How To Make Duck Confit

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Confit is a one of my all-time-favorite cooking techniques. Confit, translated from French, literally means “preserved.” It was a technique developed by French farmers before refrigeration was available to preserve meat for the leaner months. The fact that refrigerators are a common household item and yet the confit process is still alive and well is a strong testament to just how delicious this technique is.

how to make duck confit part one

Although this technique specifically talks about confit duck legs, this exact same method can be used for any number of proteins, including beef, chicken, pork and fish. Although it is preferred that the confit is cooked and stored in the fat from the same type of animal frm which your protein originally came, Olive Oil or Canola Oil can be substituted in a pinch.

The Confit Process

Start by laying your duck leg and thigh portions on a sheet pan covered with a layer of kosher salt at least 1/8 of an inch thick. I like to mix my kosher salt with 0.2% sodium nitrite by weight, which gives the finished confit a beautiful rosy color, cured "hammy" flavor and can be left to "ripen" after cooking for up to 6 months. To make this calculation, multiply the total weight of your kosher salt by .002 (ex. 1,000g salt X 0.002 = 2g nitrite or 0.2% by weight).


Season the top of the legs with ground bay leaves and ground pepper (traditionally white). Cloves are also a classic spice used in the confit process, and I’ll sometimes lay a sprig of thyme or rosemary over each leg. Completely cover the top of the legs with more kosher salt (or curing mix if using), until the legs are no longer visible.

Place another sheet pan on top and weigh it down with some heavy cans or bricks. Place in your refrigerator for about 24 hours. Leaving them in the fridge too long will cause them to become overly salty and leaving them in for too short a period of time will not allow them to soak up enough salt for them to cure out properly.
how to make duck confit part two

After the legs have been allowed to cure for 24 hours, remove from salt and rinse vigorously under cold, running water. If not rinsed thoroughly, your finished confit will taste too salty. Lay out on a wire rack and allow to dry out in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours and no longer than 24 hours. This is an optional step but I find it provides a better end product by removing any excess moisture before placing the legs in the duck fat.

how to make duck confit part three

Once the rinsed legs have had a chance to dry in your refrigerator, place in an oven-safe braising pan or Dutch oven. Cover with warm duck fat and bring to a low simmer on your stove top. After the duck legs begin to simmer, place in a 200-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 6-8 hours or until the fat is clear and the legs have settled to the bottom of the pan. Once legs are done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the fat. When cool enough to handle, transfer the legs to a storage container and cover with fat.

how to make duck confit part four

Place in your fridge for at least 1 week and up to 2 months to allow confit to “ripen.” Although you can eat the duck confit as soon as you remove it from the oven, allowing it to “ripen” for at least a few days will give it that true confit flavor.

Serving Suggestions

When ready to serve your confit, remove from the fridge and let it sit out on your countertop for about an hour or until the fat softens. Fish out your duck legs and place them in a 400°F/205°C oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy golden brown and heated all the way through.

A classic accompaniment is duck-fat-roasted potatoes. Just think breakfast-style “country potatoes” but instead they're sautéed in duck fat. I also like to serve my confit with a salad of bitter greens such as arugula and frisée. The slightly bitter bite of these greens helps to cut the fat on your palate and offers an excellent contrast to the rich confit.

Further Information
 



For more techniques, recipes and information, check out our ongoing Charcuterie Video Index. You can also view our complete How To Cook Video Index.

8 comments

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Jacob I had a quick question on one of the steps.  After you have cured the legs you say to cover them in warm duck fat.  My question is where do you get all the duck fat?  Are you searing each leg and reserving the rendered fat?  It looks like it take alot of fat to cover them completly.  Will those legs produce that much?  The reason I'm asking is I went Pheasen hunting over the weekend and I got 4 birds and wanted to confit the legs, shred them and place them in the rolled breast.  Would I use the same technique you desrcribed?  Would Pheastan prodive enough fat to cover the legs since I only have 4 birds to work with?
Patrick
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I purchase the duck fat from my meat purveyor; you can usually pick up duck fat at a gourmet food store or from a good butcher. Although I prefer duck fat, or more specifically I prefer to use the same fat as the animal I'm confiting, in a pinch, I would recommend using a 50/50 mix of canola and clarified butter. Straight canola oil will also work but it solidifies at a lower temperature than clarified butter, which will help to form your fat cap for curing.
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I will prob have to get duck fat just because I doubt the meat stores by me will have pheasant fat but we will see. I know you did an article on the science on brining and I was curious why you cure the meat in salt vs brine it. You could always infuse the brine with additional flavors and add moisture while brining so is there a reason behind it or is it your prefence? The other thought I had on the way to work was when you cook the meat for 6+ hours, is this to break down collagen? Would it be possible to use a water bath and immersion circulator to do this while the meat was vacuumed sealed? Would this work or would the meat get over cooked since collagen breaks down at a different temp that what you'd siou vide at?
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Duck fat will work fine for pheasant. The reason why I dry salt is because it helps to pull the moisture out of the duck while infusing it with salt. The removal of the moisture helps to cure the confit. Since you will be refrigerating your confit, the curing process is there more for flavor then for shelf stability.

And yes, the cooking time is to break down the collagen of the duck legs. A circulator is a great way to actually cook confit; just vacuum seal a little bit of fat with the protein that you want to confit and drop in a 60°C/140°F bath for 24 hours.
CJ
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Patrick:  I cook with pheasant a lot and I can say with confidence that your pheasant will not produce enough fat.  Maybe a little late to the table on the topic but your plan really sounds interesting.  If you are not accustomed to cooking and eating the pheasant you should know that the legs will take some effort.  Please drop a line and tell me how the pheasant worked out.
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Thanks for jumping in CJ.  I ended up just freezing the pheasant because I'm waiting on a callback from Rubber Chef so I don't have everything I need to get started.  I knew that the pheasant is pretty lean so I figured I would need some extra fat.  I called one high end butcher but couldn't get duck fat, I'll try another one and then Whole Foods and see if I can get lukcy.  I'm busy this month but maybe I can do this in December and try shooting a video on the process.  
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If I want to Confit three ducks, the way the video shows (airline thighs), how much extra fat should I plan on obtaining?
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If you pack the legs tightly, about 1-2 pounds of duck fat should do the trick. If you still don't have enough to fully cover, just supplement with a little bit of canola oil.
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