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15 Oct

Succulent Duck Confit

duck confitDuck confit came about centuries ago because of a practical need to preserve meat for long periods of time without refrigeration. While modern society has mostly lost the need to preserve meat for months, it has not lost its taste for duck confit; in fact, the dish has been elevated from practical peasant food to high-end, gourmet fare.

Cooking duck legs in fat makes the meat incredibly succulent but not oily. There is no chance it will dry out and become tough and you are pretty much guaranteed amazing flavor. It’s also really easy to do, especially if you have a slow cooker.

So then why not confit the entire bird, you ask? While the flavor and texture of the tough dark leg meat (and even the wings and gizzard) improves with long cooking time, duck breasts are much tastier after a shorter cooking time. The flavor of breast meat doesn’t improve and the texture can actually become stringy if you try to cook it “confit,” which is why chefs stick with searing, grilling and roasting the rest of the duck. But the legs, boy, are they good when cooked long and slow in a bath of their own fat.

The first step, curing the meat, (translated, confit means “to preserve”) is technically optional if you plan to eat all the meat immediately, although it does add flavor so you should do it anyway. Curing the meat is necessary if you plan to store the cooked duck for weeks or months. To cure the meat, each duck leg should be sprinkled with coarse salt (like kosher salt) and then refrigerated for 24 hours. Throw some garlic, herbs and spices in with the salt before you rub the bird down if you like. Thyme, pepper and garlic are the most traditional seasonings for duck confit, but you can add whatever you like.

After curing, brush each leg with a cloth to remove as much salt as possible and any other seasonings. Some recipes advise rinsing the leg in water to remove the salt, but then you’re adding moisture back to the meat, which defeats the whole purpose of curing.

Next, place the legs in a deep pot, rimmed baking dish or slow cooker. Now here’s the most important part: submerge the duck legs completely in fat. Ideally, the duck is cooked in duck fat but this can be expensive if you buy the fat already rendered and time-consuming if you render your own. Although a French chef would shudder at the thought, you can make delicious duck confit by submerging the duck legs in a combination of duck fat and olive oil or lard.

Cooking the duck in the oil requires low heat and time. In an oven, exactly how much time and at what temp is up for debate. Some swear by a very low temperature (about 180 degrees F) for a very long time (10-12 hours) but most recipes up the temp and cook the duck for only 2-3 hours. The easiest and most fool proof method (but least traditional) is cooking the meat submerged in oil for 3-4 hours on high in a slow cooker. Either in the oven or a slow cooker, the oil should simmer and bubble gently, not rapidly. Whatever your cooking method, the goal is to have meat that falls easily off the bone. In fact, one sign that the duck is done is that the meat has pulled away on its own and revealed the leg bone.

Once the meat and oil cool after cooking, store the meat completely submerged under the fat in the fridge (or in a dark, cool cellar if you have one). The meat will keep for months and can be pulled out to make an amazing last-minute dinner, an appetizer for unexpected guests or a tasty snack. You can carve the meat right off the bone and eat it plain or throw it into a salad. You can sear the meat first to crisp up the skin or warm it up with a quick sauté and serve it with vegetables. Really, the only thing difficult about duck confit is that if you know it’s in the fridge, you’re going to want to eat it right away instead of saving it. And that’s fine, too. Either preserved or eaten immediately, duck confit is delicious.

Ingredients:

ingredients 22

This recipe can easily be increased – you just need to have 1/2 tablespoon of salt per leg and enough fat to completely cover the meat.

  • 4 duck legs
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Approximately 4 cups of fat, or enough to cover the legs. Traditionally, only duck fat is used but you can experiment with lard and olive oil.

Instructions:

Spread the salt evenly onto all sides of the legs. Cover and place in the refrigerator to cure at least 12 hours but ideally 24.

seasoned meat 1

Brush the legs with a cloth to remove as much salt as possible. Place in a deep dish or slow cooker and completely cover with melted fat. Cook at a simmer in the oven or in a slow-cooker until the meat is tender and pulls away, exposing bone.

Oven: 225 degrees F for 2-3 hours.

Slow-cooker: High for 4 hours, unless the oil starts to bubble rapidly, then turn heat down to low.

After being cooked, the meat can be served immediately or stored in the fat, refrigerated, for weeks or months.

The oil can be re-used for cooking or for making salad dressing.

duck confit

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. what plant material did you sprinkle the duck with in the picture? thanks

    zee wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • Looks like thyme?

      spincycle wrote on October 15th, 2011
      • Yup it’s thyme for sure, and it’s FABULOUS with confit duck. I just bought some French tinned confit duck and I don’t know how long I can hold out before I absolutely can’t resist it!

        mmmmmmmm………..duck

        Primal V wrote on May 20th, 2013
  2. Always do some duck legs for the holidays and make bacon from the breasts. Chipotle in the confit is wonderful! Asian markets are often my best source for duck, at about half the price of the supermarket, but do look for US sourcing, as there are chemicals in exported food from China that you DON’T want. A wonderful American brand is Maple Leaf Farms, for a very pure product.

    Elaine wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • Thanks Elaine, I gonna look up Maple Leaf Farms on line.

      lunasma wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • how do you make bacon form duck breasts??????

      PaleoDentist wrote on October 15th, 2011
      • Lol. I suppose you could thinly slice strips with the fat , cure them in salt overnight and then fry till crisp in duck fat. But why…?

        Milla wrote on October 16th, 2011
  3. This looks great! And not as intimidating as a whole duck for a newbie – I’m looking for the ingrediants today will try tomoro.

    lunasma wrote on October 15th, 2011
  4. Mmm – that looks like a delicious way to preserve any duck that we get given by our local shoot!

    oliviascotland wrote on October 15th, 2011
  5. I see ducks everywhere here in Hawaii. Well, by the water. It’s odd you post a duck recipe because last night I was thinking… “I wonder how he tastes?” I thought about the fact how ducks are more fatty then chickens… probably because ducks are more lazy since they are in the water a lot.

    I’ve had duck once in my life at a kick ass restaurant in Chicago. It’s awesome – I just wish I would have been served more!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • No animal is fat because it’s lazy. That’s the whole premise of the primal lifestyle – animals are well-adapted to their environment and usually only suffer ill-health when living a lifestyle to which they have not adapted. I think ducks have more fat as they need it for insulation and flotation.

      Warwick wrote on October 15th, 2011
      • I feel like a complete dumbass right now, lol. You are probably right!

        Primal Toad wrote on October 17th, 2011
      • They only ducks that are fat are farm raised ducks. Wild ducks, especially flight ducks making the trip south are much leaner than any raised duck.

        Magoo wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  6. Wow, I can’t wait to try making this! I can smell it already…

    Abel James wrote on October 15th, 2011
  7. would this work with a whole duck or just the legs ? one wonders

    alex wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • Doesn’t work with the whole duck. The breast meat becomes stringy and nasty. Legs & thighs only, please.

      greensleeves wrote on October 15th, 2011
      • Disagree! We do duck confit every year for our Valentine’s Day treat. We start by parting out the bird, split the breast up the middle along the keel, and lay all parts evenly in a ceramic baking dish. Salt and cure, but first trim off the extra hunks of fat and skin.
        Render the fat, then let it cool. Salt and pepper the cracklings (holy crap, awesome) and save the fat for the next day, when you’re ready to stick it in the oven. I put it in in the morning and let it cook very low and slow all day.

        It’s amazing, and the breast meat is wonderful. Some years we save it and use it to make a duck breast, roasted garlic, and artichoke heart pizza the next day =)

        mixie wrote on October 16th, 2011
    • you can use the whole duck, we do duck confit just about every week, just don’t rush it and cook it in a couple of hours, 180 F for a good 10 hours is going to give you a way better product. also do not use a slow cooker, it might seem conveniant but it never comes out as good

      neil wrote on October 15th, 2011
  8. Would it work with chicken legs?

    Nomade wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • it is great with chicken and rabbit, pork belly is stupid tasty done confit, they all can be done the same 180F for 8-10 hours.

      neil wrote on October 15th, 2011
      • Carnitas is pork cooked confit-style, though it’s usually the shoulder (butt or picnic) that gets used.

        Andrea Reina wrote on October 15th, 2011
    • I’ve done it with chicken legs and lard; turned out fantastic!

      Jules wrote on October 17th, 2011
  9. What an amazing food! For a nice salad use a bed of rocket and frisee, thinly sliced red onions, and tomato (optional). Dressing of grapeseed oil, walnut oil, white wine vinager, dijon mustard, finely diced shallots, and salt and pepper. Absolutely amazing. Another nice touch is to peel the cloves from a head of garlic and confit them along with the duck.

    Willis wrote on October 15th, 2011
  10. oh yeah, and shred the duck legs and toss them with the salad, of course. The flavour of the oils in the dressing go great with the tender, salty duck meat.

    Willis wrote on October 15th, 2011
  11. Geez, to think that my CW friends say going primal is a deprivation diet — ha! Can’t wait to try this.

    Marianne wrote on October 15th, 2011
  12. I agree! Duck confit is awesome! I made some the long, traditional way. It is great with eggs, garnishing soups, eaten as a main course, and that salty “duck jelly” beneath the fat after the long cooking time *really* kicks up a bone broth soup when added to it. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynnette_henderson/2416651265/in/set-72157604555904930

    Lynnette wrote on October 15th, 2011
  13. Confit duck is truly amazing. But I have a problem…

    The duck fat is far too good for roasting potatoes in and they’re off the menu. So for me, it has to be par-boil and fast roast the whole bird so you get lots of crispy skin, and juicy flesh that can taste wonderful with anything. And not too much spare fat to stash in the fridge wishing for roast potatoes!

    Allie wrote on October 16th, 2011
  14. Could you do this in Mike (and Mary Dan) Eades’ Sous Vide Supreme machine? I do a lot of meats in the Sous Vide and then ice them down (in the same bag they cooked in) and chuck ‘em in the fridge. I did pork chops night before last, but didn’t have them that night; had them thin-sliced for lunch the next day. Hadn’t thought of trying meat bagged IN lard. (I chuck in a pat of butter with the spices, but hhmmmmm, meat immersed in fat?)

    Elenor wrote on October 16th, 2011
  15. This is basically how people used to preserve meat where I come from. Still to this day we do it with pork meat. It doesn’t come out the same as duck legs, more like a ham that you can cut in thin, tasty slices. It can stay in the fridge for months.

    Perun wrote on October 16th, 2011
  16. Costco actually carries a duck confit at certain times of the year (though if you cook it yourself at low temp, that would be optimal). Also, look for duck rillette (usually near pates in stores like whole foods). They require no cooking and are a similar concept.

    deb b wrote on October 17th, 2011
    • Are you sure that the confit there isnt from China or another place that is full of antinutients. We have SAMS club but most anything there is from China. Such a drag cuz it would help save money.

      Ms Jones wrote on October 17th, 2011
  17. Wow this looks and sound delish. I am going to get a crockpot and try it!

    Gayle wrote on October 17th, 2011
  18. Aha, it seems our American friends at last find out what the French paradox really is : a lot of duck or goose meat and fat, with a glass or two of red wine a day ! :-)
    BTW, duck confit is great roasted and served with sauerkraut cooked in some white wine and bacon strips fried in the duck fat.
    Try and enjoy !
    Chris (France).

    Chris E. wrote on October 17th, 2011
  19. Wow this looks great.

    I’m going to cook it this weekend!

    Cheers Mark

    Jim Cutler wrote on October 19th, 2011
  20. Wow, I’m really starting to think I may need a second refrigerator. Between confit and lacto-fermented veggies, I could have a Paleo “ice cave” full of delicious goodies!
    Kim :)

    Kim wrote on October 19th, 2011
  21. I bought 4 duck legs at farmers market today. I will cure them tomorrow and cook them Wednesday. The vendor told me I don’t need to use any additional fat because these legs will release enough fat to cover them while cooking. Has anyone done it this way? Do I need to puncture the skin? Any suggestions?

    Michael wrote on November 13th, 2011
  22. I can’t get duck fat. Can I use chicken fat to confit duck legs?

    Richard wrote on March 26th, 2012
  23. This bump is a long time coming, has anyone tried this since??

    Chef Mike Benninger wrote on February 25th, 2013

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