The usual method of making duck confit is time consuming and messy and the results of all that work weren’t impressive enough to motivate me more than every couple of years. But once I learned that I could make a delectable confit in my Instant Pot on the sous-vide setting, I became unstoppable.
Confit is just the French name for any kind of preserve. One of the tastiest ways to conserve meat is to slow-cook it in fat, which seals in all the moisture and forms a barrier to protect the meat from bacteria. Traditional duck confit requires quite a lot of duck (or chicken) fat, which can be hard to get. But you can make confit in the sous-vide with much less fat because the bags are vacuum sealed and the fat can’t spread out, like it does in a pan.
Sous-vide duck confit is a “set it and forget it” dish. You can put your duck in the vacuum sealer bag, add about a ½ cup of fat per 4 leg quarters (cold or room temperature), season it as you like, set the cooker for 75C, and set the time for at least 12 and up to 24 hours.
I can buy bone-in duck legs by the tray at my local wholesale market (Costco is an equivalent, if you’re in the U.S.). I prefer trays of the thighs if I can get them, but it doesn’t matter if you have drumsticks or whole leg quarters. It’ll all taste delicious. Because duck fat is harder to come by, I often supplement the skin of the leg with my homemade Schmaltz, but you can use butter or ghee and it’ll taste just as good. (Avoid pork or beef lard because it will flavor the duck.) My 7.6 liter Instant Pot can handle about 9-10 leg quarters, separated into 3 bags. Often I make up more bags than I can cook at once and hold them in the freezer until I’m ready to put them in the Instant Pot. If I have a “sous-vide week,” I might make 5-6 kilos of confit and then label them carefully (with the spice combination) and put them in my downstairs freezer. I either let them defrost of the counter or I toss them in the sous-vide at 75C and let them warm up again before using.
Classic French recipes call for seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme, and that’s tasty, but it’s not the only options, by far. You can try any number of spice mixtures, but do it with an easy hand because spices permeate the meat and taste much stronger when you cook sous-vide than when you make a traditional sous vide. Depending what recipe I think I will want to make with the confit, I’ve tried various spice combinations, including a whole range of Mexican spices (a tiny pinch of powdered chipotle goes a long way, as does a single grind of cumin), 5-spice powder, Palestinian 9-spice powder, za’atar, ras al hanout, and others. Garlic is particularly potent, so I suggest using only 1 clove per 3-4 leg quarters, or just a pinch of garlic powder.
Not Your Typical Sous-Vide Duck Confit
- 1 sous-vide cooker (Instant Pot, or a sous-vide stick)
- 1 vacuum sealer (a dry sealer is fine for this, since you don't need wet ingredients)
- 12 duck legs (or 24 drumsticks or thighs)
- 1.5 cups fat (duck, chicken, butter, or ghee)
- 1.5 teaspoons seasoning (your favorite spice combination)
- Preheat the sous-vide cooker or Instant Post to 75C.
- Rinse the duck legs to get any slime off them and pat dry with paper towels.
- Divide the duck legs into vacuum bags. How many you can fit in a bag (and then in a sous-vide cooker) will depend on your equipment. You don't want to pack your sous-vide cooker to full. There should be room for the water to circulate between, over, and under the bags. I cook 3 bags of 3 leg quarters each in my 7.6 liter Instant Pot. YMMV. Don't seal the bags yet!
- Divide the fat among the bags of duck. Season the duck with the spice mix of your choice, but use a light hand, especially with garlic powder. (A little spice goes a long way in sous-vide cooking.) Vacuum seal the bag.
- Place the bags in the pot, using a wire rack to prevent them from touching the bottom and sides, if you have one. I place another wire rack (the egg cooker) on top of the bags in the Instant pot, and then cover that with the lid to keep the bags immersed. Leave for at least 12 hours, and up to 24.
- Remove the bags and plunge into an ice water or ice bath, and then store in refrigerator or freezer when cool.
- If you want to serve the confit on the bone, open the bag and remove the legs (reserve the juice and fat in a jar). You can fry up the legs to crisp the duck skin and then serve. I usually want to use the confit in other recipes, so I remove the meat from the bone before serving.