Reverse Sear – Smoked or Grilled Duck Breast

Reverse Sear – Smoked or Grilled Duck Breast
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YOU WILL RULE THE GRILL if you cook meat to the perfect doneness! You know what a perfect steak tastes like – perfect amount of salt and maybe a slight edge of pepper or spice. But your perfect steak is also perfectly done to your liking! It wouldn’t taste the same if it was overdone. Alternatively, if you could finish it, who has ever heard of a perfectly underdone steak? So the perfect steak is also perfectly done. What if there was a reliable way to ensure you could your steak perfectly every time. WAIT! What if you could use the same method to cook other proteins perfectly every time?

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Learn to reverse sear and your steaks, pork chops, duck breasts, lamb will come out right every time.

What is Reverse Sear?

Reverse sear means to gently cook a protein, then seared at high heat. The searing will caramelize the edges, add flavor and finish that protein to your desired temperature. (The reverse part is because for many years previously, meat would be seared first, then cooked at a lower temperature – so this is the reverse.)

Why Reverse Sear? Why not sear?

Reverse sear allows for:

  • Initial gentle heating will allow the proteins to cook slowly, retaining more juices
  • Even cooking of the meat proteins
  • Method is great for thicker cuts of meat with similar results
  • Controlled cooking because you can control how much heat or how much the steak cooks before it is seared
  • Initial cook allows the surface of the meat to dry slightly (to prevent steaming) to allow for caramelization to occur on the surface of the meat when it sears. This caramelization adds flavor to the meat

Searing meat and then cooking at a lower temperature is less reliable due to the variability of carry over cooking after searing.

How to Reverse Sear

Reverse sear means to gently cook a protein >10 degrees Fahrenheit below the temperature you want to finish at. This allows the juices to stay intact when the proteins gently cook. Once the meat is just under the desired temperature, sear or cook the protein at high high heat to caramelize the edges, add flavor and finish that protein to your desired temperature.

Whatever this waterfowl is seasoned with, embrace it, enjoy it. Let’s DUCK!

Reverse Sear Medium Duck Breast

Reverse Sear – Smoked or Grilled Duck Breast

If you want predictability and perfect doneness in your meat, I strongly recommend reverse searing your meat. If you can cook on a grill and have a meat thermometer, you've joined the club, you can cook this!
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rest Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course, meat
Cuisine American


  • Smoker/ Grill
  • Sharp knife
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Skillet or additional grate for searing


  • 2 duck breasts with skin
  • Your favorite sweet and spicy spice rub
  • Sweet barbecue sauce


  • Warm smoker or grill up to 250F.
  • Using a sharp knife score (aka slice) the skin partway (not all the way through) without cutting into the duck meat. Keep scores about ¼” to ½” wide. Turn the duck 180 degrees and score the skin again for a crosshatch pattern.
  • Season the meat and skin of the breast liberally with your favorite spice rub. I like a sweet rub with a little kick.
  • Place duck breasts meat down, skin up on smoker and cook for ~10 minutes until internal temperature is 120F (I like my duck at medium rare at 130F) or 10F degrees below your desired finishing temperature. In the meantime, warm up a skillet or grate on hot coals for searing.
  • When your duck meat is 10F degrees below your desired finishing temperature, sear duck breasts with skin up and meat down for color on skillet or hot grate.
  • Then, flip duck to sear duck breasts skin down on hot skillet or hot grate until skin is crispy and rendered. Duck should finish 130F for medium rare or 140F for medium or 155F for well done.
  • Brush on your favorite sweet barbecue sauce on the top of the duck skin.
  • Rest for at least 10 minutes and lightly cover with a tented foil or lid on a plate.
  • Slice duck breasts crosswise, against the grain.


SmellaQue Tip: Scoring the skin of duck breasts enables the fat to render without overcooking the duck meat, while becoming a vessel to hold flavor. 
Keyword duck, duck breast, reverse sear

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