Confit is the quintessentially classic French technique historically used to preserve slow-cooked meats, usually cured in salt and then bathed in fat. As well as preserving, confit creates the bonus of tender and juicy meat.
However, using the sous vide method for duck confit, the curing process isn’t essential (I tried a 6-hour cure in a vacuum-sealed bag, and there was not much difference in flavor or texture). I tried different variations of temperatures and time length: the eight-hour bath at 170F worked, but the meat, although perfectly tasty, had a toughness compared to slow-cooking for longer at a lower temperature.
The twelve-hour water bath at 155F worked perfectly well, although there was a significant difference compared to twenty-four hours. Some even recommend thirty six-hours, but who has the patience to wait to eat duck confit for that long? (not me!). Twelve hours is the way to go for the quickest time andthe best results.
You also need much less fat (about 1 tablespoon per duck leg) than you would typically use in the traditional process; the fat on the duck leg will render and create its own pool of fat to bathe in. I also tested without any fat, but it was not as tender or juicy. If you don’t have duck fat, olive oil will do the trick. Or you can create your own duck fat by cutting off excess skin into 1-inch pieces, transfer to a small saucepan, add two tablespoons of water, and cook on medium-low for 45 minutes, occasionally stirring to prevent sticking; it will turn a pale amber hue. Then drain through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl, and allow to cool.
Pro tip: After draining through the strainer, don’t throw the duck skin away; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt, and you have an instant decadent snack!
Once the duck legs are cooked, do not throw the liquid away in the bag, strain it into a bowl, and allow to cool. The solid fat on the top can be skimmed off and used again (think duck fat potato wedges!) and will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of weeks (some say six months!), or the freezer for six to nine months. The drippings underneath the solid fat (which will look like jelly) can be used to make a delicious sauce base. My mom used to spread it on toast, along with a touch of the fat! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Temperature and cooking times for duck
|Immersion Circulator||155°F||12 to 24 hours|
You can do many things with duck confit: pick the juicy meat off the bone to make unctuous pasta fillings, use the meat to toss into a zesty Asian-style salad with yuzu, soy, ginger, and scallions, use the leg to make the classic French dish of Cassoulet, or as we’ve done here, you can finish it off in a searing hot skillet to crisp up the skin, and you could serve alongside a fruity compote or a bacon jam for that perfect fat-sweet balance.
You can refrigerate any cooked leftover duck in an airtight container or freezer-safe resealable bag for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or 2 to 3 months in the freezer.
|Serves||Active Time||Preheat Time||Cook Time|
|2||10 minutes||15 minutes||12 to 24 hours|
Ingredients and Tools
- Suvie or immersion circulator
- Large pot or sturdy container (if using an immersion circulator)
- Vacuum sealer bags or freezer-safe resealable bags
- Cast-iron skillet
- Tongs or fish spatula
- 2 duck legs
- 4 large sprigs fresh thyme, divided
- 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp duck fat (or olive oil)
- 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1) If you’re using a sous vide immersion circulator, pre-heat your water bath to 155F.
2) Pick the thyme leaves from 2 of the sprigs, transfer to a small bowl. Add 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp orange zest, and 2 tsp garlic powder; stir to combine.
3) Pat duck legs dry and divide salt mixture between duck legs, rubbing all over. Transfer legs to vacuum bags, along with 1 tbsp duck fat, 1 tsp peppercorns, and 1 sprig thyme per leg (if you are separating them), and seal. If you’re using a resealable bag, use the water displacement method to seal.
4) Lower the bag into the heated water bath and cook for 12 to 24 hours.
If you are using your Suvie, place the bag into a Suvie pan and cover entirely with water. Insert pan into the bottom of your Suvie and input the following settings.
Suvie Cook Settings
Bottom Zone: Sous Vide at 175°F for 3 hours
5) Once the cook is finished, remove the bag from your Suvie or water bath, reserving the liquid if you wish to save the fat and drippings. Pat duck leg dry with a paper towel. Discard thyme sprigs.
6) To pan sear, heat a well-seasoned medium cast-iron skillet over high heat. Once skillet begins to smoke, place the duck legs skin side down and cook without moving for 2 minutes until a crust has formed. Flip over for 15 seconds. Depending on how big your duck legs are, you may need to cook one at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan.
Duck Breast with Toasted Farro, Shaved Fennel, Arugula and Grapefruit Salad
Sous Vide Duck
Are the cooking temperatures safe?
Our recommended cooking temperatures for Sous vide and Suvie are lower than what the USDA recommends. However, cooking times and temperatures are long enough and high enough for “pasteurization” to make your food safe. The USDA recommendations indicate the temperature needed to instantly kill food pathogens. By cooking for a longer time at a lower temperature, we are able to achieve the same effect. However, high-risk populations should use extra caution when preparing foods below the USDA recommended temperatures.
Can I use any type of plastic bag?
You can, however, make sure that they are made from polyethylene. Some branded bags are made using polyethylene, a BPA and dioxin-free plastic that can safely handle sous vide cooking temperatures up to 190°F. Some generic branded plastic bags are made using cheaper polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which cannot handle high temps and contains chemicals that can leach into food.
Is it safe to cook duck below 165°F?
The USFDA recommends cooking duck to an internal temperature of 165°F. Foodborne bacteria will be killed almost immediately at this temperature which makes it the safest. However, duck cooked to lower temperatures for more extended periods are just as safe.
I forgot to defrost my duck; what now?
No problem! You can sous vide duck directly from frozen. Just add 1 hour to the cooking time.
Can I cool my duck after the sous vide process and sear it later?
For food safety and general food quality reasons, we don’t recommend it. Duck should be seared and eaten soon after the sous vide step unless it’s immediately plunged into an ice water bath.
Can I leave my duck in the water bath indefinitely?
You can, but you shouldn’t for more than 36 hours. While leaving duckin sous vide for extended periods won’t result in overcooking, it will have a negative effect on the overall texture of the meat.