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Feb 13, 2012 06:03 PM

duck confit

Dear Hounds,

I purchased a small whole duck at my local coop 2 days ago. I was planning to cook the whole thing with a method I have used before that involves first steaming for a about 40 minutes to render fat and then then roasting to crisp the skin. However, I have been a bit busy the last couple of days so today I took the duck duck apart, removed the breasts and cooked them like steaks. They were delicious, but now I need ideas for the rest of the duck.

I have reserved all the parts. Could I render enough fat out of the backbone, and wings to cook the leg/thighs comfit?

Ideas? I have vacuum sealer and PID controller for sous vide cooking so suggestions using that would be welcome.


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  1. You might be able to render enough fat to confit via sous vide but not the traditional method. I do confit via sous vide and it only takes a tablespoon or two per bag. If not you can add another fat to bulk up your duck fat. A quick google search will give you several recipes (times/temps - you'll find 75-80C for about 10 hours) as well to give you a starting point.

    Of course the back you should save and add to your next batch of stock - wings too!

    I think I'm doing confit for dinner on friday! Its my favorite.

    1. My guess is that you won't get enough fat out of the back and wings to do a proper confit, BUT.... You can vacuum seal the leftover duck and park it in the freezer until some extra duck fat you order on line gets there. Then it's time to confit away! And you'll have enough duck fat to french fry some potatoes to go with the confit. Be still my heart! Or you could just do a low fat cassoulet by using the non-confit duck legs. '-)

      9 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        If I recall my reading from Modernist Cuisine correctly, you (Caroline1 in specific) can confit with your new sous vide machine. Vacuum seal with some of the duck fat, and put it in your SV oven. The duck fat does season the duck meat, but the long slow simmer in the fat is just that, long slow cooking. There is nothing special about the large amount of fat, except that it is a medium for transferring heat to the meat. And later the fat is a means of protecting the duck from spoilage, but we have refrigerators and freezers to do that now.

        1. re: paulj

          Molecular Gastronomy and Modernist Cuisine aside, I stand by what I wrote above. I've been cooking ducks for way over half a century now, and to confit the little quackers, you do need to submerge the leg meat in duck fat completely. It is true that you can use a bit less fat in a vacuum sealed pouch for sous vide than you would need for stove top (or oven) cooking, but not that much less. A scant teaspoon ain't gonna cut it. Now, as I said above, I don't think the OP will be able to render sufficient fat from the back and wings to confit the legs. A tub of duck fat runs from 7 to 9 bucks or so on the web, plus shipping. But I am an old fashioned purist. I would be able to taste the difference if the legs were cooked in insufficent duck fat. But that's just me.

          1. re: Caroline1

            Does that mean you wouldn't eat them?

            1. re: escondido123

              More likely means I wouldn't call them "confit"! '-)

            2. re: Caroline1

              I've done a lot of sous vide confit. In my experience, the sometimes overlooked pre-confit curing process makes all the difference in whether you get a truly traditional effect. Storing it for a while afterward (which is only advisable if you cured it) also changes the flavor a bit for a nice but subtle effect.

              It seems to me you're right that a teaspoon of fat isn't going to cut it for the full effect. But the difference in amount of fat needed is still significant. We're talking maybe 1/3 cup of fat (sous vide) vs a cup or two's worth to confit traditionally.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                I've always had a problem getting my hands on ENOUGH duck fat to do a bona fide confit that has enough fat to cover the legs by at least an inch deeper than the legs once they're packed in a jar. Years ago a French girlfriend insisted you cannot make a decent cassoulet unless the confit has aged in the pantry for at least two weeks. Try that without curing and you'll probably get very very sick. Some things just don't have satisfactory shortcuts.

                It makes sense that sous vide for ten hours would work as well as ten hours in a 200F oven. Maybe I need to thaw those ducks I've been hoarding in the freezer?

                1. re: Caroline1

                  I actually do mine in our slow cooker, for about 6-8 hours and no curing before hand. Had some last weekend that was jarred and fridged last august and it was awesome and no one sick.

                  1. re: Jzone

                    Refrigeration being the key word! The traditional French method predates refrigeration by who knows how many centuries, and it calls for salt curing, slow and low cooking fully submerged in its own fat, then put in a sterile jar with enough fat to cover by an inch or more on top, then covered with a cloth, tied, and set on the pantry shelf until ready to use. Pantry shelves without the salt cure would be risky. But as cowboy said, the flavor is a bit different without the cure too.

                    1. re: Jzone

                      Among other things, salt is protective against clostridium bacteria, responsible for botulism. Just because you don't cure doesn't mean that you are automatically going to get sick. You can make and store it without curing many times and luck out repeatedly. Refrigeration is helpful as well, lowering the incidence of botulism significantly - freezing would reduce the chances of botulism to just about zero. Reheating to boiling temperature and holding it there for 10 minutes before eating will also denature the botulism toxin (though it's no guaranty against some of the various molds and other bacteria that salt is also responsible for preventing).

                      The converse side of that idea is this: just because you follow dangerous practice once or twice or ten or 100 times and don't get sick doesn't mean there's no risk.

                      But here's the thing: botulism doesn't give you an upset stomach or make you spend a day or two hugging your toilet. It kills people. Sturdy, healthy, full-grown people. I suggest you reconsider your strategy. It only takes one time. Of all the spoilage and food poisoning microbes out there, it's not one to take lightly.

          2. You can also make confit with a mixture of duck fat and olive oil. It won't be exactly the same, but damn near to it.

            9 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              That will work great, especially if you've dry-brined the legs with plenty of salt and herbs overnight before you start (remember to rinse them thoroughly before confiting, though).

              You can even confit in just plain vegetable oil - it's not the same, but still very tasty. I did that with the legs & wings of two large turkeys last Thanksgiving - threw them into a big stockpot, added plenty of garlic, and covered them with canola oil. Came out great! As with duck legs, you need to crisp them up before serving, either by pan-searing or (my preference) broiling.

              1. re: BobB

                Just for the record, the original/traditional meaning of "confit" is something salted to retard bacterial growth then slow cooked IN ITS OWN FAT before placing the meat in sterile jars or bowls and then topping it with ITS OWN FAT that it has been cooked in to a level at least an inch above the top of the meat.

                Once you start diluting the duck fat, or goose fat, or pig fat, or whatever other fatty critter you are going to confit with fats not its own, you are then poaching in fat or oil. It is not confit.

                I know. Language changes. Today a lot of "chefs" who are damned good cooks but suck at proper culinary terminology, throw culinary terms into discussions where they do not belong. For me, it's like calling a chicken a strawberry. Just because you call a chicken a strawberry, that's not going to make it a strawberry, but it can sure screw up recipes for strawberry short cake, never mind what it will do to good old chicken soup! For example, you CANNOT make a carrot confit! Yet Tim Love once listed that on his menu at Lonesome Dove in Fort Worth. However, you can POACH carrots in oil or duck fat, but no matter what kind of fat you use, you will not produce a carrot confit. Unless you can find a few cups full of carrot fat...? Good luck on that one.

                Okay... Back to the discussion at hand. CONFIT!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Etymologically I'm sure you're correct, but aside from the vagaries of current usage, to me there is a much greater conceptual difference between cooking something in water and cooking it in fat than there is between cooking something in its own fat, a different fat, or a mixture of the two. Poaching to me is water- or wine-based, confiting is fat-based.

                    But in the end of course, the important thing is how it tastes.

                    1. re: BobB

                      According to Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine (as interviewed in Cooking for Geeks), it's all about time and temperature, so that you can't tell the difference between sous vide, cooking confit in the traditional way, or steaming meat without any oil and adding oil at the end. His explanation is that the oil molecules are too big to penetrate the meat.

                      1. re: FoodPopulist

                        I think he also points out that during this cooking in melted fat, there are no bubbles or other evidence of water being driven out of the meat. Since moisture isn't being lost, the fat can't enter. Contrast this with deep fat frying where initially the fat bubbles vigorously as water in the food turns to steam and escapes.

                        I don't have copy of Modernist Cuisine, but spent a morning browsing it at the library (in the reference section).

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      I just looked at "Larousse Gastronomique" says 2 interesting things in its entry on CONFIT. First, that it is often prepared using a mixture of pork and poultry fats. Second, that other meats that can be made as a confit include rabbit and veal.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Also for the record Escoffier specifies that it is cooked in its own fat and then topped with lard

                        1. re: trouttr

                          P Wolfert (SW France) claims lard is more impenetrable to air, so makes a better sealing layer. (p220)

                  2. I used to confit all the legs when breaking down our ducks (we grab a case of 6 or 12 at a time) but lately we've been braising them and they turn out amazing. We started with this recipe ( and I've been playing with it using crimini's instead of morels, or other dried mushrooms I have on hand. Also works with red wine, shallots etc. Oh the timing given is 40 mins, but I find it much better at about 90mins. If you need more you can use chicken legs, thighs etc. with your duck legs and they should all cook at the same time so no worries.


                    1. i still want to try sara moulton's "duck confit in an oven bag" -- because if she vouches for it, it has got to work.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        <sigh> What did I say about celebrity chefs using culinary buzz words? Other than it NOT being confit of duck, it's probably a nice recipe for steamed duck crisped in a pan. And at no time does she MARINATE the duck! A marinade is liquid, a RUB is not. To marinate something means to place it in the marinade LIQUID long enough for it to absorb flavors and possibly tenderize. For her to confuse the culinary language in this way with her background and training, shame on her! It seems everyone is making strawberry short cake using chicken!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          many people who know a lot more than i do disagree with your concept of a wet marinade being required for confit. wolfert, ruhlman, keller, colicchio, et al.

                          they use a cure or a salt brine, which does not use any liquid. the liquid, if any, is provided by the duck itself, as the salt does its magic.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I don't think Caroline is saying that you should marinate duck for confit (we all know that's not how it's done), but rather that Moulton uses the word marinate when she means rub (or at best, dry-brine).

                            1. re: BobB

                              perhaps that might be her only objection. nevertheless, it seems like her objection is to more, namely "Other than it NOT being confit of duck, it's probably a nice recipe for steamed duck crisped in a pan."

                              for anyone who has used a roasting bag, they know that it does not steam. and as the moulton technique roasts*** the duck to the point where it is essentially roasted then cooking in its own rendered fat, i don't see how this rnethod is essentially in error.

                              wolfert is doing sous vide confit. is that wrong, too?

                              ** ah ok, technically, not a ROAST" but baking. it gets crispy skin, though, which is what a roasting does.

                            2. re: alkapal

                              Alkapal, I'm replying to you as a way to reply to everybody else on this digression, so don't take it personal.... unless you want to? '-)

                              I am chef trained (note: chef trained, but not a chef), with three and a half years with a licensed master chef in Turkey, six days a week, all meals, few holidays. This was in the late fifties. I was taught and trained in the haute cuisine traditions of that time, as well as in classic Turkish cuisine, which is one of the great cuisines of the world. This coincides fairly closely with the time Julia Child was writing MTAFC. I arrived back in the U.S. in time to watch her first shows on PBS, and I primarily watched to see if she was doing things right. She was. MOST of the time. (In later programs she made a beef Wellington, and told her audience to completely remove the top crust before serving. No, Julia, NO! But she did well by teaching America to cook.)

                              In that time zone, the LANGUAGE of cooking was clear and precise. Culinary terms were the "mis en place" of the verbal kitchen. And TV chefs and cooks of that era pretty much abided by them. Anyone ever read Escoffier's cook books? They are TECHNIQUE based, and he doesn't waste time telling you to peel the potatoes or dice the carrots. You were expected to know. A lot of things. And life was good because if you were dining with chefs, and one of them was the cook, and someone asked how you made a dish, he would tell you in clear culinary language, and you would be able to go away and duplicate it.

                              And way back then, NO ONE EVER told someone how to make a carrot confit, but they might have shared a recipe for poaching carrots in oil or animal fat or butter. Nor would anyone have suggested marinating duck legs to make a confit. Or to rub it with salt and herbs and put it in a bag to "marinate" and not include a liquid in the directions.

                              My entire point, and this will be my last entry on the matter, is that it grieves me deeply to see the language of excellent food corrupted by ANYONE, let alone the so called masters of the modern kitchen. (Sara Moulton, I'm looking at you! And several others, including Tim Love.)

                              As I said above, calling a chicken a strawberry is not going to change the chicken, but it will damned sure change the results of a recipe! Loss of language is everyone's loss. It strangles clear communication, and shame on the master cooks of today who perpetrate these crimes against the culinary language, no matter who they are. No excuses. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

                              Carry on. I'm through.

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                that's fine, caroline, but you haven't actually addressed my issues about how things are effected to get results of a duck confit.. but that's ok; if you're done, you're done. i just feel that there is a bit of technique discussion about confit that is left wanting. to rail against moulton or others about using the term "marinade" incorrectly is beside the point here really , no?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  If I'm reading you right, you want to know how to make a proper confit. Tell you what I'm doing... I'm writing out step by step directions and adapting the traditional method that started with "go out in the yeard and wring the necks of four ducks," with "go to the market and buy four ducks, fresh preferred." It's taking longer to write out than I thought because I have to go back and clarify steps with more detail. It should be done later today or tomorrow, depending on how much "life" interrupts me I'll post it when it's done.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    no; i know how to make confit…. cook some brief-cured meat in some fat to cover and get soft, preferably but not exclusively its own.

                                    i doubt the french make such a fuss.

                                2. re: Caroline1

                                  I appreciate that you have a lot of experience and I see that "Larousse" is one of your most tattered cookbooks. So given that you posted "Once you start diluting the duck fat, or goose fat, or pig fat, or whatever other fatty critter you are going to confit with fats not its own, you are then poaching in fat or oil. It is not confit" How do you reconcile the fact that "Larousee" says confit can be a mixture of poultry and pork fats?

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    Easy question! But all questions are easy if you know the answers, right?
                                    But first, what version of Larousse are you using? MIne is the 1960s first English translation, and in it the entry for "confit" simply says:

                                    "CONFIT -- Meat of pork, goose, duck, turkey, etc., cooked in its own fat, and preserved in a receptacle, completely immersed and covered in the same fat, which prevents it from coming in contact with the air."

                                    And then it defines Confit d'oie and confit de porc. Duck confit was not the bird of choice back then. Anyway, There are occasions when two animal fats were used in "putting up" a single confit, and I'll get to that, but first to clarify, Larousse Gastronomic is not written as an introductory cook book. It is written to and for those with a high body of knowledge already tucked into their heads before opening the cover. In the sixties when it was first translated into English, it was said that every good French restaurant in America immediately had a reference copy in their kitchens. The "recipe" parts are often more like reminders to jog a chef's memory than a tight step-by-step "how to." The history and definition parts are to help chef's gain more knowledge about the history and background of food and food related things. Sooo, that said,

                                    The reason Larousse Gastronomic mentions using two animal fats in [presumably] the same confit in some of the many "confit" entries is because it expects the reader to know that a "sealing layer" of beef fat/tallow was often floated on the top of the congealed bird fat in the crock of confit as the final step before covering with paper and cloth and tying the jar cover with string. The beef fat/tallow was much harder than the goose or duck fat when congealed and served as a "cork" to keep air from reaching the duck or goose fat, which would go rancid much faster than the harder beef fat, thus extending the preservation safety period. A confit without the sealing beef fat had a shelf life of three to maybe (depending on the seasons) six months whereas the beef tallow seal extended the shelf life to a year or more. People prided themselves on how much confit they had in their pantry the same way home canners prided themselves over how many fruits or vegetables they had preserved in the pantry to enjoy off-season. A jar or two of confit meant that should guests drop in, you ALWAYS had something "ready" and could feed them and feed them well!

                                    And for the record, confit was/is a very versatile product. It can be simply spread, with its fat, on toast crusts much like a pate, it can be used in another dish such as a cassoulet to make it go farther, or it can be heated, sauced, crisped, or any other way to make a main course presentation Very versatile meat!

                                    Hope this helps.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Just so you know, there are other people on this board who know something about confit. We have eaten it in France, we have made it ourselves and we have eaten it in various restaurants. There are variations in fat when it is prepared and it is still confit. I also know that Larousse is not an everyday cookbook and have used it as my reference for details on many foods and preparations. My Larousse is from 1984 and as I posted, it says "Confit of duck or goose.......prepared with a mixture of pork and poultry fat." They cover the sealing layer separately saying that could be either fat or dripping.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        I never said there aren't other people here who know something about confit. But I do maintain there is no make-it-from-scratch confit of duck that is done start to finish in an hour. What's next? Curing a prosciutto in a week? Stuff like that bugs me. I'm flawed.

                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                    Bless you for having an opinion and not just letting standards slip by quietly. I for one would love to see the way you make Duck confit and yes I've made plenty of duck confit in my time but anytime you have a chance to learn from some one with good experience, listen and make your own judgement. Even when you are wrong its better to do it out loud than to be right in silence.