Simple Seared Duck Liver

4.25 from 4 votes
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Simple seared duck liver recipe, served with a salad
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If there is one duck liver recipe you should learn, it is this one.

Liver… For many of you reading this, you are squinching up your nose right now. I get it. I do, too. A lot. Livers can be, well… livery. And not in a nice way.

There’s a trick though: Look for fatty livers. I am not talking about foie gras, to be sure. Just a liver that is a lovely shade of tan, not burgundy red. And while this is a duck liver recipe, know that this method works with any small liver. I’ve made this recipe with livers from chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pheasants and one morbidly obese squirrel.

See these livers?

fatty wild duck livers
Photo by Hank Shaw

These are livers from pintail ducks. See how light in color they are? That’s what you want. Pretty much every farmyard poultry will be at least this fatty, but it will be more rare in wild animals. I’ve written about wild foie gras before, and give this article a read if you want to learn more.

So how do you properly cook a duck liver? Sear it hard with a high smoke-point oil, such as grapeseed, canola, rice bran, refined safflower oil, and, weirdly, avocado oil. Pro tip: Clarified butter works great, too, and tastes better. Don’t use regular butter though.

And, only sear it on one side. Baste the other side with the hot oil to just barely cook it. Result? A crispy crunchy edge, but still pink in the center. This gives the livers a silkier texture inside. If you overcook them, the livers will get chalky.

How to serve your duck livers? I like them studding a simple green salad. Whisk together the hot oil in the pan with some good vinegar, maybe a small spoonful of mustard, a pinch of salt, and you’re good to go.

Simple seared duck liver recipe, served with a salad
4.25 from 4 votes

Easy Seared Duck Liver

This is an excellent, uber-simple method for cooking any poultry liver I picked up from Chef Brad Farmerie of New York City. He does it with domestic duck and chicken livers, which will almost always be fattier than a wild duck liver. I would not recommend doing this with a really lean wild liver – think tan, not burgundy red. This is an ecstatic bite, not a meal.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Servings: 2 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or other high smoke-point oil
  • 2 duck or goose livers (or more)
  • Fine sea salt
  • High-quality balsamic vinegar (the good stuff)

Instructions 

  • Get a small frying pan screaming hot. Add about a tablespoon of grapeseed, safflower or rice bran oil (or other high smoke point oil). Heat this until it smokes, then take the pan off the heat and gently lay down the livers. As soon as they hit the hot oil, shake the pan a little so the livers do not stick. Set the pan back on the heat and sear the livers for 90 seconds. Baste the livers with the hot oil for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.
  • To serve, sprinkle some fine salt on the liver; fleur de sel is a good choice. Drizzle a little high-quality balsamic vinegar over it and serve immediately. If you can’t get the good balsamic, boil some cheaper stuff down by half so it’s syrupy.

Notes

Remember this works with any fatty liver: chicken, goose, turkey, pheasant. You want them tan, not dark red. 

Nutrition

Calories: 187kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 1mg | Vitamin A: 399IU | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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4 Comments

  1. Well meaning and delicious, but slightly flawed. Must dry the livers well (not mentioned in the recipe), and I felt the liver was overcooked on one side and undercooked on the other with exactly this timeline.

    Might have been the size of my livers (from commercial whole duck), but I think this would be better 45 seconds on one side, then 45 seconds on the other, rather than just cooking one side for 90 seconds then basting with hot oil for 30 seconds. I tried my modified cooking timeline with some commercial chicken livers in the same session, and they retained a pinkish center, delicate, but with some crisp on the outside, instead of one side slightly crispy and the other side very pink. More balanced in my opinion. Raw liver isn’t very appealing to me.

    Very important, you do have to dry the livers really well and actually wait for the oil to start smoking (as in the recipe) before frying using either timeline, or they just steam.

    Still love the simplicity here, and the balsamic was amazing with them! Note: I used a thickened balsamic reduction rather than just straight balsamic, and it was SO good!

  2. Simple, easy, and so very good. I to like to use as much of an animal as possible and this was a nice change from my usual pate. The liver were cooked just right, pink and silky. One of my kids even loved it. Win!

    1. I am making my own tallow for the first time tomorrow. Could I use that as my high smoke point oil for this recipe?
      I just bought duck heart, liver and chicken liver from two local farms yesterday and will be cooking them all for the first time.
      The farmer’s wife made your deviled heart recipe and I will be doing that this week.