How to make Duck Leg Confit at Home
While it is made across France, the duck confit it is seen as a specialty of Gascony. The confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing a piece of meat (generally goose, duck, or pork) and then cooking it in its own fat.
In today’s recipe we will concentrate on making a duck leg confit (translated cuisses de canards confites in French) as this is a really simple and straightforward process.
However there is two factor I think that may stop some people from making that recipe and that is first, the time involved (the meat need to undergo a curing process of at least 24 hours) and the second is the fact that you need to get hold of large quantity of duck fat (around 1 litre/ 4 cups for 3 to 4 duck legs).
Anyway with that in mind that can be organised ahead of time. On the brighter side though, once cooked the confit legs can be easily kept for a week in the fridge (in a sealed container) before being consumed so it is the perfect dish you can make ahead of time and only take 10 minutes to warm up and serve whenever you want to surprise guests.
- 1 litre ( 4 cups) of duck or goose fat
- 3 to 4 duck legs
- 50 to a 100 grams of rock salt ( up to you on how much you want to use)
- 1 teaspoon of juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon of dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorn
- 6 bay leaves
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- Pestle and mortar (or spice grinder)
- A medium size pot large enough so that it can accommodate the duck legs when laid flat.
- Cooking thermometer
Curing the Duck leg
Pour the rock salt in the mortar and grind it with the pestle until it become semi coarse. Add the peppercorn and juniper berries then grind again, finally add the dry thyme and the bay leave and grind until fine.
Coat each duck leg thoroughly with the herb slat on either side then wrap the duck leg tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat for each duck legs. When done keep the duck legs on a container in the fridge and leave them to cure for 24 hours minimum or up to 2 days. When the duck leg are cured, take them out of the plastic wrap and remove the excess of salt either with a baking brush or cloth or simply by rinsing them under cold water them pat them dry.
Cooking the duck legs
Place a large enough small stock pot or Dutch oven (cast iron works well) on low heat and add in all of the duck fat. Let me it melt slowly and using a thermometer wait until the temperature reaches around 90 degrees Celsius ( 200 F) then add first in the duck fat 2 bay leaves, 2 twigs of thyme and 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Next lay gently the duck legs flat in the pot making sure they are all submerged with duck fat. Finally cover the duck legs with a lid made of parchment and add on top the lid of smaller pot. This is to ensure the duck legs with stay submerged at all time during the cooking process.
From what I experienced, cooking duck legs at such low heat takes a minimum of 2 hours 30 minutes for the meat to start to detach from the bones. However for the meat to really “fall of the bones” count 3h to 3 hours 30 minutes depending on the size of the duck legs you use.
Eating now or preserving for later?
When you make a confit of duck you basically have the option to either consume the duck immediately or preserve them in their fat for further use.
- Method one preserving the duck legs for later use:
If you choose that option (which usually result in a better tasting confit), my advice is to cook the duck legs for 2 hours 30 minutes only , Then turn the heat off, transfer the legs in an earthenware container ( as shown in the video) then to pass the duck fat through a sieve over the duck legs until fully covered. Leave then to cool down at room temperature first then cover with a plastic wrap and leave to cool down in the fridge until the fat totally solidifies. That process will allow you to keep the duck legs for at least a week and the duck legs will be ready to re-use anytime you like. When you want to re-use them take the duck legs out of the fat, carefully remove the excess of duck fat and broil for 5 minutes to crisp up the skins before serving (Great option for a Christmas party preparation)
- Consume the duck legs immediately:
As soon the duck legs are cooked reserve them on a plate or tray and let the excess fat drip of. Finally just before serving you will need to crisp up the skin using either a frying pan or a broiler. Both method yield similar result but I kind of preferred the broiler method when I tested it, as you can add all of the legs at once and get a uniform crispiness on the duck legs. In either scenario 5 minute should be enough to crisp up the skins.
Serving the duck legs:
Many people tends to overdo it when it comes to serving that dish. Plenty of time I see people advising to serve this confit duck legs with potatoes that are pan fried in duck fat which in my view is just too much fattiness. For me personally I prefer to serve a duck leg confit with a simple mixed green lettuce mixed coated in French dressing as only the vinegar can cut through the fat and really complement a bit of confit duck leg. But then again that is a personal preference.
Watch the video tutorial: