Hot Smoked Duck Breast with Plum Chutney

The combination of duck and fruit is well known, with canard à l’orange as the most famous rendition. I got the idea to combine duck with a spiced plum chutney from Jamie Oliver and have been making this for years, ever since I’ve had a stove top smoker (that I use with separate burners since I have an induction hob and since it’s easier to use outside anyway). I love hot smoking since it’s so easy, very tasty, and always gives a lot of oohs and aahs when I serve something straight from the smoker to my friends. Some slices of smoked duck breast with a bit of chutney make for a wonderful appetizer.

For this recipe you need tender fresh duck breasts. Do not use frozen duck breasts, since freezing the meat will give it a ‘livery’ taste and make it less juicy. In the USA for tender duck breast pick the Pekin variety if you have the choice rather than Moullard or Muscovy since Pekin is more tender; the others are by-products of the foie gras industry.

The amount of chutney is sufficient for 4 duck breasts. You could also make just 2 and freeze half the chutney. Unlike the duck meat, the chutney doesn’t suffer much from freezing.


For 6-8 servings as an appetizer

4 duck breasts (about 900 grams/2 lbs)

4 Tbsp freshly chopped sage leaves

2 Tbsp coarse sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

smoking dust

For the plum chutney

500 grams (1.1 lbs) ripe plums

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar, preferably brown sugar

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

pinch of ground cumin

pinch of ground cloves

1 tsp dried sage

freshly grated orange zest

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Optional step: lay the breast down on the fat side and cut away any fat that sticks out.

Score the fat side with a sharp knife to create a crosswise pattern. Make sure not to pierce the meat underneath. This scoring helps to render the fat.

Put the chopped sage leaves with the coarse sea salt into a pestle.

Grind and pound until you obtain green salt. It will be a bit sticky, that’s okay.

Rub the duck breasts with the sage salt on both sides. Season the meat side with freshly ground black pepper as well.

Refrigerate the duck breasts for a few hours to let the sage salt penetrate the meat. This is a bit like brining but without the water, which would partly replace duck juices with water (and that is not a good idea).

Rinse and dry the plums. Pit them by cutting around each plum with a sharp knife.

You can now easily separate the halves. One will have the pit that you should be able to remove easily with your fingers. If it’s stuck, your plums were not ripe! (Plums continue to ripen after they have been picked, so it pays off to wait if needed.)

Cut the plums into chunks (each half into quarters will do).

No cinnamon this time because I was making it for a friend who is allergic to cinnamon.

Put the brown sugar in a frying pan and add just enough water to dissolve it (i.e. only a few tablespoons).

Add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil over high heat.

If you use white sugar it will take a while for the sugar to get brown, with brown sugar it goes very fast. The caramel is ready when you see large bubbles.

Add the chopped plums as soon as you see large bubbles, otherwise the caramel will burn. (If that happens, just start over.)

Add grated orange zest (I didn’t have an orange and used a lime, but orange is better), cumin and cloves, and stir to mix.

Cook over medium heat until it has a nice consistency, taking into account that it will thicken more when it cools.

Let it cool and make sure not to serve the cinnamon stick or the star anise. (You could take it out straight away or leave it in for additional flavor.)

Put smoking dust into the smoker (about 2 Tbsp). Insert the probe of an instant read thermometer (if you have one) in one of the duck breasts, making sure that the tip of the probe is in the center of the meat where it is thickest. Put the duck in the smoker with the skin side up.

Smoke until the instant read thermometer indicates 55C/131F (about 20 minutes).

Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. The duck breasts will continue to cook, so you will end up with a nice pink medium. Please do not cook duck breast (or any meat or fish, for that matter) to death.

Cut into 3-4 mm (1/8 – 1/6 inch) slices with a sharp nice, and serve with a bit of the plum chutney.

Wine pairing

This one is quite difficult to pair because of the sweetness of the chutney. Because plums are red fruit and duck is a red meat, a red wine works better than a white wine. So a very good pairing would be a recioto della valpolicella, or another red dessert wine with some tannins. An amarone could work if it is not too dry. Another option would be a port.

7 thoughts on “Hot Smoked Duck Breast with Plum Chutney

  1. Another toy – a smoker! Not seen one of those. I agree with your sentiment re over cooking meat – we Brits are famous for it. I was bought up to never eat undercooked pork but watching cookery programme the other day found out its no more risky than any other meat nowadays. And thats good news because pork has never been a favourite because I always cook it to death!


    1. They are quite cheap (30 euros or so) and very easy to use outdoors or on top of a gas stove. Of course they do take up space, but I don’t keep it in my kitchen because I use it only once or twice each month (except for the summer, when we use it on the boat!).

      You are absolutely right about the pork! It is interesting how many people cook food to death to eliminate a risk that is much lower than the risk of dying in a car accident to begin with…


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