smoked duck breasts

Smoked Duck Breasts with Cherry Compote



Rich duck and tart-sweet fruit are always a great match. Here, one other element is added: smoke. Duck takes to this method beautifully because the thick layer of fat under the skin ensures that the meat remains moist.


  • For the Duck
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves, each about 12 oz.
  • For the Cherry Compote
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lb. fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • About 2 cups applewood or cherrywood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes


In a small bowl, stir together the salt, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over both sides of the duck breast halves and rub in gently. Place a rack on a rimmed baking sheet, put the duck breasts on the rack, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

To make the cherry compote, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the wine and granulated sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cherries and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and begin to lose their shape, about 4 minutes. Stir in the jelly, vinegar and thyme. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. The compote will thicken as it cools.

At least 30 minutes before you begin grilling, remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator. Pat dry with paper towels.

Prepare a grill for smoking over high heat; the internal grill temperature should be 400º to 425ºF. If using charcoal, bank the lit coals on either side of the grill bed, leaving a strip in the center without heat. Place a drip pan in the center strip and fill the pan with water. Add the 2 cups wood chips to the fire just before grilling. If using gas, fill the smoker box with up to 2 cups wood chips, then preheat the grill. Turn off 1 or more of the burners to create a cooler zone. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Place the duck breasts, skin side down, on the grill over the indirect-heat area. Cover the grill and cook for about 20 minutes. Move the breasts to the direct-heat area and cook for about 5 minutes more to crisp the skin; the meat should be medium-rare at this point. Transfer the duck breasts to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature. Pass the cherry compote at the table.