just the right temperature
  5. Always take your duck out at a few degrees below the target temperature – in the recipe card below you will find suggestions for at what temperature to bring it from the oven as well.
  6. Let your duck breasts rest for at least 5 minutes. This is the best way to ensure perfectly cooked, extremely juicy meat.
sliced duck breast on a wooden chopping board, for duck a l orange duck in orange sauce

Frequently asked questions

How do I prepare my duck breasts in advance?

These duck breasts are perfect to prep ahead of time and hence perfect for any dinner party where you want to be able to relax a bit.

To do this, I suggest that you, before your guests arrive, complete the steps under “Prep and stovetop cooking” and “Orange sauce” in the recipe card. When you’ve placed your duck breasts on an oven tray, cover with aluminium foil and set aside until about 30 minutes before you’d like to have your main course. Keep in mind that as the duck will have had time to cool, the final cooking in the oven will probably take 10-20 minutes instead of 5-10, depending on how far down the temperature has gone.

Then, when dinner time comes around, get the duck in the oven just as you sit down to have your appetizer. Get up once right when you’re finished to glaze it again, and then enjoy your wine & company for another 5-10 minutes before getting it out and wrapping it in foil to rest. This is when you stick your Smashed Potatoes in the oven to let the Parmesan Cheese melt, and heat up your orange sauce – all while the duck is resting.

Then all you have left to do is slice up the duck, plate, and coat with your delicious orange sauce.

Can I use any other herbs than rosemary?

Yes, you can use whichever herb you enjoy. My favorite for this recipe, apart from rosemary, is thyme.

What do I do with leftovers?

If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers, you can and should save them. Just store them in an airtight container in the fridge, and they will be good for up to 5 days. If you haven’t sliced the left over duck already – don’t, and wait until you want to eat it. Then slice it and heat up in the microwave or by frying in a little bit of butter for 30 seconds or so.

Great tools to have for making this recipe

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What to serve with Duck in Orange Sauce

I love potatoes with my duck a l’orange. Especially crispy, cheesy smashed potatoes but it’s also delicious with a hasselback potato (what isn’t?!). For a veggie, why not go for garlic roasted broccoli or classic steamed or boiled haricot verts.

What to drink with Duck in Orange Sauce

There’s a lot of flavor in this dish, with generous helpings of fat, sweet honey and acidic orange. To make the best of this, you want the wine to have some of that acidity as well, but it is also fun to play with the sweetness. I do this by pairing it with (in descending order of price) a good Italian Amarone, Ripasso or other Valpolicella wine. A good reasonably priced choice is the 2016 Tommasi Graticcio Appassionato (#5354) and if working with a larger budget, the 2012 Masi Costasera Amarone (#2345) is delicious.

You could go white as well, and I actually think that’s the classic Le Cordon Bleu choice for a Duck a l’Orange. If so, go quite rich and a bit acidic – I like the 2017 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay (#6299) or the slightly pricier 2017 Couvent des Jacobins Bourgogne Blanc (#5798).

For non-alcoholic, a good quality apple juice like Jus de Pommes Artisanal Pétillant (#1990) is great as it has a balanced sweetness and is high in acidity.

Duck in Orange Sauce – Duck a l’Orange

4.75 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: dairy free, European, French, gluten-free
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 268kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 large duck breasts with skin
  • salt and black pepper
  • 4 dl orange juice fresh pressed, 1 orange gives approximately 1 dl or 0.4 cups of juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 10 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 dl honey

Instructions

Prep & stovetop cooking (20 minutes)

  • Bring out the duck breasts and pat them dry. Turn skin-side up and carefully cut a criss-cross pattern in the skin. Take care not to cut into the duck meat, but still cut as deep into the skin as you can. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Place the duck breasts in a cold pan (do not use any oil or butter), skin-side down, and place the pan over medium heat. Cook until skin is crisp and golden, 10-15 minutes. Pour off excess fat regularly while cooking.
  • When the duck skin is crisp and golden and there is not as much fat coming off the duck anymore, raise the heat to medium-high, flip the breasts over and cook skin-side up for 1 minute. Make sure to also sear quickly on the other sides of the duck breast. Then transfer the breasts to a baking tray, placing them with the skin down.

Orange Sauce (10 minutes)

  • Place the pan back over the heat with some of the duck fat left in it and add in the orange juice, honey and sprigs of rosemary. Crush the garlic cloves slightly with the side of your knife, remove the husk and add the garlic cloves to the sauce. Let the sauce cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 5-10 minutes.
  • When the sauce has reduced by approximately half, take off the heat and remove the garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary.

Finishing the duck breasts in the oven (5-10 minutes if starting with a hot oven)

  • Heat the oven to 175C/350 F.
  • Glaze the duck breasts with the orange sauce, stick in a meat thermometer and place uncovered in the middle of the oven. Cook for 5-10 minutes until inner temperature is 60C/140F (for a pink center, see notes for other temperatures). Take out once after 5minutes and glaze with orange sauce again.
  • Wrap the cooked duck breasts in aluminum foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat up the orange sauce. Slice the duck breasts and serve topped with orange sauce.

Notes

Expert tips for making duck in orange sauce

  1. Render off the fat – this is the differene between a good duck breast, and a great one. Render off all the fat, or leave some (I always do, I think it adds extra taste) – just make sure most of it is gone.
  2. Don’t pour the fat straight down the drain as this might clog it (been there, done that) – instead, pour it into a bowl and go one of two routes:
    • Place it in the fridge to cool and solidify, then throw in the trash
    • Soak up with paper towels and throw them in the trash
  3. Know your temperature point – do you like it rare, medium or well-done. Below you can see which temperature you should aim for depending on your preference.
  4. Use an oven thermometer to get your duck to just the right temperature
  5. Always take your duck out at a few degrees below the target temperature – in the recipe card below you will find suggestions for at what temperature to bring it from the oven as well.
  6. Let your duck breasts rest for at least 5 minutes. This is the best way to ensure perfectly cooked, extremely juicy meat.

Suggested cooking temperatures:

  • Rare: Cook to 53 C/128 F and let rest to reach 55 C/131 F
  • Medium: Cook to 60 C/140 F and let rest to reach 62 C/143 F
  • Well-done: Cook to 67 C/152 F and let rest to reach 70 C/158 F

Frequently asked questions

How do I prepare my duck breasts in advance?

These duck breasts are perfect to prep ahead of time and hence perfect for any dinner party where you want to be able to relax a bit.
To do this, I suggest that you, before your guests arrive, complete the steps under “Prep and stovetop cooking” and “Orange sauce” in the recipe card. When you’ve placed your duck breast on an oven tray, cover with aluminium foil and set aside until about 30 minutes before you’d like to have your main course. Keep in mind that as the duck will have had time to cool, the final cooking in the oven will probably take 10-20 minutes instead of 5-10, depending on how far down the temperature has gone.
Then, when dinner time comes around, get the duck in the oven just as you sit down to have your appetizer. Get up once right when you’re finished to glaze it again, and then enjoy your wine & company for another 5-10 minutes before getting it out and wrapping it in foil to rest. This is when you stick your Smashed Potatoes in the oven to let the Parmesan Cheese melt, and heat up your orange sauce – all while the duck is resting.
Then all you have left to do is slice up the duck, plate, and coat with your delicious orange sauce.

Can I use any other herbs than rosemary?

Yes, you can use whichever herb you enjoy. My favorite for this recipe, apart from rosemary, is thyme.

What do I do with leftovers?

If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers, you can and should save them. Just store them in an airtight container in the fridge, and they will be good for up to 5 days. If you haven’t sliced the left over duck already – don’t, and wait until you want to eat it. Then slice it and heat up in the microwave or by frying in a little bit of butter for 30 seconds or so.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 68mg | Potassium: 545mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 333IU | Vitamin C: 58mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutritional information is approximate and automatically calculated, and should only be viewed as an indication.

Did you make this? Tag me today!Tag @alwaysusebutter and use the hashtag #alwaysusebutter!

This dish is part of the 2018 always use butter New Year’s Eve menu. Find the appetizer here: Rum-spiked Smoked Salmon Tartare, the main course side dish here: Crispy Garlic Parmesan Smashed Potatoes and the dessert here: Passion Fruit Gino – White Chocolate Fruit Bake.

Now I dare you to go out and cook yourself some duck! Just follow the tips above and it will turn out great!

Did you try this recipe? If so – please leave a comment and/or a rating below, I love hearing from you! Or just leave a comment anyway. I also love seeing your creations – so please tag me on Instagram if you post it and use the hashtag #alwaysusebutter.

Good luck with your duck!

Emmeline



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