Succulent Duck Confit

Duck 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.


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.


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.

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.

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42 thoughts on “Succulent Duck Confit”

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

      1. 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!


  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.

      1. 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…?

  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.

  4. Mmm – that looks like a delicious way to preserve any duck that we get given by our local shoot!

  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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. Doesn’t work with the whole duck. The breast meat becomes stringy and nasty. Legs & thighs only, please.

      1. 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 =)

    2. 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

    1. 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.

      1. Carnitas is pork cooked confit-style, though it’s usually the shoulder (butt or picnic) that gets used.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Geez, to think that my CW friends say going primal is a deprivation diet — ha! Can’t wait to try this.

  9. 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!

  10. 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?)

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. Wow this looks and sound delish. I am going to get a crockpot and try it!

  14. 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).

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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?

  17. I can’t get duck fat. Can I use chicken fat to confit duck legs?