Learn How To Make Duck Confit

Learn how to make delicious duck confit

You're going to need a lot of duck fat, friend.

That's the first thing to know if you want to master duck confit.

The rest comes down to a classic cooking technique that's been around for centuries. Way back when, the French used it as a two-step preservation method, but truth be told, confit has never gone out of style. Maybe it's because you can apply it to everything, from pork and chicken to fruit and vegetables. Or maybe it's just because it's delicious.

Here's how it works: You rub a piece of meat down with salt and let it sit overnight. Then you cook it in a bubbling bath of fat—at a lower temperature than deep-frying so the meat stays tender and juicy. When the meat is done, cover it with that cooking liquid and seal it tight, leaving no space for air (read: no room for bacterial growth, a big deal before refrigeration was an option).

For our confit primer, food editor Andy Baraghani stuck with traditional duck legs (see the recipe), adding a few very slight tweaks to infuse even more flavor (see the slideshow). When you're ready to serve the confit, simply roast the legs in the oven to get them all browned and crackly skinned.

There are two beautiful things about confit: One is that you'll have leftover duck fat, which you can save in the refrigerator and use to make things like sautéed greens even more flavorful. And secondly, those enrobed duck legs will keep for a month or so. Which means: gorgeously tender duck meat to put into stews like cassoulet, pile atop toasts or eat right off the leg, Medieval Times-style.

Just to be authentic and all.

Frenching the legs isn't necessary, but our food editor Andy Baraghani prefers it for his duck confit (see the recipe), for a cleaner presentation. Simply ask your butcher to do it, or see the note in our recipe.

Instead of plain old Kosher, our duck confit rests overnight in a boatload of juniper-infused salt. The salt will eventually be rinsed off, but you want to give it time to both kill any microorganisms before the preservation process and absorb into the meat for flavor.

Witness the duck legs cooking in their own fat. We threw some aromatics—thyme, lemon, bay leaves, garlic—in with the fat to infuse flavor.

After cooking, the legs are removed from the fat and the aromatics are discarded. The meat is then covered with the cooking liquid and sealed tight so that no air can penetrate the meat. They'll keep for up to one month.

Before serving, the legs should simply be roasted in a 400-degree oven, until the skin is crackly and browned. Here, they're served atop lightly dressed frisée—a classic combination.