Certain animals (the best ones) have a particularly thick layer of fatty skin around them. Though it makes for amazing flavor, it also makes them incredibly hard to cook. The thing about skin, whether its on duck, chicken or pork, is that it needs to be crispy to be delicious. But when you’re cooking something like a duck breast, where the skin can be up to 1/4 inch thick, its very difficult to give the skin enough time to get crispy all the way through without burning it.
The solution is to score the skin. Scoring the skin is basically making uniform cuts into the skin to create more surface area from which to render out the fat. If you are cooking a large piece of pork or a whole duck you would do this by cutting 1 inch slices into the skin, without cutting all the way through to the flesh.
When it comes to something that you’re laying flat to cook over direct heat, like cooking duck breast in a pan, the best way to score it is with a cross hatch pattern.
Using a small, sharp knife, cut slices diagonally through the skin and fat, about 1/2 an inch apart from each other. Make sure that you are cutting as far into the fat as possible without piercing through to the flesh.
Cut the same slices diagonally in the other direction creating a diamond pattern on the skin.
Now when you’re cooking your duck you’ll be able to render out most of the fat (which you should save to cook potatoes in) and you’ll be left with delicious, crispy skin.