How to Cook Magret de Canard

I love magret de canard, and let’s get one thing straight. Although a magret is the breast of a duck, it’s not the same as the duck breasts that you can find easily here in the U.S. For one thing most U.S. duck breasts are an entirely different breed of duck. They’re made form White Pekin. That’s these fellows, here:

White Pekin Ducks. Photo by Luagh45 via Flickr

Magret de Canard is duck breast from the Moulard (Mulard, in French) breed of ducks. The Moulard is a cross between the White Pekin and the Muscovy duck. These ducks generally have streaks of of black and brown feathers amidst white feathers. Check out this photo, here.

On the table, moulards have a deeper, richer, beefier flavor. But note that it’s not just the breed of duck that gives the magret its superior flavor. In France, magret generally refers specifically to the breast of moulard ducks that have been raised on the foie gras plan—that is, force-fed until their livers are obscenely obese. (Many animal-rights activists consider this especially cruel; you have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to eat ducks that have been raised this way. That is not the topic of this posting).

Magret de Canard; that is, a breast of a fattened duck. Photo by Travelingmcmahons via Flickr.

Obviously, ducks fattened in this way will have richness all the way around (not just in their liver). The magret comes with a big layer of fat, which makes it divine for a splurge. If you find yourself anywhere that you can get a hold of one, here’s how to cook it.

Cooking Magret de Canard in a Few Easy Steps

1. First, find one. Here’s the one I bought in France at a local supermarket. If you’re in France, look for this brand: Reflets de France. The packaged magret cost me about 8 euros ($10), and easily, generously fed two of us.

Magret de Canard in France from Reflets de France.

Unfortunately, you cannot purchase this same brand here. I did find, however, magret de canard available in the U.S. at the Saveurs de Jour website and at D’Artagnan. Note that these duck breasts are from Moulard ducks; however, the product descriptions do not indicate that they were raised in “foie gras” fashion. So they may not be “magrets” in the French sense of magret. But, I imagine they’ll be infinitely better than the average white pekin.

2. Score the Fat. Season the duck breast with salt and pepper to taste. Then, simply cut slits in a diamond pattern across the breast. In this case, you do want to cut into the meat just a bit–about 1/4 inch is good. (That way, when you cook the meat fat-side-up, the fat will seep into the meat….yum!).

Scored duck breast. Photo courtesy of Manne via Flickr.

3. Sear the Duck, Fat-Side-First. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. And no, you do not need to oil the pan. Don’t even think about it. That fat is so generous and melts so willingly, your pan will be filled with fat before you know it. Once the pan is hot, place the breast, fat-side-down, in the pan and cook until it’s an appetizingly golden-brown color.

 

Sear the magret. It will render lots of fat in no time.

3. Turn and cook. Turn the breast and continue cooking it in its own wonderful fat. Continue shifting and turning the duck until it gets cooked to the desired temperature (I like mine medium rare). I’m afraid I overcooked my magret this go-around, as I was, unfortunately, taking pictures. But start checking it at 10 minutes total cooking time, using an instant-read food thermometer for testing. I like mine at about 145°F to 150°F; however, the USDA recommends 165°F for food safety.

4. Let the Meat Rest. I let my duck breast rest, loosely covered in foil, for a good 10 minutes after cooking; however, when I showed my finished-food photo to David Baruthio (French chef/owner of Baru 66), he immediately noticed that the meat still looked tight. “Magret should be allowed to stand at least 20 or 30 minutes before you serve it,” he said.

He went on to add that magret shouldn’t ever be served piping hot–it truly needs to stand off heat for quite some time; Fortunately, the sauce you pour over it will heat it enough for the meat to be tasty and warm.

4. Serve. Or make a sauce. This past June in Le Boulou, France, my friend Martine served me gorgeous magret de canard, and she didn’t serve a sauce with it. The fat from the duck had made the meat so incredibly juicy, it really didn’t need one. The meat was still warm after a good 20 minutes of standing.

So, at this point, you can simply slice the duck into near- 1/2-inch thick slices, arrange them on a plate, and serve.

Make a Sauce….if you wish.

However, if you want to make a sauce, do the old Sauté-Deglaze-Serve trick.

• As the duck is standing, drain off all about a tablespoon of the fat.
• Add 1 chopped shallot (about 1/4 cup) into the pan; cook and stir briefly until slightly softened.
• Add about 1/2 cup beef stock and 1/2 cup port or Madiera (I used Banyuls, a port-like wine), since I was in the area it is grown.
• Boil and stir (scraping up any browned bits from the pan) until the sauce is reduced to a few syrupy tablespoonfuls.
• Slice the duck, arrange on a plate, and drizzle the sauce over the duck.

My magret, with sauce. I’m afraid I overcooked it (the hazards of taking photos while you cook).

Want more recipes for Magret de Canard? You might want to check out my cookbook: The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day.

Specifically, I have a great Duck Breast with Cippoline Onions and Madeira that I love. Also, I will say that some preparations for beef would go really well with this particular breed and cut of duck (which is really beefsteak like). Cook the duck as I describe above, but when it comes time to make the pan sauce, use these recipes:

• Flank Steak with Warm Sherry Vinegar and Garlic Vinaigrette, page 126
• Filet with Cherry and Red Wine Sauce, page 127
• Lamb Arm Chops with Herbes de Provence, page 134 (it’s a simple preparation that will mesh will with duck, too).

Enjoy!

 

Related Posts:

My Duck Problem – White Pekin vs Moulard

Duck with Madeira

Any Night Baked Rice

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13 comments to How to Cook Magret de Canard

  • [...] came the Magret de Canard – this is the breast of a duck that has been fattened up to produce foie gras. It has much more of [...]

  • Michael

    Michael Roux starts by placing the magret skin side down in a cold pan. Raising the more slowly results in a a breast rendered of fat and beautifully crispy.

    • Wini

      Fascinating! Well, there are many ways to cook just about anything. I went with this method, because it was shown to me by a Frenchwoman in the Southwest of France. Next time I get my hands on a magret, I’m going to try Roux’s version. Thanks very much.

  • Mark

    Thanks for the post – that looks great. My wife came back from Paris with a can of magret de canard fourre au foie gras – would I cook this in about the same way? or would it be better to bake this?

    Thanks again!

    Mark

    • Wini

      Mark–whatever you do DO NOT cook the canned magret the same way that I cook the magret in this recipe.

      Because the Magret is canned, it will have already been cooked. It’s probably ready to serve (you probably need to warm it). If you want to snap a photo of the can and send it to me, I can probably tell you more about it.

      Hope this helps!

  • Mark

    Hi Wini,

    Thanks so much! I snapped a photo and sent it to you via your Facebook site (it was easier to attach pictures in a message there).

    I really appreciate any thoughts!

    Mark

  • Suzanne

    Made this tonight for my husband, who loves duck. (Mine came from D’Artagnan.)It came out perfectly, and we loved the sauce.

    Thank you!

  • David

    Magret de canard is better than steak especially when done right. Until I read this article I didn’t know there was a specific breed or crossbreed of the animal for magret. Thank you for the insight.

    • Wini

      Don’t feel bad! It took me a long time to glean that insight. I kept eating duck here in the U.S. and thinking, “why doesn’t this taste like the duck I get in France?” Then I learned….

  • Glen

    I have to say, I’ve re-awakened my palate by experimenting with duck, duck fat, foie gras (don’t care what others think) and other recipes. While I prefer to pan sear the duck and then throw it in a 400 F oven for 8 minutes, for medium rare, some other good ideas here thanks! I see someone else mentioned D’Artagnon as their source for duck; and if you are in the USA or Canada, this may just be the finest purveyor. Expensive? Yes. But humanely treated animals of the finest quality usually are. Legendary Chef Thomas Keller mentions D’Artagnon as one of his sources in his books ‘The French Laundry” and “Bouchon”. I can see why.
    Sorry for the name dropping, but I thought it might help people who are looking for good sources. Will have to try your recipe above!
    For a very interesting video on Fois Gras with Anthony Bourdain, try this out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABeWlY0KFv8

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