anyone? your crispy duck skin tips

In the Sous Vide Recipes Forum
I'm very happy with sous vide duck breasts.
In fact I wouldn't make them any other way anymore.
They're pink and moist and perfect.

BUT, I still can't manage really good crispy skin.

If you use the usual method of longish searing in a pan over medium-low heat, you get crisped skin, but the breast ends up about 1/3-1/2 cooked through by the time the fat is rendered and the skin crisped.

And trying to sear it after sous vide cooking presents the same problem.
It's ALREADY cooked through and so I don't want it on the heat of a pan for too long.

on the other hand, removing the skin first, and cooking the breast with just some fat in the bag, works great, but then what to do with the skin?

I've tried in the oven, under the broiler, and in a pan.
I'm not really happy with any of them like this.

so anyone have a method that works for you?

9 Replies So Far

I like to remove the skin after cooking the legs. Then, I brown the skin in a skillet over med-low heat. The skin comes off the legs easily once they've been cooked.
I see you have already tried this, but I'll tell you what I do anyway. I score the fat, then remove it from the meat. I'm talking breasts, here. Then, I sous vide the breasts, without any added fat and slowly render the fat from the fat covering in a frying pan. I then serve the rendered fat cap with the breast. I saw the rendered fat and use it to, say, fry potatoes.
and you find that just the skin and fat in a pan, you can get the skin crispy without weighting it to keep it flat or anything?

I find the fat renders, but the skin never really crisps

OTOH, I did fried Brussels Sprouts in duck fat the other day - pretty great.
As Elsie, I take the skin off the breasts as I've never found a satisfactory way of crisping it up whilst still attached.

I score the skin, salt, then sandwich the skin inbetween two layers of greaseproof paper, with baking trays on top and bottom, and pop them in an oven at 180-200C. I find a little extra weight on top helps keep them flat.

I can't remember where I originally got this idea (it's not mine) - but I'll give credit to Douglas Baldwin since I'm 90% sure it was probably from his book or site.
yes I think that's the Baldwin book

I can't say I find it an attractive method.

plus, is that WITH the fat layer?
I work as the meat guy in a 2 Michelin Star place in the UK. We have the same issue with the proper rendering of duck fat/skin while maintaining correct cuisson (final cook temp). We even went as far as to flash freezing the breasts with nitrogen, as we simply wanted rendered semi crispy skin and fully rendered fat before the breasts went in the bag.
I know these methods are not so accessible to everyone but you get the idea. IMO you want to hit the scored breasts (be sure your cuts dont go all the way through to the flesh) into a hot pan (1/2 teaspoon of oil) straight from the fridge (or even semi frozen from the freezer) to help maintain a low core temp. Keep pouring the excess fat out, but remember that a good amount of fat left will ensure even color and good flavour. Its important to keep the breast flat as it will try and curl as the fat renders out.
Blast chill. Into a bag. 62 deg 30 mins. Ice.
The moisture from the bag is going to have made the skin un crisp again no matter what you do, so you need to hit it in a hot pan (no oil). Reduce to a medium heat for around 5 mins or till skin is crisp again and breast is warmed through. flip flesh side down if needed.
If you prefer, glaze it in the same pan maple syrup (or spiced honey) with butter. Rest, Serve.

Given the wet nature of sous vide I think you are going to be hard pushed to replicate the dry roast crisp skin of a straight oven or pan roasted breast.

Hope this helps :)
@weedy, Sorry for the delay in reply - I obviously didn't flag this post for email.

Yes, it includes the fat layer, though this renders away to very little, depending on the time you leave it in the oven. The weight of the additional baking tray ensures it's completely flat too - I've balanced it at a jaunty angle on top of the duck breast in the past and I would say it looks fine...just not very traditional.
Okay, this post looks ancient but just had to register and say thanks so much for sharing the Baldwin book method. I did duck legs confit, and just peeled the fat off when they had cooled. It was already quite thin. That got sandwiched between 2 layers of greaseproof paper, then between sat between two preheated cast iron pans, high heat, 10 mins. It came out as a perfect transluscent shard of duck crackling. Unbelievable results. Wish I could post the photo on this forum - I'm no professional but this an amazing looking and tasting thing :) thnaks for the idea
I'm glad it turned out great for you!

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