Duck Confit or Confit de Canard is duck that’s been salted, then cooked, then preserved in its own fat for a few weeks.
Originally published 2014. Republished with updated content Oct 2023.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
What does Confit Mean?
Confit is a term to describe the art of cooking in fat, water or sugar at a low temperature, with the idea of preserving it. It comes from the French word confire, a verb which means to preserve.
This is one of the oldest methods of preservation; kept in a dark cool place, the confit can last for months and even years. Before refrigeration, people relied on preserved produce during long, cold winter months.
While the idea of confit may have started gaining popularity with public sometime in the mid 19th century, preserving meat in Europe is a practice that has been around for centuries. I mention this in another preserved duck article, Rilletes de Canard or Potted Duck.
You can make confit from just about anything. Duck and goose legs are the most popular meat cuts for this, but you could also preserve chicken, pork or almost any game this way. Fish and seafood can also be turned into confit.
And sweet stuff, like fruit, can be made into a confit in sugar syrups.
My favourite non meat recipes in this category include garlic confit and confit of tomatoes, which I use in just about everything, including hot sauces and pickles.
Incidentally, the word confit is a noun. So you don’t say how to confit, you say how to make a confit. Once an English teacher and all that.
Homemade Duck Confit
Confit of duck is a fairly easy recipe to carry off. First we cure the duck legs in some salt overnight, then we slowly cook it in duck fat. While it can be eaten at this stage, it’ll be immeasurably better if stored for a few weeks or even months.
Salting the legs is the first step in the recipe and quite often I find recipes calling for an inordinate amount of salt, resulting in meat that is far too salty in the end. I was taught to use just enough salt to coat the legs liberally, and this salt would have practically dissolved overnight.
Where is Duck Confit From?
It’s generally accepted that duck confit owes its origin to the South West of France, in Gascony, to be specific.
I learnt to make duck leg confit in a little known village not too far away from the Spanish border. The area is known for its duck confit, although naturally, you can find the dish all over France.
My recipe here stays true to the way it’s made in South West France, as you can see from a comment left by one of my readers.
Duck Confit Recipe
This is what we’ll be doing:
- Salt the duck legs overnight in a container large enough to hold them in a single layer..
- Rinse and dry them the next day.
- Then we slow cook them in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
- Finally, we cool everything and transfer the roast duck legs to a container, straining the fat mixture.
- To serve, the confit of duck is crisped up in the oven or in a pan on the stove, skin side down, for that -to-die-for crispy skin.
That’s it. While it’s perfectly delicious eaten immediately, it’s even better after a month.
Ingredients for Duck Confit Recipe
You only need a very few ingredients to make confit de canard. Let’s take a look at the 3 main players, duck legs, fat and salt.
To make Confit de Canard, duck legs are your best option. The darker meat, the skin, the bone, they all come together for not just the best flavour and texture but also presentation.
If you’ve never cooked with duck before and are wondering about thighs, duck legs are shorter than chicken legs. This means that the thighs are jut not significant enough on their own, so are always sold joined and as duck legs.
Be sure to leave the skin on. One of the joys of duck confit is the crispy skin you get when you are frying or roasting your finished confit.
Can you use duck breasts to make confit of duck? Sure you can.
We use rendered duck fat in cooking confit of duck. The whole idea is that the meat is preserved in its own fat. This is easily bought in jars in supermarkets or through your butcher.
There are two schools of thought when making this confit; one vehemently prohibits any addition to the fat, whether dry or fresh herbs or spices, while the other quite loves the extra flavourings.
I’m definitely in the second camp. A little rosemary, fresh thyme, bay leaf and black pepper goes a long way in enhancing the flavour of our confit de canard.
The duck legs are cured in salt the night before we cook them. So you need quite a bit of it. We will be rinsing the salt off before cooking.
You want sea salt for this, with not additives. Although Himalayan salt will also work perfectly. Salt flakes are the way to go, what would be called kosher salt in the US, as it will be easier to rinse off.
How to Serve Duck Confit?
Confit de Canard is a true French classic. While there are traditional ways to serve it (think cassoulet), you can pretty much please yourself.
The rich, fatty and salty meat goes well with anything creamy, acidic and sweet, providing the perfect balance.
Your duck confit can be served in a number of ways. Keep it traditional, or go wild, there are no rules for enjoying this incredibly flavoured meat.
- puy lentils and potatoes cooked in the same duck fat are traditional accompaniments.
- on mash with braised red cabbage, with gravy or red wine sauce.
- duck confit is also a much loved ingredient in cassoulet.
- you could shred the meat and add it to stews and pasta sauces.
- I love it in salads, also shredded.
- it makes a great alternative to your usual festive roasts.
- we love it with some mashed potatoes and some side vegetables.
The duck meat itself is strongly flavoured, so we really don’t need much more in terms of flavourings.
Confit de Canard is an extremely handy recipe to have sitting in your fridge. It can be served up in a jiffy when you have unexpected guests, especially over the holiday. Store the duck legs in a sterilised jar and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Tips on Making your Duck Confit
- Start the day before the duck legs are meant to be cooked.
- All flavourings should be added after the salting stage, as we want the fat to be flavoured with them and also, you’ll just end up having to rinse all the herbs and spices you’re using!
- Rosemary – go easy as it’s such a strong herb, you don’t want the rosemary being the overriding flavour.
- The container you use to store the confit needs to be large enough and if you are certain that you will consume it within a month, then a simple thoroughly clean one will do. Any longer, then make sure that the container has been properly sterilised.
More Festive Recipes
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Duck Confit (Confit de Canard)
- 4 duck legs
- 2 large handfuls sea salt
- 1 kg duck fat it has to be enough to completely cover the legs after cooking
- 4 cloves garlic bruised, in skin
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 small rosemary sprig
- 2 bay leaves fresh or dried
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
You will need a jar, pyrex dish or something similar, that's large enough to hold the legs.
Start the Night Before
- Rub the salt all over the duck legs, covering every bit of the meat.
- Place on a baking tray or large plate, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
The Next Day
- Preheat the oven to 140˚C (275˚F/120°C Fan).
- Melt duck fat up on low heat in a large, ovenproof dish. Add all the other ingredients to the fat and swirl the fat once or twice as it's melting.
- Rinse the duck legs thoroughly. Then soak in cold water for a minute, drain and repeat, that is, soak, drain and rinse one more time. I find that this extra step ensures the end result isn’t too salty.
- Pat the legs dry and submerge them into the hot fat.Bring the duck fat up to simmering point and transfer the whole lot into the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 and a half hours, at which point, the meat will be tender and almost falling away.
- Cool everything to about room temperature.Then lift the legs out with a clean pair of tongs and place them in your clean or sterilized jar or any suitable container.
- Now, strain the oil into the container and ensure that the legs are completely covered with the fat. Store in a cool, dark place or in your fridge, as I like to do. Throw away all the flavourings.
Serving Duck Confit
- When you are ready to serve the duck confit, pre heat your oven to 170℃ (340℉/150℃ Fan).Bring the cold container out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for the fat to soften Gently remove the legs from the container and scrape off all excess fat. Then place them into a roasting tray skin side up.
- Roast for about 15 minutes until the duck is heated through and the skin is beautifully crisp. Serve as mentioned above.