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Tea-Smoked Duck Breasts

Look for bone-in, skin-on duck breasts for smoking. During the long, slow cooking, the bone adds flavor while the skin protects the meat from drying out and burning. Here, the duck receives a double infusion of tea, in a paste smeared onto the breasts, and mixed in with the wood chips. Choose the tea according to your preference, but be sure it is of good quality and has a distinctive flavor. Prepare some simply cooked carrots and bok choy to complement the aromatic duck.

Ingredients:

For the tea paste:

  • 1/3 cup loose tea leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup thawed, frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on duck breast halves

For the tea smoking mixture:

  • 2 handfuls wood chips, such as fruitwood or
      mesquite
  • 1/3 cup loose tea leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves

Directions:

To make the tea paste, in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, grind together the tea leaves, cloves, star anise and orange zest. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes and cinnamon and mix well. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours before using.

Smear the tea paste over the duck breasts. Let the duck breasts stand for 20 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. If refrigerated, remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling.

To make the tea smoking mixture, in a container, combine the wood chips, tea leaves, cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves. Add water just to cover and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking water.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. Oil the grill rack.

For a charcoal grill: Pour the water from the smoking mixture to a depth of 3/4 inch into a drip pan, and place the pan in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle about half of the smoking mixture on the coals. Place the duck breasts on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke the duck breasts until richly browned and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Add the remaining smoking mixture to the coals about halfway through the smoking.

For a gas grill: Add the drained smoking mixture to the grill in a smoker box or a perforated foil packet. Place the soaking water in a shallow pan at the edge of the grill rack. Place the duck breasts on the grill rack away from the heat elements. Cover the grill and smoke the duck breasts until richly browned and cooked through, about 45 minutes.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone; it should register 150° to 160°F. The temperature will rise another 5° to 10°F while the duck is resting.

Serve hot or at room temperature, cut into serving sections if desired. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003).