Duck Confit, or confit de canard

Duck confit is roughly duck’s meat cooked slowly in fat. It doesn’t sound very exciting or light, however I still have to find someone who doesn’t like this dish and I am sure it actually does less harm to your body than having a full fast food meal. Confit is like a magic wand transforming fat, ordinary and rather dry duck legs into soft, tender and addictive delight. A full-bodied good red wine is its inseparable friend!

Duck confit comes from the South-Western France, also renowned for its foie gras (fat duck’s liver), but it’s found in restaurants all over the country and canned, ready to be warmed or fried in every supermarket. Confit is usually made with duck legs, but sometimes includes also other carcass parts. Even though the duck is much fatter than for example the chicken, apparently its fat is actually good for your health! It contains almost 50% of “good” monounsaturated acids (olive oil contains almost 75% of those, and butter a bit more than 20%). Personally I like using duck fat in most fried and especially deep fried dishes. It doesn’t burn as easily as oil and gives a richer taste to the fried food.

“Confit de canard” is ridiculously easy to prepare (mind you, I didn’t say “quick”!), much better than the industrial one, and sometimes than the one you can have in a restaurant too! In theory it may even be canned at home for later use, but preserving meat without a special pressure cooker is very dangerous. The hot water bath method used for jams, pickles, sauces etc. is simply not safe enough. You may however prepare the confit and keep it covered in fat, in the fridge, for several weeks.

This is a slightly modified recipe from “Ripailles. Traditional French cuisine” by Stéphane Reynaud, an extraordinary and beautifully edited book containing hearty, country French, mostly meat and offal dishes.

Preparation: 3 hours+ 24 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 duck legs

around 1 litre of duck fat or half duck fat + half  oil for deep frying such as grape seed oil*

bay leaves


salt, pepper

(a couple of garlic cloves, not obligatory, but they go very will with duck)

a bottle of sturdy red wine, preferably from South-Western France, is a must (a good bottle of Portugese wine from Alentejo region will be very good too)

Rub the duck legs with a big handful of sea salt, a couple of teaspoons thyme, 4 crushed garlic cloves and some ground pepper (2- 3 teaspoons). Put into a closed container and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Rinse well the legs. Put into a saucepan together with fat, oil (if using), bay leaves, thyme, slightly crushed garlic cloves and simmer covered for around 3 hours, turning the meat delicately 2-3 times (unless it’s completely covered with fat, then the turning is not necessary).  When slightly pushed with a fork the flesh should come off the bone easily.

Either put the legs in a big jar/container, cover with fat and keep in the fridge for up to several weeks, or let the legs cool down and fry them, of course in its own fat (I like the skin and the lower, fleshy part, to be very crunchy).

Strain the cooled fat into a jar, cover it and put into the fridge for later use.

If you want to reduce the fat content, pat dry the legs with paper towels before serving.

I like serving confit with preferably small (or cut up if big) potatoes, cooked, and then fried – of course in duck fat – with thyme, pepper and salt, and of course a green salad with mustard vinaigrette.

*To make this recipe you need enough duck fat to cover et least up to 3/4 the cooked legs. In most countries duck’s fat is very expensive, so if you don’t want to buy it, there are two options. You buy a whole duck, cut it on your own, take away the fat and melt it, than you can add some deep frying oil (grape seed oil for example) to obtain the required amount. You can also cook the legs in oil, but the taste will not be as intensely “ducky”.  Whatever happens, never throw away the duck’s fat! It keeps very well for months in the fridge and can be strained and reused several times.