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Is confit unhealthy?

c
cleopatra999 Apr 5, 2013 01:51 PM

I understand that confit is cooking slowly in fat. I have never used this technique but have a recipe that wants me to confit my potatoes. It sounds delicious. My concern is that this will wind up with a lot of fat being absorbed into the potatoes. Causing them to be very unhealthy.

I am wondering if they do absorb a lot, or if they don't because it is like a bath. How would it compare to roasting tossed in olive oil where almost all of the oil ends up being eaten?

  1. w
    wyogal Apr 7, 2013 10:06 AM

    I went to a book sale yesterday, picked up "On Food and Cooking," Harold McGee (for $2!!!!!! and it's like new! 2004 revised edition), and on page 177 he talks about the word confit. I won't write all of it, but here's the last sentence:
    "In modern usage of the term confit, the connotations of immersion impregnation, flavoring, and slow, deliberate preparation survive, while the idea of preservation - and the special flavors that develop over weeks and months - has faded away."
    Towards the beginning of the paragraph, he states that the word "comes via the French verb confire, from the Latin conficere, meaning 'to do, to produce, to make, to prepare'"
    It was in the used to mean different things, with different applications throughout history.
    I thought that was interesting.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wyogal
      s
      Steve Apr 7, 2013 12:00 PM

      Confire in France is to conserve, or can be part of an idiomatic expression: meaning to steep and penetrate through, like with someone's attitude.

      For meat it remains to conserve in fat.

      For fruits and vegetables, it would be to conserve with sugar, alcohol, or vinegar.

      The meaning has not changed in France, it's just a question if you show fidelity to something difficult and time consuming or do you take short cuts.

      1. re: Steve
        w
        wyogal Apr 7, 2013 12:01 PM

        In France.....................
        word meanings change over time. Yes, it can refer to all those things, and has over the years.

    2. s
      Steve Apr 7, 2013 05:58 AM

      A properly done duck confit is very rich tasting. It is duck preserved in fat, not simply cooked in fat, so there has to be a marinating stage, at least overnight I'd think, if not for days.

      1. 1
        1MunchieMonster Apr 6, 2013 11:02 PM

        There's some interesting and valid-sounding scientific points in this thread already but since I haven't done any research on the topic I won't comment on those. However, it occured to me that you could make both an oven roasted and a confit-style recipe and weigh the oil you use before and after cooking. Then you'd know how much oil was absorbed.

        1. ipsedixit Apr 6, 2013 10:22 PM

          Potato confit to me is just short hand, a fancy one at that, for halfway done French fries.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit
            c
            cresyd Apr 7, 2013 12:26 AM

            I think this is the best way to think about the health benefits of confit potatoes. In some 'healthy living' diets this can fit in, in others it's a tighter squeeze.

          2. s
            Steve Apr 6, 2013 09:37 PM

            As a side note, to confit is to preserve, so an onion confit does not necessarily have a lot of fat added, could be like an onion jam.

            Confiture is the French word for preserves, or jam.

            1. Candy Apr 6, 2013 08:41 PM

              Nothing is unhealthy in moderation. I am very slender. I don't restrict any food group from my diet. I use bacon and bacon fat
              I get lard from a farmer. I frankly don't pay attention to the chicken little, the sky is falling mentality

              1 Reply
              1. re: Candy
                Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:23 PM

                Yes Candy, but did you seek shelter during the Great Alar Scare... ?

                Though no longer "slender," I am with you - anything in moderation (except asparagus).

                Hunt

              2. w
                wyogal Apr 6, 2013 04:10 PM

                Did you post or link the recipe?

                3 Replies
                1. re: wyogal
                  c
                  cleopatra999 Apr 7, 2013 09:09 AM

                  here you go:
                  http://www.foodnetwork.ca/ontv/shows/...

                  1. re: cleopatra999
                    w
                    wyogal Apr 7, 2013 09:19 AM

                    Interesting! Thanks for the link! Did you try it yet? I'd go ahead and make it as written first, then change it up later, if you need to.

                    1. re: wyogal
                      c
                      cleopatra999 Apr 7, 2013 09:37 AM

                      I didn't do the confit, just roasted them. I will absolutely do the recipe again and try the confit. The rest of the recipe was delicious.

                2. sunshine842 Apr 6, 2013 06:55 AM

                  seriously, how much of this are you going to eat?

                  We'll assume it's one meal as a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, once in a while, and not something that's going to be on your plate every day.

                  Enjoy.

                  1. c
                    cleopatra999 Apr 6, 2013 06:39 AM

                    Can anyone say one way or the other which would have more fat roasted or confit? I think the recipe would have been better off calling it olive oil poached because the potatoes are not cured first or stored.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: cleopatra999
                      goodhealthgourmet Apr 6, 2013 03:16 PM

                      It actually depends on the cooking temperature and time. Potatoes can't absorb fat unless some of the moisture inside is displaced to make room for it. Water displacement occurs at higher temperatures, so theoretically the roasted potatoes lose more moisture and consequently absorb more oil. Plus, when you crisp the exterior of the potatoes it alters the structure of the surface which also allows for greater oil absorption. Assuming that the confit temperature is low enough to prevent structural changes and that the cooking time is short enough that the potato temperature doesn't reach the point of water displacement, the confit potatoes may be coated with more oil on the outside, but they won't absorb as much as the roasted ones do.

                      Does that make sense?

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                        s
                        sandylc Apr 6, 2013 03:55 PM

                        Just like deep frying.

                        1. re: sandylc
                          goodhealthgourmet Apr 6, 2013 04:27 PM

                          exactly

                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          law_doc89 Apr 6, 2013 04:27 PM

                          Or mashed potatoes.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            chefj Apr 6, 2013 04:28 PM

                            Thanks for some sound Science!
                            "In some countries maximum frying temperature is set at 180°C.
                            On the other hand, if French fries are cooked at lower temperature, or the ‘boiling action’ on the surface ceases due to a lower heat input, the crust does not form on the surface. This allows extra fat to penetrate into the core of the French fries. About 40% more fat is absorbed when the fat temperature is 10°C lower than the recommended cooking temperature of 180°C
                            to 185°C (Mehta & Swinburn, 2001)
                            Mehta, U., & Swinburn, B. (2001) A review of factor
                            s affecting fat absorption in hot chips.
                            Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
                            , 41: 133-154.

                            1. re: chefj
                              w
                              wyogal Apr 6, 2013 04:39 PM

                              What about the fries that are started in cold oil? Those have been found to have no more fat than those started in hot oil.

                              1. re: wyogal
                                chefj Apr 6, 2013 04:46 PM

                                Here is the study
                                http://www.euppa.eu/_files/factors-fr...

                                1. re: chefj
                                  w
                                  wyogal Apr 6, 2013 04:51 PM

                                  That's not my question. In other studies, or analysis, the cold oil fries don't contain as much fat as those started in hot oil.
                                  http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recip...

                                  1. re: wyogal
                                    chefj Apr 6, 2013 05:15 PM

                                    My question back to you, Do you find the study I referenced to be unsound?
                                    I do not see any data sited about the cold oil fry method.

                                    1. re: chefj
                                      goodhealthgourmet Apr 6, 2013 08:26 PM

                                      That link you provided is to a lit review of multiple studies. Unfortunately the actual study referenced in the quote/result you posted isn't available to the public for free:
                                      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/20014091091788

                                      Have a look at this:
                                      http://tiny.cc/bvh5uw

                                      As I stated earlier, higher temperature leads to faster moisture loss and crust formation, both of which encourage oil absorption. I've seen several articles stating that fat absorption and moisture loss are independent of temperature when potatoes are fried in the range of 145 - 185°C, so I'd like to see the full Mehta study to understand how they determined that 170 - 170°C will get you potatoes with 40% more fat.

                                      The only thing I can imagine is that the lower-temperature potatoes had to be cooked for a longer period of time to achieve doneness after they had already formed a crust which encouraged fat absorption. That wouldn't apply to the confit the OP is considering because the temperature won't be high enough for crust formation (or for much moisture loss).

                                    2. re: wyogal
                                      goodhealthgourmet Apr 6, 2013 08:00 PM

                                      CI doesn't say the cold oil fries contain less fat, it says the method uses half as much oil as rinsing & double-frying.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                        w
                                        wyogal Apr 6, 2013 08:15 PM

                                        "As an added bonus, our cold-start method produced fries that contained about a third less oil than conventional, twice-fried spuds. "
                                        Here is an old thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/476770
                                        scroll to the bottom, there is an explanation. No, not a "study." Just a simple explanation.

                                        1. re: wyogal
                                          goodhealthgourmet Apr 6, 2013 08:47 PM

                                          So sorry! I looked at the page twice and both times managed to miss that sentence. That's what I get for skimming.

                                          It jives with what I said earlier, and makes sense based on the science of it all.

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                c
                                cleopatra999 Apr 7, 2013 09:06 AM

                                Thank YOU GHG, for someone finally actually answering the question!!

                              3. re: cleopatra999
                                juliejulez Apr 6, 2013 04:07 PM

                                I answered above, but I believe roasted would involve much less fat than confit. I often roast 12oz of potatoes with only 1tbsp of olive oil.

                              4. g
                                graddini Apr 6, 2013 06:00 AM

                                The term confit also applies to foods stored in fats and the problem with storing potatoes in fat would be the chance of botulism. If you are cooking then consuming them right away: no problem.

                                1. h
                                  Harters Apr 6, 2013 05:33 AM

                                  No food is unhealthy as such. Eating some foods more often than "very rarely" can be unhealthy.

                                  1. Bill Hunt Apr 5, 2013 08:28 PM

                                    Well, since taste most often = unhealthy, then it probably is - but I do not care. One can only live so long on leaves, twigs and sprouts.

                                    Hunt

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                      s
                                      sandylc Apr 5, 2013 08:53 PM

                                      One of my very favorite foods is baby greens with a touch of lemon, olive oil, and salt. Is this unhealthy?

                                      1. re: sandylc
                                        v
                                        Violatp Apr 6, 2013 07:05 AM

                                        Of course not. As a matter of fact, the nutrients in the greens are fat-soluble, so you need to eat them with fat.

                                        1. re: Violatp
                                          s
                                          sandylc Apr 6, 2013 10:19 AM

                                          As I do. Olive oil and often nuts. Which is another good point here about fat as a necessary nutrient. Mods, I'll stop here.

                                          But my point was to Hunt; he thinks good-tasting food is often unhealthy. I think there are plenty of good-tasting foods that are considered healthy by most. (The whole "healthy" designator being completely subjective, of course).

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            v
                                            Violatp Apr 6, 2013 11:20 AM

                                            Ah, gotcha.

                                            1. re: sandylc
                                              Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:29 PM

                                              Sandy,

                                              I am only HOPING that some of my good-tasting food will not kill me. Maybe I need to consume more red wine with some... ?

                                              Hunt

                                          2. re: sandylc
                                            Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:28 PM

                                            Sounds like it should NOT be, but what do I know.

                                            All of my greens are done with bacon grease, and usually bacon bits, or maybe ham. However, for taste, I usually use some white vinegar on the greens, which is touted as a healthy item, by many. I do it for taste, and not for any other reasons.

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                              s
                                              sandylc Apr 12, 2013 08:49 AM

                                              That sounds good, too. You're eating greens, right? Nothing that wrong with a bit of bacon over the top. I vote "healthy" on this one,

                                              Hope I didn't ruin it for you by saying it's healthy!

                                              1. re: sandylc
                                                Bill Hunt Apr 13, 2013 08:47 PM

                                                I care about taste, and then "healthy" can come later.

                                                Being from the Deep South, we do a lot of greens.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  s
                                                  sandylc Apr 13, 2013 08:54 PM

                                                  Agreed, Taste comes first.

                                                  1. re: sandylc
                                                    law_doc89 Apr 14, 2013 04:25 AM

                                                    But the 4 basic food groups in the South are sugar, salt, grease, and booze.

                                                    1. re: law_doc89
                                                      sunshine842 Apr 14, 2013 04:31 AM

                                                      What's the last time you actually traveled in the South? Where did you eat?

                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                        law_doc89 Apr 14, 2013 01:03 PM

                                                        All the time and everywhere. Why do you ask?

                                                      2. re: law_doc89
                                                        Kris in Beijing Apr 14, 2013 11:02 PM

                                                        .

                                            2. re: Bill Hunt
                                              juliejulez Apr 6, 2013 04:05 PM

                                              Weird, I eat tons of great food and I eat healthy... you can eat healthy without resorting to only eating "leaves, twigs and sprouts".

                                              1. re: juliejulez
                                                Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:30 PM

                                                Since I eat very few leaves, and fewer twigs, with but a light dusting of sprouts (depends on the recipe), I hope that you are correct.

                                                Thanks,

                                                Hunt

                                            3. Will Owen Apr 5, 2013 05:02 PM

                                              I'm not at all sure you can confit potatoes, although I could be very much mistaken. When preparing meat for confit you salt it and put it uncovered in the refrigerator, which dries it out considerably. What moisture does remain is displaced by fat in the cooking process, and collects at the bottom of the cooking vessel, and then after the meat is removed the fat has to be very carefully poured off the juices, which will spoil the confit if they remain. Before the fat is poured over the meat in whatever container it's to be kept in, it should be heated enough and long enough to make sure all moisture is boiled away. However, the considerable moisture potatoes have I believe is necessary if their starch and fiber are to be cooked properly, which would seem to disqualify them from this process.

                                              Yes, it is an anachronism, as Veggo wanted to say, and is no longer necessary to preserve meat safely for months at a time. Neither is winemaking or jelly-making necessary to preserve the grape crop anymore, but that's hardly why we do it. We do it because wine and jelly are good things to have, as is confit, although none of them qualifies as Health Food, and all should be taken in moderation (however one chooses to define that!).

                                              Confit is "unhealthy" as barbecued pig, bacon, eggs and butter are; most of us can have some now and then without heading to an early grave, but we should be mindful of things like cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially if we've been told to, and not make pigs of ourselves.

                                              By the way, turkey thighs make exquisite confit …

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Will Owen
                                                s
                                                sr44 Apr 5, 2013 06:33 PM

                                                What fat(s) do you use to confit turkey? I'm imagining a variety of fats would work, from bacon to chicken.

                                                1. re: sr44
                                                  The Professor Apr 6, 2013 02:17 PM

                                                  I've done turkey thighs salting and seasoning in the same manner as duck legs, then confited them with good ol' pork fat.
                                                  They turned out scrumptious...specially if allowed to stay encapsulated in the fat for a month or more.

                                                  1. re: The Professor
                                                    Will Owen Apr 6, 2013 02:53 PM

                                                    Roger that, Professor - I have some much-used duck/goose fat which I bumped with butcher's lard. My first batch was two of them, one of which I tried after ten days, and the second after about a month and a half. Both good, but the second one was amazing.

                                                    You need a fat with no moisture and a good resistance to oxidizing. I don't think chicken fat is up to the job, and bacon fat has too much other stuff in it, plus if it's drippings from cooked bacon it will have been heated too much. Lard, duck fat and goose fat are rendered at temperatures well below their smoke point. Just don't use the shelf-stable supermarket lard; THAT is really unhealthy!

                                              2. Veggo Apr 5, 2013 04:22 PM

                                                In any case, I think confit is an over-rated anachronym from the pre-refrigeration era. (That should ruffle some tail feathers!)

                                                14 Replies
                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                  m
                                                  mugen Apr 5, 2013 04:56 PM

                                                  Not least because anachronym isn't a word.

                                                  It is redundant as a means of preservation, but it still has some use: when the cook actually intends to infuse food with the flavour of a fat.

                                                  1. re: mugen
                                                    Veggo Apr 5, 2013 05:03 PM

                                                    Pardon my ism's, and I am a big fan of duck and its fat uses, including my duck hash, but for my taste, most confits are one dimensional in texture and taste. I'm sure I have not experienced the best.

                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                      m
                                                      mugen Apr 5, 2013 05:27 PM

                                                      I think that we'd have to have a substantial component of French genetic material to ever really understand the appeal, glory and nuances of fat. I like some fat, but not in the amounts that the French classically use; to me, it's excessive, cloying, and coats the palate. I don't think that I'll ever really understand what it is that is meant to be so sublime in pata negra (when served in the style that has only the tiniest sliver of meat), pork belly, etc.

                                                      1. re: mugen
                                                        Veggo Apr 5, 2013 05:32 PM

                                                        And so many of the French remain skinny after it all, and I hate them for it:)

                                                        1. re: Veggo
                                                          m
                                                          mugen Apr 5, 2013 05:45 PM

                                                          The bastards: not only do they understand fat, but they have learned restraint. Definitely something that my little mind can't comprehend. It experiences something tasty and screams PUT MORE IN FACE NOW.

                                                          1. re: mugen
                                                            Veggo Apr 5, 2013 05:52 PM

                                                            I'm still trying to invent a synomy for anachronym. A lovely white wine with dinner tonight, by the way.

                                                            1. re: Veggo
                                                              chowser Apr 5, 2013 06:08 PM

                                                              "synomy for anachronym."

                                                              A what for what?

                                                          2. re: Veggo
                                                            law_doc89 Apr 6, 2013 06:27 AM

                                                            The Paris police round up fat French ladies before dawn every morning.

                                                            1. re: law_doc89
                                                              Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:33 PM

                                                              I have noticed that. The police had assumed that all tourists were long ago in bed, but as I could not sleep, I observed a bit sweep in Paris. I was sworn to secrecy, but since I escaped France, I can now tell my story.

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                law_doc89 Apr 12, 2013 04:48 AM

                                                                Lucky for you, they still beat prisoners there.

                                                                1. re: law_doc89
                                                                  Bill Hunt Apr 13, 2013 08:49 PM

                                                                  Yes. I understand from "others," that the food in Paris lockups is pretty good, compared to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "Tent City," but have no background in either.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                          3. re: mugen
                                                            sunshine842 Apr 6, 2013 06:53 AM

                                                            then you haven't had a whole lot of actual French food served in France.

                                                            yes, they use fat - yes, they're generous with it -- but it's never excessive, cloying, or palate-coating. They're far too concerned with the overall flavor and texture to ever let that happen.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842
                                                              law_doc89 Apr 6, 2013 04:28 PM

                                                              He! He! We are answering different posts.

                                                              I agree about the French and their use of fat in cooking. I am blessed with having some 3 star chefs custom make meals for me. The French know how to use fatty foods, such as liver and duck in ways we her in USA can only envy.

                                                        2. re: mugen
                                                          law_doc89 Apr 6, 2013 06:21 AM

                                                          " anachronym;" it is now.

                                                          I guess a word used in the wrong century?

                                                      2. weezieduzzit Apr 5, 2013 03:27 PM

                                                        Whether its unhealthy or not depends on which school of science you believe about fat. I'm not fatphobic and actually eat about 75% of my calories from fat a day- but I make sure it's the "right" fats based on the homework I've done. There's a ton of info out there, Google is your friend. :) (Chowhound doesn't want us getting into medical talk here.)

                                                        There are several fats that have been studied and have shown health benefits, again, Google will get you the info.

                                                        In my opinion, No, confit is not unhealthy. (And it tastes awesome.)

                                                        13 Replies
                                                        1. re: weezieduzzit
                                                          c
                                                          cleopatra999 Apr 5, 2013 03:43 PM

                                                          I recognize all those things and agree, I have no problems with fat either, and don't want to start a debate about that.

                                                          I guess a better question would be "what would have the higher fat grams, confit or roasted"?

                                                          1. re: cleopatra999
                                                            m
                                                            mugen Apr 5, 2013 04:12 PM

                                                            It's hard to think of how something that is immersed in fat could end up having less fat than something that is only coated and then roasted - it works in the case of frying, because the pressure of the evaporating moisture prevents the oil from penetrating the interior of the food, but confits are typically made at lower temperatures.

                                                            Imparting the flavour of the fat is actually the primary reason to make a confit, given that it's no longer necessary as a means of preserving foods. If you're trying to avoid absorbing or tasting the fat, then another low-temperature method (ghetto waterbath) or twice-baked/sauteed (though the essence is often said to be in the duck fat) would be better.

                                                            1. re: mugen
                                                              BobB Apr 7, 2013 10:31 AM

                                                              I'm not sure about that. I agree fat adds flavor, but a duck is inherently a very fatty creature, and when you roast a duck it is literally basted throughout the cooking process by that thick subcutaneous layer of fat. Plus, I don't know about you, but I always sear a confit leg before eating it, which renders off more fat. I could easily see there being no health differences between eating a confited or a roasted leg. I'm just speculating, though - I'd be interested to see some scientific test results on that.

                                                              In my opinion, what gives confit that extra flavor boost is not so much the fat per se as the salt and herbs used in the dry brining process it undergoes before cooking. If you oversalt it during that process it could be unhealthy, but that's another issue.

                                                              1. re: BobB
                                                                Bill Hunt Apr 11, 2013 09:38 PM

                                                                I agree about the duck, and especially the breast.

                                                                I am very, very specific, on how I wish that cooked. I want the skin to be very crisp, that subcutaneous fat layer properly rendered, but the breast meat to be about what I would call "medium rare," with very light pink, but room temp, in the inside. Just had a wonderful example of that at AME last week, but the Duck Leg Confit left a lot to be desired. Such is life.

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                  law_doc89 Apr 12, 2013 04:50 AM

                                                                  I must say that I am ordering duck confit less in restaurants for some time. I think there are a lot of short cuts now. Even at Allard, last time I was there, it was clearly not what it had been in the past.

                                                                2. re: BobB
                                                                  s
                                                                  Steve Apr 12, 2013 05:40 AM

                                                                  With a proper duck confit, the flavor is rich. A little goes a long way.

                                                              2. re: cleopatra999
                                                                s
                                                                sandylc Apr 5, 2013 06:17 PM

                                                                If you don't have any problems with fat, why are you asking which one has more fat grams?

                                                                1. re: sandylc
                                                                  c
                                                                  cleopatra999 Apr 5, 2013 07:44 PM

                                                                  Well I don't have a problem with fat, but try to make lighter choices where I don't compromise flavour. If we are talking about eating an entire days serving in one meal it is not worth it to me. I would rather 'waste' those kind if calories on cake!

                                                                  1. re: cleopatra999
                                                                    s
                                                                    sandylc Apr 5, 2013 07:58 PM

                                                                    Well, cake is another topic entirely. Processed sugar is truly something to minimize, whereas fat is an actual nutrient.

                                                                    1. re: sandylc
                                                                      c
                                                                      cleopatra999 Apr 6, 2013 06:40 AM

                                                                      I have rephrased the OP at the top. I am not interested in the merits of different nutrients, just expressing where I would rather use up my daily intake.

                                                                2. re: cleopatra999
                                                                  juliejulez Apr 6, 2013 04:03 PM

                                                                  To answer your question, I believe roasting potatoes would be less fat than confit.

                                                                3. re: weezieduzzit
                                                                  jgg13 Apr 5, 2013 08:48 PM

                                                                  One would also need to define "unhealthy" - much like "bad for you" it's never as simple as people make it sound with food. It all depends on what factors one is trying to maximize and which ones they're trying to minimize, sometimes they conflict.

                                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                                    v
                                                                    Violatp Apr 6, 2013 07:07 AM

                                                                    Exactly. For me, confitted (probably not a word) potatoes aren't good for me, but due to the potatoes, not the fats.

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