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(Another) Duck Confit Question

I know absolutely nothing about duck confit, yet, it seems like I'm seeing references to it all over the place. Can you educate me, please? Is duck confit a meal, or is it an ingredient? If it's a meal, what do you usually serve with it? If it's an ingredient, how is it used? Do you buy duck parts in the market, or do you buy a whole duck and cut it up? The only duck parts I've seen in the market are imported duck breasts (D'Argnatan); I don't think I've ever seen duck legs alone. What do I need to know about duck confit? Thanks!

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  1. Duck confit is duck -- usually legs but also wings, necks and gizzards -- that is rubbed with salt and flavourings, allowed to cure overnight, slowly poached in fat (usually duck fat), packed in jars, covered with more fat and allowed to mature in a cool, dry place for a while -- ideally at least a few weeks or, even better, for several months.

    While any duck can be preserved this way, the traditional and best species is the moulard, a voiceless muscovy-pekin cross raised mainly for foie gras production. Confiting was originally a way of preserving the non-foie parts of the animal before the days of refrigeration. Muscovy ducks produce good, if stringier and less succulent results, and they require longer poaching. I'm still waiting to encounter a pekin (aka Long Island or Brome Lake) duck confit that isn't insipid, beside the point. Moulards are almost always sold broken down into parts (getting at the foie requires it), so I usually buy trays of legs from a local butcher. In the States, the legs can also be ordered online. Three places suggested by Paula Wolfert (whose book *The Cooking of Southwest France* provides definitive answers to all your questions and has recipes for making duck confit using traditional and sous vide methods and for many delicious side dishes) are:

    For fat I use a mixture of purchased fat and fat recovered from roasted ducks, seared duck breasts and reheated duck confit. As long as you keep the fat from overheating, you can reuse it for confit or other dishes.

    By the way, other birds (goose, guinea hen, quail, etc.) and animals (pork, rabbit, etc.) are also sometimes given the confit treatment.

    Once matured, duck confit can be served as a main course. Traditional sides include lentils, beans, mushrooms (especially cepes) and/or any number of potato dishes in which the spuds are usually cooked in duck fat. These days you often see it served on a green salad. Duck confit is also sometimes added to soups or stews, used as a stuffing (for pasta, vegetables or even meat) or served as a garnish (e.g. a starter I once had involving seared foie gras with garnishes of cured breast and shredded confit). Confit gizzards are wonderful heated in a skillet and served as a first course on a bitter green salad dressed with a walnut oil vinaigrette and doused with the cooking residues deglazed with a little red wine.

    Speaking of wine, when it comes to accompanying duck confit, structured reds from the French southwest -- Madiran, Cahors, Gaillac, Fronton, Côtes de Castillon, etc. -- are your best bet. Some extraregional wines (California Petite Sirah, Uruguayan Tannat, French Côtes du Rhône, Argentinian Malbec, etc.) can work but, IMHO, they never work as well.

    15 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Thanks for the primer. The entire concept of duck confit, from preparation to consumption, is so unfamiliar to me, I feel like I'm just emerging from a dark cave into a whole new culinary domain. I'm thinking that before I begin what seems to be a formidable undertaking, I'm going to seek out a restaurant (probably in NYC) where I can sample duck confit. And in the meantime, I'll read what Paula Wolfert has to say on the topic. I'm just shaking my head over this one. I'll admit that there are many foreign cuisines that remain totally unfamiliar to me, but I would have guessed that my dabbling in French cooking would have left me more informed, if not experienced.

      1. re: CindyJ

        You can confit lots of things like carswell mentioned. There's even tomato confit. The cooking method is called confit.

        1. re: CindyJ

          "...a whole new culinary domain."

          In this case, it's more like a whole OLD domain. Confit (a French word related to confiture, which means jam) is a very old method of preserving food by cooking it in, and then keeping it covered with, a thick layer of fat to keep out air, which can cause spoilage.

          It's very easy to make at home, the main difficulty being the need to obtain a large enough quantity of duck or goose fat to get you started. I like to roast a goose once a year or so, it renders a huge quantity of fat which I then use for confits and general sauteing for months afterward (you haven't lived 'til you've tasted potatoes fried in goose fat!).

          One caution - as carswell says, you start the process by curing the meat overnight in salt and herbs, but be careful to rinse off the salt thoroughly before putting the legs in fat to cook, or the result can be unpleasantly salty. I speak from experience!

          Typically, confit de canard is seared in a hot pan before serving to crisp up the skin.

          1. re: BobB

            Should be added that before you cover the finished meat with the fat, it needs to be strained, and carefully separated from any watery residue - it's kinda like clarifying butter. ALL of the moisture in the meat should be completely replaced by fat. If not, the meat will spoil. One way to check on this after the fact is to dig down through the congealed fat and meat to the bottom of the confit pot to see if there's any pool of moisture down there. If there is, you've got some rotten confit.

            1. re: Will Owen

              You are asking the impossible here. There will still be moisture in the meat, and juices at the bottom of the pot. As long as it goes into a sterile container while piping hot, and you let the fat harden in a solid layer over the whole thing, without leaving any air pockets inside, the meat will not go bad. Unless you are really unlucky and have Martian bacteria in your house or something.

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                Dead wrong! If it's confited properly, there will be NO moisture left in the meat. It will all have been replaced with fat. Furthermore, you're supposed to pour the fat off the juices at the bottom of the pot - as I've said, it's like making clarified butter - and strain any solids out, then heat it again to make sure there's no residual moisture still in it. If it doesn't fizz at all, you're OK.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I don't even see how it would be physically possible to "replace" all the water in the meat with fat. It is quite obvious to me that every piece of confit I've had is full of moisture. I mean, when it's hot, it steams, and the leftovers leave condensation inside the Tupperware… And when the meat is cold, it has the consistency of cold meat, not cold duck fat… Anyway, you don't have to believe me. I don't even make the stuff myself. Where I live, there are plenty of people who will do it for me, and if they're doing it "dead wrong" that's 100% fine with me.

                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                    Where there is always some residual moisture, when the confit is properly prepared*, there's not much seepage -- only one or two tablespoons' worth for a jar of legs after three or four months' ripening. The French call these juices *salarque* and to avoid the risk of their souring the duck, they scatter a small amount of salt on the bottom of the jar before adding the duck and fat.

                    Commercial duck confit can be good but a lot of it is not made using the traditional method (often brined, not cured; cooked under pressure or sous vide, not slow-poached; etc.) and so has a higher moisture content.

                    *Dry cured with salt; patted dry before poaching; submerged in warm fat and poached at low heat for a couple of hours; allowed to cool in the fat off the heat for an hour or two; the fat subsequently heated to rid it of any moisture before being poured over the duck in the jar.

                    1. re: carswell

                      I really like the idea of having a word for these juices, but none of the giant French dictionaries or (normal-sized) people I have consulted have ever heard of "salarque". There is a word in Gascon/Béarnaise (languages spoken in confit country) "salargue" or "salurgue", but it refers to the foamy scum that one skims off the surface of the simmering fat during the confit process.

                      Apparently you don't just throw this scum away, you spread it on toast and eat it. Mmmm. So there's a little bonus to motivate all of you to make your own confit this holiday season.

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        Re salarque, my info comes from Paula Wolfert, more specifically her new edition of *The Cooking of Southwest France* (p. 201, when packing the cooked duck legs into a crock): "Thoroughly dry the inside of the containers with a clean towel. Immediately place 1/2 teaspoon [kosher] salt in the bottom of each container; this prevents the meat juices (salarque) that may seep from the duck during ripening from turning sour."

                        Will do some research the next time I'm at the Université de Montréal's main library and will try contacting PW to see if she has any input.

                        Haven't heard of using the scum as a spread. PW simply says to skim it off. However, after the legs are packed into the crocks, she says to ladle the clear fat from the cooking pot over them, leaving behind any "perishable cloudy fat and meat juices at the bottom of the pan." In her notes to the recipe, she says the cloudy fat can be used for sautéing; the juices can be added to soups for flavour; and any solids can be turned into rillettes by mixing them with an equal amount of confit fat or butter.

        2. re: carswell

          Okay... so just to be sure I'm understanding this -- if I were to purchase duck confit from Dartagnan or another similar source, what I would get is an already-cooked product. Then I'd pan-sear it, or pop it in the oven to heat it and crisp it up, and it would be ready to serve, say, atop a salad. Is that right?

          1. re: CindyJ

            Exactly. A more traditional presentation would be to serve it as an entree (one leg per person) alongside some sort of potatoes, maybe with a side of red cabbage as well.

            And keep in mind that in the can you're going to get lots of yummy duck or goose fat along with the meat. Save this in the fridge for making the most delicious fried potatoes you'll ever eat!

            1. re: BobB

              Good advice, but unfortunately it will probably come in a vacuum sealed pouch. Good product, just no leftover duck fat.

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                I get the vac-packed legs and after searing them to crisp the skin I do get some leftover fat, albeit not a large amount. It's enough for a batch of potatoes, fried or roasted. And if you're making a big batch of spuds, you can augment it with oil (or your freezer stash of duck fat), no sense tossing it. Heck, even just tossing the residual fat into mashed potatoes, instead of butter, is worth it.

              2. re: BobB

                It is plenty for a main dish, unless you have especially hearty eaters - although the leg looks small, this is very rich.

          2. The many challenges associated with the preparation of duck confit begs the question ... is it all worth it? What I mean is, is the end result a sublime delicacy?

            5 Replies
            1. re: CindyJ

              The only real challenge is getting enough good fat to make it. The actual process is as easy as 1-2-3:

              1. Season legs with salt & herbs overnight.
              2. Rinse off salt and cook slowly in fat until done.
              3. Place in storage container and cover with strained pure fat.

              And the end result may or may not be considered a "sublime delicacy" but it's darn tasty!

              1. re: BobB

                Do you refrigerate the container?

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Yes. Historically, as this was a procedure invented for preserving meat long before the advent of electricity, it would have been stored in a cool cellar or larder, but nowadays there's no need to take chances.

                  When you want to use a portion, remove it from the fat and sear it in a hot pan to heat the meat and get the skin nice and crisp.

              2. re: CindyJ

                Yes, it's worth it. If you use quality duck legs and prepare them properly (including letting them age for at least several weeks), they gain a savour, succulence and silky texture that's like nothing else. They also make the basis for an incredibly fast and delicious supper: remove the legs from the jar, reheat them for 15 minutes or so and voilà.

                Reheating in a skillet is common but I actually prefer putting them skin side down in a baking dish and reheating in a 400ºF oven. For crispiest skin, turn them over half way through the cooking and/or broil them for a minute or two at the end. Less messy and leaves you free to work on the rest of the meal.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  "What I mean is, is the end result a sublime delicacy?"


                  and after reading this, I know something I need to do again SOON.

                2. I wonder if there's a demonstration video I can watch to get a close-up look at how this is properly done.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    YouTube search it. Here's one example if you withstand the music :)

                    --edited for better video.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      CindyJ: You probably know this already, but you can also buy duck legs that have already been confited. You can find these at "gourmet" shops including, in NYC, Citarella, and online through D'Artagnan.


                      1. re: erica

                        As a matter of fact, Erica, I didn't realize that until just a short while ago, when I began searching for a place to buy duck legs locally. I found quite a few links to places that sell duck confit. I think I may treat myself to a day in NYC this week. Citarella -- isn't that somewhere near Zabar's?

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          There are a few Citarellas (Citarelli??) in Manhattan. The one near Zabar's is on Broadway, next to Fairway, at 75th Street. There is also one on the Upper East Side, on Third Avenue in the 70s, one in Harlem, and on on 6th Avenue @ 9th Street in the Village.

                          I think that you can buy the confited legs at other markets, too; I know that my own local butcher carries them (First Avenue and 54th Street). Zabar's and Fairway probably do, too. Ask if you do not see them, as sometimes it is tricky to figure out which department they are in..

                          I think I paid about $6.99 per leg at Citarella a few months ago. Figure one leg per person.

                    2. I've got four Moulard duck legs in my freezer, but haven't yet made the confit because I don't have the fat. I know I can buy it online, but I haven't done that yet. I came across this video that shows the preparation of duck confit using an oven roasting method instead of poaching in fat. I'm interested in hearing your opinions of this alternative method. My thinking is, that it really isn't a confit. But, if I'm planning on serving the duck shortly after it's cooked, it might not matter. Or maybe it does. Please tell me what you think, and more importantly, what I'd be giving up, if I followed this method. Thanks.


                      13 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        i haven't watched it, but unless you're salting, then cooking the duck leg in it's own fat, it's not confit.

                        I use a foodsaver vaccum sealer to do mine, throw it in a pot of water at the right temp for 4-5 hours....you need MUCH less fat and the best part is when they are done, they are already packaged for the fridge storage! (and will keep for months)

                        1. re: RPMcMurphy

                          This is known as "sous vidce" cooking. It is an ideal method when you are short on duck fat. For some reason, I seem to prefer the duck fat method. I don't know about extended storage after sous vide cooking...you lose the vacuum. I vacuum pack my legs after cooking, and they keep for 6-8 months in the freezer.

                          1. re: RPMcMurphy

                            That's what I thought. The duck is seasoned with thyme, garlic, salt & pepper, wrapped in four layers of heavy duty foil, and roasted for a couple of hours. Then it's sauteed to crisp it up.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              That's neither confit nor sous vide, but sounds interesting nonetheless. Try it and let us know how it comes out!

                              1. re: BobB

                                I actually just ordered a supply of duck fat from Dartagnan, so for my first attempt I'm going to prepare it in the "classic" manner. This is surely going to be interesting. I know it will be delicious; it's just that it sounds so very artery-clogging.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Not really - the final searing leaves little extra fat in on the leg, just tender, succulent goodness! Besides, this is not an everyday dish. Enjoy!

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    Don't forget duck and goose fat are "good" fats. They don't call 'em the olive oil of south-west France for nothing. Goose is ever so slightly lower in saturated fat than duck (barely significant) and both are well below chicken fat.

                                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                                      goose and duck fat are very low in saturated fat - far lower than most other animal fats.

                                      They also contain very healthy levels of lineic acid -- the stuff that helps *break down* the cholesterol that's already in your veins.

                                      So other than the calories (and yes, duck meat is actually quite lean underneath the fatty skin) -- help yourself -- it's actually good for you!

                                    2. re: CindyJ

                                      Hi,grimaud farms in california is a much more inexpensive source of duckfat and is very good quality.7.50 for a lb versus dartagnan's 7.00 for 7oz.. Its used by piperade and fringale in S.F.among other great restaurants

                              2. re: CindyJ

                                There is a succulence in the duck legs that have been slowly cooked in duck fat that isn't duplicated via any other method. This technique looks interesting as a way to prepare duck with a minimum amount of effort and probably produces quite a tasty thing to eat but I don't think I'd ever serve it to someone and tell them it is duck confit.

                                Also, I think duck confit is much better after it's had at least several hours and preferably at least a day to chill. I wouldn't want to serve it right out of the poaching fat. Just like it's good to allow virtually any cooked piece of meat rest for a bit, duck confit needs some time to get over the heat. I hadn't thought about it before but perhaps the length of cooking time correlates with the length of resting time that is best.

                                Have fun with it all!

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  A few days fully immersed and refrigerated before the crisping of the skin is imperative,I like to finish it in a roasting pan and rack @ 450 for about 10 minutes

                                2. re: CindyJ

                                  We eat duck like most eat chicken. I buy breasts by the dozen from D'Artagnan, and save up the rendered fat in jars until I have enough to confit a dozen legs. I agree completely with posts I've seen in other threads that you really need to stick to duck or goose fat, because the flavor of the fat is so intense. I also always have an open jar going to roast my potatoes on a regular, daily basis! Mmmmmmm

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    If you roasted a duck you'd be well on your way to having enough. Even a few duck breasts will give you a jam jar full . . . then if you did still have to buy some extra you wouldn't need to buy a whole quart of the stuff. Those legs in your freezer aren't going anywhere anyway.

                                  2. Okay... I'm getting close now. I have the Moulard duck legs in my freezer. My shipment of duck fat arrived yesterday. I borrowed Paula Wolfert's book from the library. Now I need to know whether the confit has to be stored in a glass or stoneware container, or if it's okay to store it in a large plastic container. Does it matter?

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        I think plastic is okay, but I bet you will never be able to clean it entirely. Which is fine if you plan to do this often. Just have a dedicated storage device for confit.

                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                          Sorry, I didn't see your post before I posted just above (re sufficient fat). May I ask how much you bought and how much it was? One thing about buying it is it comes all nicely strained and pristine! And you'll be able to re-use it for future batches.

                                        2. I hope this isn't too dumb a question, but what is the reusability/shelf life of duck fat? If I make confit, strain and clarify the fat, can I toss it back into a sterile container, toss it in the fridge/freezer, and save it to use again? How many times can I do this before the fat starts to break down into somethin undesirable?

                                          17 Replies
                                          1. re: DiodaGoat

                                            I don't know, but I'm sure I'll find out! I've had a one-liter container of duck fat (now adulterated with lard, but not much) that was initially bought about two years ago. I believe that the two most important factors are (1) adulteration with perishable liquids and/or solids, and (2) overheating, which causes oxidation and polymerization. If the fat is heated only enough to drive off moisture, and if it's carefully poured off of any watery residue and strained through fine mesh to remove any solid particles, then it seems to me that it should last for quite a while.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              There are really two elements to this question - shelf life and reusability. I agree with Will 100% on the shelf life issue and the procedure for preparing the fat for storage. But if it's used repeatedly and frequently for preparing confit de canard, I'd be concerned that eventually it may become overly salty. I haven't had this happen to me, but I don't make confit all that often, just a few times a year, and don't keep duck fat for more than about a year altogether.

                                              1. re: BobB

                                                It's my understanding that salt is not soluble in fat. Therefore the fat could not become salty unless all the moisture had not been driven out, which brings us back to the preservation issues.

                                                I have two reasons for having kept my duck fat this long: First, a genuine interest in seeing how well it keeps so far past what is normal; second, I'm too damned cheap to throw it out. That stuff is expensive!

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  I was not sure about that. Isn't bacon fat salty?

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    I'm not sure about that either, but is there such a thing as clarified bacon fat? I suppose you could clarify it, but any I've used still had some particulate matter in it, which is where the salt could come from.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      I've never seen it referred to as such, but plenty of people save their bacon fat in a container, where the solids sink to the bottom, and they still get flavor from the fat on top.

                                                      EDIT: I was unable to find clear proof in an Internet search, so I decided to get empirical. I poured about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a glass, then added a tsp of salt. I stirred vigorously for a minute, and observed that the salt seemed to break up a bit but did not obviously dissolve. When I tasted the oil it was salty, but that could have been from small suspended particles.

                                                      I let the mixture settle, then carefully decanted the clear upper part through a coffee filter and tasted again. No noticeable salt. Verdict: NaCl is not fat-soluble. Disregard my concerns expressed above.

                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                        Very interesting. Your dedication to the cause is admirable!

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          Hey, this is food we're talking about. Inquiring minds need to KNOW!

                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                            You're my hero of the day! Especially because I was wondering about this very thing earlier this week.

                                              2. re: Will Owen

                                                What would be your recommended temperature to heat the oil to? Or if not a specific temp, do you have a visual cue that works for you? I'm going to do just a couple of legs this week for the first time and I too have been wondering about how to keep the fat from breaking down (and its reusability).

                                                1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                  190-210ºF/88-99ºC is the target range. If there are visual cues, I've never discerned them. A thermometer is essential.

                                                  1. re: carswell

                                                    Thanks so much Carswell. I do have a thermometer and rely on it a lot.

                                                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                      You do confit on the cooktop? Never heard of that, I always put it in the oven at 200°, then I don't have to watch it or think about the temperature.

                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                        Gosh I hadn't thought of just using the oven. While this will my first time, yes I had planned on doing it on the cooktop, only b/c this is done in the accounts I've read of the process. That's a great idea. I could even stick my digital thermometer probe in the pot of fat.

                                                        Do you cover the pot, Bob? Thanks for the info!

                                                        1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                          Don't cover the pot. As the meat cooks, it releases juices. In an uncovered pot, the juices evaporate. In a covered pot, they condense on the cover and drip back into the fat.

                                                          For oven cooking, Wolfert says to:
                                                          - use a digital thermometer
                                                          - place the duck skin side down in a baking dish
                                                          - pour the melted fat over it
                                                          - place the uncovered dish in a cold oven
                                                          - turn the oven on to 275ºF
                                                          - when the temperature of the fat reaches 190ºF (about 1 to 1½ hours), turn the oven down to 200ºF
                                                          - cook until tender (another 1½ to 2 hours), adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the fat at 190ºF
                                                          - turn off the heat and cool the legs in the fat in the oven for 1 hour.

                                                          1. re: carswell

                                                            Agree about leaving the pot uncovered. As to all the rest - it can't hurt, but in my experience confit de canard is one of the most forgiving dishes there is as long as you follow the basics (cook long & slow and make sure the meat is covered with fat).

                                                            1. re: carswell

                                                              Thank you both Carswell and BobB.

                                                              Duh . . . of course I'd leave it uncovered. I should think before typing! The temperature guidelines are great, C. And I'm going to meditate on your words during the process Bob: " ... most forgiving dishes . . . long and slow. . . "

                                                              Will report back Wednesday. Knocking on wood . . .

                                              3. Just curious if any of you guys had seen the following thread:


                                                The gyst of it is that you couldn't tell the difference between true confit and duck cooked slowly in absence of fat, with fat added to the surface at the end of cooking - i.e. that actually cooking in fat makes no discernible difference. Struck me as unlikely initially, but some of those guys made a pretty good case. There was also some argument that the real flavor enhancement from confit only comes with storing the leg in fat for weeks, not from cooking it in fat. At any rate, I still haven't tried a side by side test for comparison myself - I just found it interesting.

                                                I can personally attest that you can get great results cooking confit with a sous vide setup - and you don't need anywhere near as much fat. I bet you could probably even get by without an elaborate setup - just a large stockpot, a probe thermometer, a stove with decent temp control, and a bag capable of holding up at approx 180 F for half a day.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Interesting read, thanks. I'd need to see a demo of this to be sure. On the one hand it is true that confiting was developed more as a means of preserving meat than flavoring it (hence the very name confit - as in "confiture," French for preserves) - but one of the aspects of confiting is that it removes the natural moisture from the meat and replaces it with fat. Whether or not the moisture really gets replaced by fat may be debatable, but a sealed sous vide preparation would not let the moisture escape, and thus it seems to me would be inherently different from confit, regardless of how tender the meat comes out.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    That was always my understanding as well. But I must say that I have found no discernible difference between traditional and sous-vide duck leg confit cooked at similar temperatures. So perhaps the old logic is incorrect. I don't know. Maybe someday I'll try a full on scientific-ish taste test of various methods in a single sitting with multiple judges.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      "..a sealed sous vide preparation would not let the moisture escape, and thus it seems to me would be inherently different from confit, regardless of how tender the meat comes out." If all we want is tender duck meat (or whatever other kind of meat), then sous vide might very well be the way to go. However, the principle charm of the traditional method, to me, is the fact that the meat ages and changes for the better when sealed in that fat, and that's why I prefer to use the old-fashioned method to prepare the meat for preservation. For my first experiment with turkey thighs I did two, and used one within a day or two. It was quite delicious, and I rather doubted that it could get much better, but I restrained myself for a couple of weeks before trying the other... and it was no contest. Richer, deeper, and somehow cleaner in flavor. Best damn turkey I ever ate.

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        You can store it in the cooking fat either way. Have you tried it sous vide, and then refrigerated in fat (in the bag)? You might be surprised.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          My chief concern is that in order to preserve the meat properly the moisture must be displaced by fat. If the cooking has taken place in a small airtight enclosure, then the moisture cannot be driven out, but will remain in the meat, thus leaving it prone to spoilage.

                                                          Many of our ancient food-preservation techniques have been usurped by technological alternatives, leaving us with such odd phenomena as pickles that have to be refrigerated and uncured "ham" and "bacon". While I do not doubt that a sous vide-cooked duck leg might be a nice thing, if it cannot be kept safely for long periods without cold refrigeration then it is not confit.

                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                            As long as you don't open the bag after cooking and you cool it properly, it will store a long time. It's pasteurized now. This is why sous vide is popular in restaurants.

                                                            To be fair, I haven't tried keeping it more than a few weeks personally.

                                                  2. Can I confit the duck gizzards with the legs or will they affect the flavour of the legs? My now legless duck is roasting, rending its fat, the legs are curing in the fridge, the liver has been made into a mini-pate. Now what to do with the gizzards and heart? Actually I found a Paula Wolfert recipe for duck hearts but don't know if it's worth it for one heart.

                                                    Gizzard question: forgive my ignorance. Usually I just dump the contents of the giblets pkge into the pot for turkey gravy and haven't ever examined it that closely. Why do I have two gizzards? I'm willing to take however much razzing you want to dish out over this!

                                                    Also, there's a recipe on Chow for gizzard confit but it says to use it in a couple of weeks or freeze. So I'm concerned about it turning the batch of legs which I plan to store longer than that. Since it comes from Andre Daguin it has some credibility. Will adding the gizzards affect the longevity of the leg confit in other words?

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                      You have odd numbers of parts because they're totally unrelated, except insofar as they came off some duck or another. One of the many things we've lost with this factory farming is that the carcasses go down one line, the giblets down another, and those get bagged up by some guy, probably the one who can't handle anything else. Or perhaps they pick whoever has the weirdest sense of humor. You have no razzing coming, anyway, unless you honestly believed that someone carefully dismantled your duck and filed its particular set of innards where they wouldn't get mixed up with any others.

                                                      If I'm not making giblet gravy I throw the gizzards into the stockpot, and then treat myself to them after they're cooked. If you want to confit it you should probably do the same - pull it out, set it aside, and snack on it when you're in the mood. Or save the heart, then chop and sauté it and the chopped gizzard together, and maybe some chopped bacon, to incorporate into scrambled eggs. Are you getting the idea I feed myself a lot?

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        Somebody didn't carefully dismantle my duck and keep track of its parts?!!!??! Wha????? My duck wasn't special in that it had an extra gizzard?! I am crestfallen.

                                                        Thanks for the good info. I will confit the gizzards with the legs and pull them out for an immediate cook's treat since I plan on aging the legs a bit.

                                                        1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                          That's the spirit! Happy snackage! As good a way to recover from your sad disillusion as any.

                                                    2. Rather than start a new thread, I'll revive this one, now that I'm halfway into my first duck confit experience. I've been following Paula Wolfert's traditional method. Right now I have completed the process and am aging the eight duck leg/thighs in a big Corningware dish in the fridge. Wolfert's instructions leave me uncertain about two things:

                                                      1. How long should these age before they begin to show well as aged rather than fresh confit? (Right now, they've been in there three weeks or so).

                                                      2. I'm beginning to regret following Wolfert's instructions to pour a layer of pork lard over the top of the duck fat. Will that mean that effectively the duck fat is no longer usable.? It might be possible, but pretty gross, to try to scrape away the layer of pork fat--it was poured over already congealed duck fat. It's hard to feel confident that I could ever end up with a pretty pure duck fat even that way, though...

                                                      Any voices of experience here? Thanks!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                                        1. You'll get some of the confit yumminess now but should age a total of 4-6 months for maximum effect, especially since you're storing them in a cold fridge, which slows the maturing process.

                                                        2. The fat is still usable. In fact, if you're short on duck fat when poaching the legs, Wolfert suggests making up the difference with lard. Lard is denser than duck fat and makes a better seal, which is why she suggests sealing the crocks with it. Not sure I understand what's gross about scraping the lard layer away. It's quick work and, due to the fats' different colours and textures, it's fairly easy to tell where the lard stops and the duck fat starts. If not, eyeball it; if you followed the recipe to the letter, just scrape off the top 1 inch of fat. And next time, age your legs in crocks or large-mouth mason jars; you'll need less duck fat to cover them and far less lard to seal them.

                                                        1. re: carswell

                                                          Thanks! I realized too late that my container situation was not ideal. Clearly a taller-narrower style of container is optimal here.

                                                      2. Another question -- can the whole bird (duck or goose) be confitted? Is there some reason not to use the breast etc along with the legs/thighs?

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: bkling

                                                          Nothing wrong with using the whole bird, though there's not enough meat on the backs, neck or wings to make it worthwhile. The breasts work fine, but need less time since they have less connective tissue to gelatinze and will get stringy if overdone.

                                                          I just use the thighs and legs for confit, save the breasts to sear and serve rare and make a dark stock out of the carcass and wings, which is later reduced to demiglace to serve with the breasts. A very useful animal, the duck/goose.

                                                          1. re: rjbh20

                                                            I have several large duck breasts in the freezer, and a small amount of saved duck fat in the fridge. I am interested in trying the sous-vide version of confit, using the breasts.

                                                            Could I:
                                                            1) Take the breasts I have, cut off the fat and skin, and render that fat for another day.

                                                            2) Take the breasts, salt them and cure them overnight in the fridge

                                                            3) Wash the salt off, put each breast with a couple of tablespoons of fat into a vacuum bag and seal it

                                                            4) drop it into simmering water for (unknown) quantity of time.

                                                            Realizing fully that this is not the authentic duck confit, and that the results will not be as succulent as a true duck confit, and that the duck will not have the same shelf life as a duck confit (which is really not an issue), does this sound like a viable technique.

                                                            If so, what would be the cooking time for Moulard breasts that weight about 1 pound, each half? Also, would a barely simmering water be OK? I do not have a temperature controlled water bath at home.


                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                              I've never done the sous-vide version, but Paula Wolfert's Cooking of Southwest France has a recipe for exactly that. But your general approach seems fine, though I'd cure them with aromatics (garlic, shallot, juniper, black pepper) in addition to salt. Also, I'd be inclined to leave the skin on.

                                                            2. re: rjbh20

                                                              Thanks, rjbh20. One further question (for you or anyone who knows) -- how do you tell when the breast is done?

                                                              1. re: bkling

                                                                Its hard to specify a time, since there are so many variables. I measure by feel, which is very hard to describe. Best i can do is that they should be firm, but neither hard (overdone) or spongy (underdone). I test by a gentle sqeeze with tongs -- if it seems about right, i taste a sample see if the texture's right.

                                                          2. Another confit thread demands another reminder of confit food-safety tips, an implicit topic that causes well-intended misinformation even among professional food writers, but especially online. Please understand: I'm interested in cooking these foods too, and I do; I raise this safety issue because it's necessary, not from some ridiculous effort to scare anyone off of making confits. (Before arguing with any of this, please first read it fully, and be aware it's distilled from FDA and WHO sources, the CRC Handbook of Food Toxicology, and a shelf of standard medical texts.)

                                                            1. This arose already in the thread. Contrary to some intuitions visible even here, most foods cooked even extensively in fat, such as well-made confits, retain some moisture. There's an easy technical test which I won't go into, but the important point is that unless the food is cooked very unusually, or vacuum-processed, residual moisture will prevent parts of it, even at the surface, from rising much above water's boiling point (100 C, 212 F), _no matter_ the external heat-source temperature. Almost routinely, in discussions of this topic, people confuse an external heat temp. (e.g. 350 °F hot fat, 500 °F ovens) with temperatures in the food itself. The reason this is important is that you can't guarantee, at the food itself, the 120 °C (250 °F) required to kill _Clostridium botulinum_ spores without pressure cooking designed for that purpose. Commercially canned foods (by law) use pressure sterilization for this reason.

                                                            2. Unless prevented by special cooking or chemical means (more below), the possibility exists of C. bot. spores (commonplace in nature) rarely but occasionally germinating into live organisms in the food, which in a matter of days even under refrigeration can create lethal amounts of toxin. The resulting food poisoning is "botulism." Excellent information on its prevention is available from authoritative _public-health_ sources like the one below -- NOT from online comments. It's vital to get your information directly from a respected official source, not from journalists, word of mouth, or confident online commentators. One example, WHO Fact Sheet 270, is linked below (there are others). Please read up on this subject properly if you're interesting in making any foods stored anaerobically (e.g., under fats). Keep in mind that botulism poisoning develops in three steps, each with separate properties: spores, bacteria, toxin.

                                                            Unfortunately, Chowhound has carried and may still carry multiple confit recipes that would get you shut down immediately if used in restaurants; they violate standard food safety guidelines. (Particularly with garlic confits or garlic preserved in oil, which caused important US botulism outbreaks; US "Food Code" now forbids garlic under oil in restaurants unless freshly made and soon used.) I've encountered skeptics online, including on CH, unfamiliar with current food safety standards, who either argue "I've done it this way for years and had no problem yet" (which was also true in famous US botulism poisonings), or else argue in essence that only after actual poisoning outbreaks should we follow safe practice with particular foods (which is irresponsible).


                                                            3. Growth of some but not all C. bot. strains is inhibited (all are at least slowed) by refrigeration. From USFDA "Food Code:"

                                                            "If extended shelf-life is sought, a temperature of 3.3°C (38°F) or lower must be maintained at all times to prevent outgrowth of C. botulinum and the subsequent production of toxin."

                                                            Note that 38°F is the _nominal_ temperature of home refrigerators, but they vary considerably from there (I've measured them), so home refrigeration does _not_ satisfy the Food Code standard above.

                                                            4. C. bot. growth is inhibited by freezing, or by properly-used nitrite or other strong chemical preservatives (or if the food itself is even mildly acid, like tomatoes; required pH is 4.6 or lower, which corresponds -- this is from my own measurements -- to about one ripe lemon diluted in five gallons of water.) Here again, complacent confusion is common: French country cooking traditions that popularized confits, originally for preservation, used (I have some of these recipes) either nitrite salts or _many times_ greater table-salt content than modern confit recipes (which are optimized much more for flavor). But two further safety factors are helpful: Botulinum toxin takes time to form at refrigerator temps. which is why authoritative guidelines (and instructions from fresh-confit manufacturers) always recommend consuming within "a few days" if you refrigerate rather than freeze confit. Secondly, as you'll see in the authoritative sources, a few minutes' cooking at boiling temperatures destroys toxin even if present, which provides further safety if confits are either served well reheated, or used in further cooking, as they often are.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                              The traditional rationale is that quick refrigeration to 38 F or below COMBINED with the curing process (which is sometimes omitted in some recipes) prior to cooking is enough to prevent the growth of c. bot. and the formation of its toxin. The link you provided to the WHO seems to admit as much.

                                                              That said, I'm not a microbiologist. But adequate and rapid refrigeration along with salt curing has been considered safe by every other credible source I've read.

                                                              I can say off-hand that I haven't come across anyone poisoning themselves with duck confit, either in my readings or while working in a hospital. I don't find it particularly irresponsible to gauge risk in part by looking at historical consequences.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                The ultimate authorities for food safety are of course food-safety experts rather than confit cooks; regrettably some of the latter have been completely indifferent to the whole issue. Please believe me: I am no enemy of confit cookery -- just trying to counterpoint some of the demonstrably dangerous advice around. Above I alluded to CH recipes that would certainly be illegal, and frowned on by professional cooks: casual room-temperature meat-confit storage; garlic cooked in slow cookers then stored under fat for months; no cautionary information whatever, which is arguably negligent. As I recall, garlic had been cooked and stored under fat sporadically in US restaurants for years with little or no incident until it became fashionable and frequent; then the botulism cases began. And as I mentioned, 38 °F will reliably halt C. bot growth but unfortunately, 38 °F is not at all reliably maintained by real home refrigerators.

                                                            2. You could actually just google it yourself and find the answer, as well as recipes to make your own, and sources for buying online. Maple Leaf Farms carries confit, and it's cheaper than D'Artagnan.

                                                              I use it in cassoulet.

                                                              1 Reply