How To Make Duck Confit

Click Here To Watch The Second Part of This Video


Confit is a one of my all-time-favorite cooking techniques. Confit, translated from French, literally means “preserved.” It was a technique developed by French farmers before refrigeration was available to preserve meat for the leaner months. The fact that refrigerators are a common household item and yet the confit process is still alive and well is a strong testament to just how delicious this technique is.

how to make duck confit part one

Although this technique specifically talks about confit duck legs, this exact same method can be used for any number of proteins, including beef, chicken, pork and fish. Although it is preferred that the confit is cooked and stored in the fat from the same type of animal frm which your protein originally came, Olive Oil or Canola Oil can be substituted in a pinch.

The Confit Process

Start by laying your duck leg and thigh portions on a sheet pan covered with a layer of kosher salt at least 1/8 of an inch thick. I like to mix my kosher salt with 0.2% sodium nitrite by weight, which gives the finished confit a beautiful rosy color, cured "hammy" flavor and can be left to "ripen" after cooking for up to 6 months. To make this calculation, multiply the total weight of your kosher salt by .002 (ex. 1,000g salt X 0.002 = 2g nitrite or 0.2% by weight).


Season the top of the legs with ground bay leaves and ground pepper (traditionally white). Cloves are also a classic spice used in the confit process, and I’ll sometimes lay a sprig of thyme or rosemary over each leg. Completely cover the top of the legs with more kosher salt (or curing mix if using), until the legs are no longer visible.

Place another sheet pan on top and weigh it down with some heavy cans or bricks. Place in your refrigerator for about 24 hours. Leaving them in the fridge too long will cause them to become overly salty and leaving them in for too short a period of time will not allow them to soak up enough salt for them to cure out properly.
how to make duck confit part two

After the legs have been allowed to cure for 24 hours, remove from salt and rinse vigorously under cold, running water. If not rinsed thoroughly, your finished confit will taste too salty. Lay out on a wire rack and allow to dry out in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours and no longer than 24 hours. This is an optional step but I find it provides a better end product by removing any excess moisture before placing the legs in the duck fat.

how to make duck confit part three

Once the rinsed legs have had a chance to dry in your refrigerator, place in an oven-safe braising pan or Dutch oven. Cover with warm duck fat and bring to a low simmer on your stove top. After the duck legs begin to simmer, place in a 200-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 6-8 hours or until the fat is clear and the legs have settled to the bottom of the pan. Once legs are done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the fat. When cool enough to handle, transfer the legs to a storage container and cover with fat.

how to make duck confit part four

Place in your fridge for at least 1 week and up to 2 months to allow confit to “ripen.” Although you can eat the duck confit as soon as you remove it from the oven, allowing it to “ripen” for at least a few days will give it that true confit flavor.

Serving Suggestions

When ready to serve your confit, remove from the fridge and let it sit out on your countertop for about an hour or until the fat softens. Fish out your duck legs and place them in a 400°F/205°C oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy golden brown and heated all the way through.

A classic accompaniment is duck-fat-roasted potatoes. Just think breakfast-style “country potatoes” but instead they're sautéed in duck fat. I also like to serve my confit with a salad of bitter greens such as arugula and frisée. The slightly bitter bite of these greens helps to cut the fat on your palate and offers an excellent contrast to the rich confit.

Further Information
 



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54 comments

pm_odonnell
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Jacob I had a quick question on one of the steps.  After you have cured the legs you say to cover them in warm duck fat.  My question is where do you get all the duck fat?  Are you searing each leg and reserving the rendered fat?  It looks like it take alot of fat to cover them completly.  Will those legs produce that much?  The reason I'm asking is I went Pheasen hunting over the weekend and I got 4 birds and wanted to confit the legs, shred them and place them in the rolled breast.  Would I use the same technique you desrcribed?  Would Pheastan prodive enough fat to cover the legs since I only have 4 birds to work with?
Patrick
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I purchase the duck fat from my meat purveyor; you can usually pick up duck fat at a gourmet food store or from a good butcher. Although I prefer duck fat, or more specifically I prefer to use the same fat as the animal I'm confiting, in a pinch, I would recommend using a 50/50 mix of canola and clarified butter. Straight canola oil will also work but it solidifies at a lower temperature than clarified butter, which will help to form your fat cap for curing.
pm_odonnell
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I will prob have to get duck fat just because I doubt the meat stores by me will have pheasant fat but we will see. I know you did an article on the science on brining and I was curious why you cure the meat in salt vs brine it. You could always infuse the brine with additional flavors and add moisture while brining so is there a reason behind it or is it your prefence? The other thought I had on the way to work was when you cook the meat for 6+ hours, is this to break down collagen? Would it be possible to use a water bath and immersion circulator to do this while the meat was vacuumed sealed? Would this work or would the meat get over cooked since collagen breaks down at a different temp that what you'd siou vide at?
Jacob Burton
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Duck fat will work fine for pheasant. The reason why I dry salt is because it helps to pull the moisture out of the duck while infusing it with salt. The removal of the moisture helps to cure the confit. Since you will be refrigerating your confit, the curing process is there more for flavor then for shelf stability.

And yes, the cooking time is to break down the collagen of the duck legs. A circulator is a great way to actually cook confit; just vacuum seal a little bit of fat with the protein that you want to confit and drop in a 60°C/140°F bath for 24 hours.
CJ
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Patrick:  I cook with pheasant a lot and I can say with confidence that your pheasant will not produce enough fat.  Maybe a little late to the table on the topic but your plan really sounds interesting.  If you are not accustomed to cooking and eating the pheasant you should know that the legs will take some effort.  Please drop a line and tell me how the pheasant worked out.
pm_odonnell
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Thanks for jumping in CJ.  I ended up just freezing the pheasant because I'm waiting on a callback from Rubber Chef so I don't have everything I need to get started.  I knew that the pheasant is pretty lean so I figured I would need some extra fat.  I called one high end butcher but couldn't get duck fat, I'll try another one and then Whole Foods and see if I can get lukcy.  I'm busy this month but maybe I can do this in December and try shooting a video on the process.  
Brian96797
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If I want to Confit three ducks, the way the video shows (airline thighs), how much extra fat should I plan on obtaining?
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If you pack the legs tightly, about 1-2 pounds of duck fat should do the trick. If you still don't have enough to fully cover, just supplement with a little bit of canola oil.
Forest
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Okay nice recipe -- but I'm confused.  If this is a recipe for a kitchen without a refrigerator, why are you required to put the duck in the refrigerator for 24 hours?  Shouldn't you just be able to leave it out on the counter for 24 hours?

Thanks!
Jacob Burton
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If your room temperature is close to a standard cellar temperature (50-60F), then yes, you could leave it out. And because the confit is covered in salt, it would probably also be fine a normal room temp (70F) as well.

But I would recommend letting it stay in your fridge during the salting period just to play it safe.
shortend
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You state that a 2% Sodium Nitrite cure to Kosher salt ratio is used. Is that pure Sodium Nitrite, or is it Cure #1 (6.25%) Sodium Nitrite? 

favero
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Hi Chef,

I made this Duck Confit using the sodium nitrite, well actually using the prague pwdr #1 and scaling the 6.25% to get the desired level of Nitrite.

After making the Confit, it cured for 3 weeks in my fridge, then I transformed it in a Rillette with some of the duck fat, butter, stock, parsley, chive, pepper, brandy and mustard.

I then put the rillette in a jar, covered only the top with fat, sealed and put it in the refrigerator.

and finally the question...
How long do you think this rillette could be kept in the fridge?

Thanks for the insight!
BR,
Daniel
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@ Favero,

With the curing salt and fat cap, at least 6 months. Be sure to cover the top with either a lid of plastic wrap so the fat cap doesn't absorb the other aromas in your fridge.

Let me know how it turns out.
craig conlon
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Hi Jacob
 
You replied to my email many months ago and mentioned confit buffalo wings,
 
-If you were to confit wings, what temperature and time would you recommend?
-Post confit, Is storing the wings in the same confit fat necessary?
-Post confit, how long would wings have to spend stored in fat to achieve the optimal result?
 
Thanks Jacob
Jacob Burton
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Hi Craig,
  1. 225F/107C for about 2-3 hours, or until the wings are tender.
  2. No, but it will make them last longer. So if doing this in big batches, I would only remove enough wings from the fat for that day.
  3. Wings will be ready to use immediately.
If storing the wings long term (more than a week) under the fat, make sure you salt the wings first, and use some nitrite as well. This will keep the wings from botulism.

However, you can use just the confit cooking technique (sans salting and storing under fat), and when the wings are done, drain off the fat, reserving it for the next batch. Spread the wings out onto a sheet tray lined with parchment in an even layer, allow to cool, and then wrap with plastic. They should easily keep for 3-5 days, meaning if you're doing these in bulk at a 7 day a week operation, you'll only need to do 2 batches a week, or as needed.
craig conlon
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Hi Jacob

Is cooling down the buffalo wings in the same fat of benefit?
Even if you do not plan on storage of wings in fat.

Does cooling it the same fat help retain moisture as opposed to instant removal? 

Thanks
Robsous
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Chef

What is your opinion on Harold McGee's technique with regard to the Prolonged technique. He discusses this method (prolonged cooking) with regard to braises and stews. I was wondering would you apply the same method to duck confit.

You might agree, there is a contradictory balance between dissolving collagen without drying out fibers
.fibres drying out (above 65c)
.collagen to dissolve(above 70c)


Prolonged cooking method
.Keep temperature below 50c for an hour or two while raising to a simmer.
.During the time below 50c, connective tissue is weakened.
.Weakened connective is more easily dissolved at 70c.
.Therefor, time required to convert collagen to gelatin is reduced.
.Thus, less time required at above 70c (fiber drying-out temperatures)

Please let me know how you feel about the above, is it applicable to duck confit.

Rob
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@ Craig,

Yes on both questions.

@ Robsous,

It's good science and I use this approach any time I braise. Since duck confit is basically braising in fat, the same principals apply. Generally speaking, when cooking a protein that has tough connective tissue that needs to be broken down, the lower the temperature and slower the cooking process, the better results you will have.

This is why sous vide is also a good option for tough cuts of meat. The unraveling of collagen isn't just dependent on temperature, it also relies on time. So a short rib can be cooked at 60C, giving you a pink, medium doneness, but it takes 48 hours at that temperature for the collagen to completely break down.
Robsous
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Thank you Chef, makes sense.
 
A point of confusion has always been in relation to the great disparity in opinions on confit temperature but mainly confit time (1-8hrs)
 
Do you have a better understanding than me as to why the range is so wide?
I assumed that 70c was when collagen begins to dissolve, irrespective of time?
 
If time was no option and results were most important.
What time and temperature would you recommend?
Jacob Burton
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If I'm not in a rush, I would recommend starting the confit in a cold oven, turning the oven to 200F/93C, and cooking for about 6-8 hours (start checking after six hours; once the skin at the bottom of the leg starts to cleanly pull away from the bone, its done).


Robsous
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Is the reasoning behind the cold oven due to McGee's (prolonged theory) alone or is there another benefit to a cold oven start.
 
Internal Temp
At 6-8hours removal, what internal temp would you be looking at?
We have a Combi so I can probe meats to cook to the desired internal temperature.
Do you consider internal temperature in relation to Confit?
If so, what is your desired internal temp?
 
BTW, awesome material.
Jacob Burton
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To be honest, I never probe my confit, but if I had to guess, I would say maybe 155F/68C as a good starting point. But then again, if you're using a combi, you could go even lower temp, something like 85C for 12 hours, with an internal temp of 68C.

You could go even lower, but I actually prefer the more traditional texture of confit, versus the more meaty, low temp results you get from combis or sous vide. But it's definitely something to play with.

The cold start is for the gradual heating, like McGee recommends. Remember that the same enzymes responsible for the tenderness and flavor of dry aged meats will hyper activate between 120-130F/48.5-54.5C, and stay active for as long as 3-4 hours.

So the cold start in the oven brings the temperature up more gradually, and allows the meat to spend a longer period of time in that hyper-activation zone.

But with something fancy like a combi oven, you could bring the confit up to 125F/48.8C internal temperature, and hold it there for 3 hours. Then crank the combi up to 200F/93C, and start checking the confit when you probe thermometer starts hitting 63C. Eventually you'll find that sweet spot between 63C and 70C that will give you the perfect results.

Let me know how your next batch turns out. I'll be interested to hear your results.
craig conlon
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Thanks Jacob
 
It takes 2 hours for wings to (cool in fat) post confit.
It takes 30 minutes for wings to (cool at room temperature) post confit.
 
You mentioned that cooling down wings in the same fat is of benefit and helps retains moisture.
 
Can I ask you why? 
I'm just trying to get a better understanding.
 
Craig
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As the wings cool, the muscle fibers start to relax, allowing them to absorb back in their surface liquid and some of the fat they were cooked in. Fat equals flavor, so I always prefer to cool my confit in the fat if I have the time.
craig conlon
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Very interesting, I never would of thought it impacted flavour.
You said 107c was best for wings,
Above, you suggested 93c for duck confit (8hours) if time was no option. 
 
Why did you suggest a higher temperature for chicken wings than duck confit?
If time was irrelevant, what time and temps would you use for wings?
 
I'm not questioning you at all, I'm just trying understand "why" as opposed to "how".
Please note, I am referring to wings that have are separated into drum and mid.
Jacob Burton
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You could do the wings at a lower temperature with good results, but you'd be spending extra time that isn't totally necessary in my opinion. The collagen in chicken wings is more delicate and breaks down easier than that of duck legs. A shorter cook time at a bit of a higher temperature will still give you good results with chicken wings, where as with duck confit, you risk completely drying out the meat before the collagen has had a chance to break down.
Robsous
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Chef,

I'm ready to proceed, just hoped you might help me with the points below,

Blanching
McGee mentions blanching in boiling water to eliminate microbes on surface.
Does this apply to meat submerged in oil (confit).

Holding time
In order to achieve optimal results, are you referring to,
 a) should be held at 48.8C for 3 hours.
 b) should proceed to higher temp stage within 3-4 hours while enzymes are active.
ref "enzymes hyperactivate between 48.5C and 54.5C, stay active for 3-4 hours"
 
Staged accelerated aging
Can duck be held at 48.8C, refrigerated, then confited at a later date.

Best,

Rob
 
Jacob Burton
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Hey Rob,

The blanching step is unnecessary since any surface bacteria will be killed in the long, slow cook.

If using the combi oven, you should hold the internal temperature of the duck confit at about 48.8C for three hours. Then turn up the combi and continue to cook the duck legs until done.

I would do this all in one cook; I wouldn't recommend partially cooking, then refrigerating, and cooking again, due to the possible growth of bacteria.
craig conlon
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Hey Jacob
 
The mid section of the wing works out absolutely amazing, so tender.
However, the drumette always turns out dry.
 
Is this because the drumette is white meat?
Is this because the drumette has less collagen?
 
You emailed me back before advising sousvide at 60c for 4hours.
Would you advocate doing the confit, unprotected at 60c for 4 hours.
 
Thanks
Jacob Burton
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Yes.

Also, how long are you cooking the chicken wings?
craig conlon
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Well, I've done many variations at 107c for 3 hours, 93c for 8 hours.
I've lost track at this point.

Basically, the mid always seems better at longer times.
Whereas, the drum is always dry on the 2nd fry.
The 2nd fry is at 190c for 2/3mins.

Sous vide is not an option for me so is 60c for 4 hours still the guideline in relation to deep fat confit/poaching.

Do the drums and mids have  a different composition with regard to collagen etc
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Try doing the drums and middles separate. Drums for 1-2 hours, middles for three plus.

You can also just abandon the confit all together and try this:

Alkaline Brine for 8-12 Hours:
  • 100% Water
  • 5% Salt
  • 3% Sugar
  • 0.5% Baking Soda
  1. After brining, rinse wings thoroughly and pat dry. For best results, spread in an even layer and let chill over night. This will help to dry out the skin, and even out the salt from the brine.
  2. Fry wings at 290F/140C for about 7-9 minutes, depending on size. This step should pretty much cook them all the way through.
  3. Drain, spread on a sheet tray (even layer), and allow to chill for at least a couple hours; for best results, go over night.
  4. Fry at 375F/190C until the skin is a crispy, golden brown (if using really large wings, you might want to fry at a slightly lower temperature).
  5. Place wings in a large mixing bowl, toss with sauce of choice, and serve. For traditional buffalo wings, use some Frank's Red Hot sauce and a couple pats of butter.
craig conlon
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I'm starting the brine tonight so I will let you know in  two days or so, I want to let it chill each time as you recommended.
 
(Kenji@serious eats)  said that ideally he would do 12 hours at 60-65c with regard to confit wings. 
 
I want to do a confit overnight with regard to your sous vide/confit method.
Would you cap it at 4 hours or let it run closer to 12 hours.
craig conlon
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On an another note, can you recommend any food science books similar  to McGee mentioned above. Is there a book out there that details the science  cooking in relation to meat, especially poultry.
Jacob Burton
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Personally, I'd cap it 4 hours, but if you don't have an immersion circulator, you're going to have a tough time regardless.

Try the alkaline brine with the double fry; you'll be surprised how good they come out.
craig conlon
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Hi Jacob, I got the bicarbonate of soda,
Before I proceed, can I ask you the following points,

-Brining container
Plastic or gastronorm, if material used is relevant

-Ratio
Amount of water to weight of wings

-3 joint or single joint
Would brine be best in relation to wing pre/post separation
(I could separate post drying period so whatever you think is best)

-Rinse
Spray with sink hose or rest in cold water and change water every 15 minutes

My apologies if above is too precise, Thanks again
Jacob Burton
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Container

Use a plastic, food safe cambro like this.

Water Ratio

Enough to cover the wings.

Joint Separation

Doesn't make a difference, but I prefer to separate the wings before brining.

Rinse

I just dump the wings out into a large colander and run them under cold water. A sink hose and colander will also work.
craig conlon
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One last thing,

I'm able to get food grade plastic, not cambro.

Some with air tight lids. Lid on or off?
Jacob Burton
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Food grade plastic, lid on.
Robsous
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Chef,

Your advice with regards (to hold and turn up) have yielded remarkable results thus far, I've just one concern in relation to the blanch.

You said
-"The blanching step is unnecessary since any surface bacteria will be killed in the long, slow cook"
- "you should hold the internal temperature of the duck confit at about 48.8C for three hours"

Mcgee
-"accelerated aging generally results when large cuts of meat heat up slowly due to their mass and a relatively low but still safe surface cooking temperature, i.e. above 60C. Microbes will grow and taint meat held below 50 for more than a couple of hours. I would suggest blanching the in boiling water to kill surface microbes, and then see whether an hour or two of holding makes a noticeable difference."

Best,

Robert

 
 
Jacob Burton
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So first, the salting step before the cook will kill a large amount of the surface bacteria. But also, after you hold the confit at 48.8C for a few hours, aren't you turning up the temperature to finish?
craig conlon
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Hey Jacob,
 
Brine= 11 hours, rinsed with spray, 
Resting= air-dried in fridge for 12 hours post brine and 1st fry.
 
Moisture retention
The drums are now incredibly juicy. This was my biggest problem but the brine has solved this problem without question
 
Crisp
Very crisp and have taken on a different texture and visible appearance.
I assume the baking soda is responsible for these changes.
 
Flavour
The flavour and texture was off, more so on the mids.Please note, they were not too salty, they just contained that brine flavour accompanied by a slightly rubbery texture. It was as if they had not reached equilibrium and contained too much water.
 
Here's the annoying part, I did your brine during the summer and the (flavour & texture) was actually amazing. However, I have not been able to repeat this flavour.
 
Do you think I should,
-Increase time
-Lower time
-Rinse, rest in cold water and change every 15minutes
 
I just know it's an inch from perfection, Thanks again
 
craig conlon
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Just to add, maybe a  24 hour brine would solve the problem.

I make this point as I saw you brined your pan roasted chicken breast for 24 hours.
 
Jacob Burton
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At this point, you need to do some side by side testing. That's the only way for you to figure out what brine time you prefer.

If the mids were rubbery, they were probably undercooked.
Robsous
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I won't be salting Chef as I don't plan on storage. We really want to confit overnight in the rational, chill and serve within 3 days.
Yes Chef, I turn up to 93C post holding period. Does turning up the temperature post accelerated aging, remove the taint from the meat?
 
Accelerated aging re flavor
Is the accelerated aging responsible for flavor with regard to the enzymes or is it just tenderness?
 
Cool Down
Do you always filter immediately after confit, would allowing the legs to cool uninterrupted allow for greater fat absorption while cooling?
 
Vegetable oil
If I don't have enough duck fat, can I mix with vegetable oil. Does 100% duck fat have to be used if you plan on storing? Will vegetable oil mitigate the flavorful results?
craig conlon
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Hey Jacob...my bad. I let them come to room temperature (tempering, I believe) and they were excellent. I also increased the time to 4mins from 2mins when chilled, they were also great.
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@ Robsous,

As long as you as you're bringing the temperature up after the holding step you will be fine.

The accelerated aging adds both flavor and tenderness, but mostly tenderness.

You don't have to filter the oil right after cooking. You can just let the confit cool down in the same container, as long as the leg and thighs are submerged.

You can substitute oil for duck fat, but you'll be loosing some flavor. Remember, the duck fat can be re-used from batch to batch. The only draw back is, if you're heavily salting your confit (which you're not), the duck fat will get too salty after a couple of batches.

So yeah, if you're able to program your combi oven, you can get this cook done overnight.

@ Craig,

Cool. Keep me up to date on your progress.
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Results are in Chef, I did away with the accelerated aging.
I just went by your video and used the combi.
Really perfect, you know what your talking about.
 
I used mostly duck fat and topped up with some oil.
The legs actually rendered a lot of fat,
I've more fat now then when I started.
 
Can I use this blend to fry french fries at high temps.
Do I filter/clarify it first,
How do you clarify fat post confit.
Robsous
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Or can I just fire away at high temp right now.
I removed the gelee from the fat.
I assume all moisture gravitates to the gelee and when that's removed, there's no moisture remaining.
 
I may be wrong, any thoughts on the above?
Jacob Burton
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Great to hear you got good results.

Once you remove the jelly, you can use the fat for frying french fries and things of that nature, but you will get more life by filtering.

Read through this ongoing forum discussion I'm concurrently having. We're talking about chicken fat, but the principals remain the same for duck fat as well. Start at comment #12 and work your way down: http://stellaculinary.com/forum/general-cooking-and-recipe-trouble-shoot...
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