Grilled Duck Breast with Dried Cranberry and Cabernet Sauce

Grilled Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Zinfandel Sauce

At Thanksgiving my family doesn’t really enjoy eating turkey, so I researched what dishes were served at the first Thanksgiving.  To my surprise: not turkey.  I did learn that every day back them was deer season, but I do not like the taste of deer.  What else would have been served?  Duck.  So that lead to this recipe, as modified, from Williams-Sonoma.

First things first.  As with all poultry, it’s imperative to make sure the duck is cooked to temperature.  Since it’s that important, I’ll repeat:  for your safety and your guests’ safety, please make sure your duck is cooked through.  The FDA recommends an internal temp of 165 degrees.  Some sources say you can go lower, but I’m sticking with the Feds on this one.  Until you’ve got the experience grilling duck to “know” when it’s done, check a digital thermometer.  Heck, even then use a digital thermometer to test for doneness.  Your reputation in the kitchen is sacred, and if you kill someone from salmonella poisoning, I promise nobody will come to your dinner parties anymore.  Just do it.

Grilled Duck Breast with Dried Cranberry and Cabernet Sauce

Note:  dried cherries are suggested in the original recipe, but dried cranberries are cheaper than dried cherries, and I think they taste better.


For the spice rub:

  • 1 T gr. ginger
  • 1 T Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 T freshly gr. white pepper
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves  (I’m partial to ordering from Maple-Leaf Farms, and no, I don’t get paid to recommend them.  Just a good product with good service at a fair price.  And they ship it with dry ice on top, and who doesn’t love that?)

For the sauce:

  • 1 c. chicken stock (bonus points for you if homemade)
  • 1/4 c. Cabernet Sauv or other big red wine
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T corn syrup
  • 1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T wine, chicken stock or water


Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium heat.

Prepare the spice rub.  Apply a liberal amount of the spice rub to both sides of the duck.
To make the sauce, in a saucepan combine the chicken stock, wine, dried cherries, soy sauce and corn syrup. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to thicken the sauce. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the duck breasts, skin side down, on the grill, directly over medium heat. Cover the grill and cook until the duck is well browned on the bottom side, 7 to 10 minutes.  Because this is a fattier meat, there will be flare-ups, so stay with the grill.  Turn over and grill for 5 minutes more. When your digital thermometer reads 165 degrees, remove from the grill.

To serve, spoon the sauce over the duck breast.  Serve immediately.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

Click to access UCM260394.pdf

Jan. 26, 2014

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