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What is to confit?

septocaine_queen Sep 23, 2007 05:37 PM

Lately I have been reading a lot about confit. What is it exactly? I know normally it applies to duck (using duck fat) but lately I have seen it in regards to onions too.

  1. m
    mordacity Nov 4, 2007 06:19 AM

    And all this time I thought confit was a fancy name for duck breast. *blush*

    1. t
      Thefoodgenius Nov 2, 2007 10:39 PM

      When I was stationed in Germany, I made many trips to France. On every trip I had Confit de Canard, or preserved duck.
      Basic recipe: Get a pot of duck fat. Cook a duck in it (thigh/leg section). While keeping the fat hot, poor it into a crock. The fat seals, just like the wax on a jelly. Put it in a cool place like a cellar for a couple of months. Take out the piece of duck. Place on rack in oven, with drip pan underneath. Heat until heated through. Eat and enjoy the hell out of it.
      Confit de Canard can be ordered in a can, and it is just as good, if not better. Try it if you've never had it.
      Traditional Confit de Canard is covered with duck fat. Pork fat gives it a much different taste.

      1. c
        celuiquimange Oct 22, 2007 11:18 PM

        Hi, I have been making my own confit for the past year, following the Paula Wolfert directions. I have a question about the "butcher's lard" she says to use as the final inch to cover the top. Can you use any beef fat and just render it, or does it have to be the special lard called "butcher's lard"? Or, could you also use another kind of fat, say pork fat, for the final inch, or does that do no better than topping it off with more duck fat?

        3 Replies
        1. re: celuiquimange
          carswell Oct 23, 2007 07:25 AM

          By butcher's lard she means 100% pure unhydorgenated lard with no additives (commercial lard sold in supermarkets often has been hydrogenated and has preservatives like BHT added); I've also seen it referred to as artisanal lard. You can, of course, render your own, though note that lard is *pork* fat (rendered beef fat is called tallow). When making duck confit, lard is the preferred alternative to duck or goose fat. A small amount of olive oil can also be used, though it doesn't congeal as well and adds an unauthentic flavour. If you're going to store the confit for a long period, Wolfert actually suggests topping it with an inch or so of lard as it makes for a better seal than duck fat.

          1. re: carswell
            c
            celuiquimange Oct 23, 2007 09:09 AM

            Thank you very much for the information! Imagine, it's taken me almost a year to figure out what lard is! So, final clarification: could I just get some pork "fat back" or any pork fat, render it myself, and then pour it on top of the now congealed duck fat covering my duck quarters?

            And one more question: I bought a simple "wine cellar" refrigerator (slightly larger though not much more sophisticated than a basic dorm frig) which I have set at about 54 degrees F. I keep some wine there, but I'm also storing my confit there. Is that an okay temperature for 3 months storage? Can confit get too cold (it's out in the garage and here in Seattle it rarely gets below freezing, but it could)?

            1. re: celuiquimange
              carswell Oct 23, 2007 09:26 AM

              Yes, you can cover the confit with lard. Rendering pork fat is easy enough to do (I suggest you search the Home Cooking board and start a thread there if you don't find a how-to). Just about any pork fat can be used, though leaf fat, the fat surrounding the kidneys, is best. Before going to the trouble, however, you might see if you can find butcher's lard; Latin American butchers and grocery stores almost always sell it and for not much money.

              I've stored my confit, topped with a layer of lard, for up to four months in an off-site wine cellar, so your wine fridge is probably OK. Haven't tried freezing confit but it's pretty indestructible and I'd be surprised if freezing it once would harm it. Repeated freezing and thawing might be another story, however.

        2. Chew on That Sep 27, 2007 11:29 AM

          I always thought to confit was to cook something in its own fat. I guess the extrapolation of this was tomato and onions cooking in their own juices, but that wouldn't be fat.

          Last week's episode of Top Chef addressed this issue. One of the chefs referred to her dish as an onion confit and she was called out for it being incorrectly named.

          1. septocaine_queen Sep 24, 2007 07:24 PM

            It just seems like every time i go to a nice restaurant there is always some description of confit (fill in the blank). I wanted to know the original meaning not the bastardized version. like alfredo at Quizos.

            4 Replies
            1. re: septocaine_queen
              PSZaas Sep 24, 2007 07:35 PM

              IF you could just imagine that the word "confit" means "preserved," you could enjoy your confiture on your morning baguette without thinking that the French have forgotten how to speak their language.

              1. re: PSZaas
                septocaine_queen Sep 24, 2007 07:46 PM

                True, my grandmother who lived in Belgium for years still says confiture instead of jam or preserves

                1. re: septocaine_queen
                  Will Owen Sep 25, 2007 04:23 PM

                  "Confiture" is also a common term for the big copper tub they traditionally use for preserves-making. My pa-in-law gave me one the size of a young washtub many years ago - I've never used it for making jam or jelly, but maybe if we get access this year to the pomegranate tree next door I'll make some pomegranate jelly...and just pray I don't spill it!

                  1. re: Will Owen
                    h
                    hungry_pangolin Sep 26, 2007 08:14 PM

                    Those of you in the US I think are spared the abomination that is Christine Cushing on the Food Network, but we are subjected to her in Canada. On a very early programme of hers, she repeatedly referred to duck confit as "duck confiture". I howled with horrified laughter. Huge difference between "confit" and "confiture". Mmmmm... duck jam!

            2. s
              Steve Sep 24, 2007 05:44 PM

              One important step in making good confit is that the meat is allowed to marinate in the fat, at least for one night. It is not really confit if it is simply cooked in fat.

              Also, for many years now chefs have experimented in using different fats, so confit is not exclusively "cooked in its own fat" but sometimes a different animal fat is used.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Steve
                Will Owen Sep 24, 2007 06:40 PM

                I don't think turkey fat would be a particularly good choice for cooking the turkey confit anyway. My usual combo of duck fat and lard worked perfectly. And yes, it really does need to sit in the fat and get some age on it for best eating. I got impatient and ate one turkey thigh a week after I'd cooked it, but the other two rested for a couple of weeks longer, and were noticeably better for it. Good points, Steve.

                1. re: Steve
                  carswell Sep 24, 2007 06:55 PM

                  My best-ever duck confit was made with mullard duck legs using Paula Wolfert's recipe from The Cooking of Southwest France and left to ripen for four months in a cold cellar. Incredible depth of flavour and silken texture.

                  1. re: carswell
                    s
                    Steve Sep 25, 2007 05:44 PM

                    Wow, those must have been some legs! The duck confit I've had in the US which is now proliferating on menus everywhere is a poor cousin to the samples I'be had in France. I think many restaurants are calling anything that is duck 'confit' just because it sells and sounds good.

                    1. re: Steve
                      m
                      MakingSense Sep 26, 2007 08:43 AM

                      You make an excellent point, Steve. Ever since "confit" became trendy, restaurants have been serving not only duck but other things cooked in this fashion immediately, rather than letting them age and season.
                      It's interesting how many recipes for preserves, relishes, conserves, etc., (not just duck, goose, and other meats) say to let it age for at least a month or more after making or processing before using to let the full flavor develop.
                      When this happens, we lose the sense of what something should be.

                2. carswell Sep 24, 2007 07:04 AM

                  French *confire* ("to confit") means to preserve putrescible foods in an appropriate product (honey, vingear, fat, salt, sugar, oil). To preserve in fat, to pack in salt, to candy, to make into preserves/jam/compote, to pickle, etc., are about as close as we can come in English.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: carswell
                    m
                    MakingSense Sep 24, 2007 09:55 AM

                    No one questions the translation of the French verb "confire" or that you can cook food products other than meats in things other than their own fats, whether for immediate serving of for preserving. Depending on how it's done, some will be more successful than others.
                    I cited the Larousse definition above as the culinary meaning for confit. The other methods usually have terms of their own such as preserves, jams, jellies, compotes, candied, pickled, relishes, dried, salt-packed, etc. There's a place for figurative, even tongue-in-cheek language, on menus. But words should convey meaning.

                    When we use the correct terminology for methods of preparation, chefs, home cooks and recipe writers can communicate. Eliminating perfectly good descriptive words blurs the distinctions. I think it makes it more difficult for people to learn to cook well, not to mention become discriminating diners.
                    It's a slippery slope. Recent example is Quizno's new Chicken Carbonara sandwich with chicken, bacon, mozzarella, mushrooms and a creamy bacon Alfredo sauce. When and where did that slide start?

                    1. re: MakingSense
                      carswell Sep 24, 2007 11:08 AM

                      I don't see this as a slide at all. If anything, it's a return to the word's roots.

                      According to the Robert, use of confit to describe preserved foodstuffs dates back to at least the 17th century. The more restricted use of the noun to mean pieces of meat cooked and preserved in their own fat is more recent (1867 is the date of the first citation). McGee says that duck and goose confit probably dates back to the 17th century, when the birds first were fed corn to fatten their livers, which had the side effect of providing sufficient fat for preserving the legs, necks and gizzards. On the other hand, *fruits confits* date back to at least medieval times.

                      If you and the Larousse Gastro want to insist that confit can only refer to meat, be my guest. However, modern French (and, I dare say, English) usage has left you in its dust. The last slice of terrine I ordered in a bistro came with a mound of *confit d'échallotes*. Fauchon sells *confit de lait*. French food websites are chock-a-block with recipes for *confit de figues*, *confit de poivrons*, *confit de courgettes*, *confit de noix*, *confit de pétales de rose* and so on. For proof, look at the tens of thousands of hits you get when you google the search string: "confit de" -canard -oie

                      McGee accepts it. The Oxford Companion to Food accepts it. Webster's accepts it. The first Robuchon book I just pulled from my bookshelf has a recipe for *conft d'agrumes au fenugrec* (citrus and fenugreek confit); Robuchon's the editor of the most recent edition of the Larousse Gastro, by the way. I can cite tons of other examples from French cookbooks and French chefs. And the onion confit the OP was asking about may well have had no fat or very little in it.

                      1. re: carswell
                        Will Owen Sep 24, 2007 03:21 PM

                        Carswell, I'm with you, up to a point - that point being that so-called "Chicken Carbonara Sandwich." That's no slide, it's an unforced error! Start with the fact that a proper carbonara has no cream in it whatsoever, and then compound it with the true phoniness of such an invention as a "bacon Alfredo sauce."

                        I'm sure we haven't seen or heard the last argument between partisans of the old and new Larousses - the author of the first was the flamingly opinionated "Curnonsky" (Prosper Montagné), who I think was not himself a cook but a famous (even notorious) gourmand and food writer/historian. I love his prose (and wish I could read it in French), and get a kick out of some of his pronouncements, especially his declaration that half to three-quarters of a liter of good wine per day, taken as part of a normal diet, is considered a "moderate quantity" for an adult male, unless one engages in hard manual labor, in which case a liter will serve as "a good light stimulant and tonic and an aid to digestion." I wonder what M. Robuchon has to say about that...

                        1. re: Will Owen
                          carswell Sep 24, 2007 05:18 PM

                          "I'm with you, up to a point - that point being that so-called 'Chicken Carbonara Sandwich.'"

                          Oh, I agree. My comments refer strictly to the use of the term confit.

                  2. coconutgoddess Sep 23, 2007 09:46 PM

                    i do know that you can "confit" fruits and certain veggies. I know that lemon for instance can cooked in oil with sugar.

                    i have eaten duck confit... yum. never tried making it though. Will.. can you tell us how to use a craock pot for this? sounds like the way to go!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: coconutgoddess
                      Will Owen Sep 24, 2007 03:41 PM

                      I rinse and dry the meat thoroughly and let it sit (covered if there are bugs around) while I heat about a pound of fat in a pan on the cooktop. This is usually duck fat that has been used before and been refrigerated, so it needs to have any residual moisture driven out, so it should sit on the heat long enough to stop any bubbling or foaming. When it's ready, I preheat the crockpot for about ten minutes then lay in the meat and pour the fat over it. I keep some room-temperature lard nearby in case the fat doesn't quite submerge the meat, which is usually. When the meat is covered by at least an inch of melted fat, I put the lid on and go do other stuff, returning to check on it every couple of hours. This includes taking the temperature of the fat, though a variance of 10º one way or another will not be fatal. After eight or nine hours I start probing the meat gently with a trussing needle. When I can push the needle clear into the flesh with little resistance (and no pink oozing out!) the meat is done. I take the ceramic pot out of its shell and set it with its contents on the counter to cool to room temperature, then either transfer meat and fat to whatever vessel they'll be refrigerated in or (if it's past my bedtime) put the whole kit and caboodle in the fridge and re-melt and transfer stuff in the morning.

                      For an actual recipe using the crockpot, see Paula Wolfert's "The Cooking of South-West France."

                    2. m
                      MakingSense Sep 23, 2007 09:06 PM

                      One of those cases where the use of the word today is often different from the original meaning.
                      Larousse Gastronomique defines it as "Meat of pork, goose, duck, turkey,etc., cooked in its own fat, and kept covered in the same fat to prevent it coming in contact with the air." It was a method of food preservation before refrigeration. The meat was stored in stoneware pots in a cool place. Most were kept for months to develop flavor before using in dishes like cassoulet or choucroute garni.
                      In the past several years, the method of cooking was used, but the meats were served without being stored. You might have seen confit as an appetizer or with a salad.
                      Then the method of cooking was used but often not with fat or with fats from other sources, such as with onion in butter or long-cooked fruits
                      The word "confit" is now often used in a figurative sense.

                      1. coconutgoddess Sep 23, 2007 06:19 PM

                        if my memory serves me...
                        confit is basically a cooking term. for example, duck confit is cooked in its own fat and salt, then preserved in the cooking fat. fruit confits are cooked and preserved in sugar... the result is like candied fruits. (off the top of my head.. i dont know the difference) and finally the onion confit you speak of is much like caramalied onions. sweet and a little gelatinous, prepared with balsamic vin. and sugar.

                        coconutgoddess
                        http://www.coconutgoddess.typepad.com...

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: coconutgoddess
                          Chef Tony Oct 25, 2007 05:06 AM

                          A fruit confit, would be called a compote. If you use water and sugar (i.e. simple syrup) it becokmes a compote, not a confit.

                          1. re: Chef Tony
                            welle Oct 25, 2007 12:58 PM

                            Not very sure on this, but I think fruit confit is commonly known as confiture, or jam, preserve...

                            1. re: welle
                              MMRuth Oct 25, 2007 01:03 PM

                              I've been making compotes to serve with cheese lately, and they involve cooking vinegar and sugar, then adding the fruits/spices, maybe some water, and cooking them until the liquid evaporates.

                              1. re: MMRuth
                                Chef Tony Oct 29, 2007 08:32 PM

                                Vinegar and sugar is a gastrique

                                1. re: Chef Tony
                                  MMRuth Oct 30, 2007 03:47 AM

                                  Ah - thank you - Patricia Wells called it a compote.

                        2. Will Owen Sep 23, 2007 06:18 PM

                          It's cooking something very slowly and gently in completely de-moisturized fat so that all of the water is extracted from the food, preserving the sugars and proteins or whatever. It's kind of like candying, except that the candying medium is fat instead of sugar. If ALL of the water is extracted and the food is kept immersed in the fat, it will keep a very long time in as merely cool a place as a root cellar or spring-house. Under refrigeration it will keep even longer, though the nervous nellies who have put themselves in charge of our well-being say we ought to use it up in a month, which is simply silly.

                          I have never made confit from anything but fowl. Both duck legs and turkey thighs were wonderfully easy to do, and the resuts were delicious. A crockpot makes the process beyond easy - you just need a good fully-saturated fat . I use duck fat plus good butcher's lard. Do not use the shelf-stable hydrogenated stuff - if you can't get anything else locally, get it online or render it yourself.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Will Owen
                            rillettes Sep 24, 2007 07:30 AM

                            "A crockpot makes the process beyond easy"

                            I always used an oven to make my confits (try rabbit, it's amazing), but this often requires up to 12 hours at 190 F for my duck. Does a crockpot go down to that temperature?

                            1. re: rillettes
                              Will Owen Sep 24, 2007 03:03 PM

                              My old Rival runs a steady 190º on Low, and I think my new HamBeach guy does too - though I'll need to look it up. I did the duck on the stovetop, but the turkey in the older, smaller crockpot tested done at about ten hours. It had been pretty heavily salted, which helps, though I rinsed it thoroughly (and then dried it) before I put it into the pot.

                              I would probably use the oven if I were making a lot of confit, like two or more pots of it, but I'm too cheap to use all that electricity on a 2-quart quantity.

                              1. re: Will Owen
                                rillettes Sep 25, 2007 08:50 AM

                                Thanks for the info. I normally do about 4 duck legs at a time (salted for 24 hours beforehand and rinsed) but, like you, it's difficult to rationalise using an oven for 12 hours for this.
                                Although, if you set the oven at night, the smell throughout your home the next morning is incredible.

                            2. re: Will Owen
                              h
                              holy chow Sep 24, 2007 11:35 PM

                              Will, are you going through the salting and water removal process before hand or straight into the fat? I've done it with a 24hour salt bath with bay, garlic and thyme and then into the fat after a brush off, but never directly into the fat without removing some of the water in preperation.

                              If you've done both, any difference in finished product?

                              1. re: holy chow
                                Will Owen Sep 25, 2007 04:18 PM

                                I've only dry-salted because that's what all my mentors (St. Julia, Tony Bourdain and Paula Wolfert) have told me to do. I usually salt and refrigerate for two to four days - this gives a fairly salty product, even after plenty of rinsing, but nothing I can't deal with (though I do not discuss it with my doctor!). I haven't added any other herbs or spices so far, but I'm thinking about it.

                                Anyway, after rinsing I *DO* dry them as thoroughly as possible, since the sooner the moisture is removed/displaced the better the finished product will be.

                                1. re: Will Owen
                                  h
                                  holy chow Sep 26, 2007 09:25 PM

                                  That was the reason I asked. I've done confit but after a 48 hour or better salt and herbing. I was just wondering if you'd found a way to skip the step of removing water.

                                  Thanks for the reply, Will.

                                  Hit Boca del Rio for me since you are in my old stomping grounds (the SGV).

                            3. q
                              quazi Sep 23, 2007 06:17 PM

                              it is preserving a meat in fat. now it has been extended to veggies as well. I think I remember seeing tomato confit and onion confit.

                              Usually it means low temp slow cooking and item in fat(duck fat, olive oil, pork fat)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: quazi
                                septocaine_queen Sep 23, 2007 06:20 PM

                                so it is like braising but with fat?

                                1. re: septocaine_queen
                                  Eat_Nopal Oct 25, 2007 09:04 AM

                                  Yeah... its the same technique as carnitas... which is traditionally used with pork, duck, chicken & fish. The word Confit actually means to preserve... which is interesting because in pre-refrigeration Mexico... carnitas served that purpose. My grandpa would slaughter a heavily salted pig & then slow cook it in lard... and keep it in a cool part of the house (thouse thick adobe houses can keep some rooms rather cool even under intense sun)... and the family would enjoy a little bit of it everyday for weeks.

                                  In Pre-Hispanic Mexico... it was a key technique to render the fat from domesticated Muscovy Ducks... which was one of the few substantial sources of fats (in addition to pumpkin seeds, nuts & cocoa butter) available. When my dad was a kid.... Mazola hadn't made its way south yet... and lard sold for a premium relative to pork meat!

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