Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide at home – Confit duck legs – Multiple tries

by on Apr.07, 2010, under Recipes, Time and Accurate Temperature

Today I wanted to experiment confit duck legs. The idea came to my mind while reading Casqu8′s blog who cooked some weeks ago a couple of confit duck legs.

I copied Casqu8 recipe consisting in curing the meat with salt, thyme and bay leaf. I vaccum sealed the pouch and stored it in the fridge for 24 hours.

I rinced the legs with clear water and took care taking off the thyme and bay leaves. No need to leave them in the pouch, otherwise the final flavour of these aromats will be too strong!

Then I vaccumed sealed the duck leg with some duck fat (3 tablespoons) I purchased in a supermark (300 gr cost EUR 4).

In my first try I cooked sous vide the duck leg at 80°C during 9 hours with my immersion circulator.

I have not be satisfied with the final result. The confit duck legs were to dry in my opinion. Casque8 recommended me setting my immersion circulator at 75°C instead of 80, raising the cooking time to 20 hours and adding more duck fat (I have added 150 g per leg). The result was much better and I liked that confit duck leg very much.
I also tried 75°C during 24 hours with the same amount of duck fat. I had the feeling the additional 4 hours have not improved the texture of the meat. In my opinion the 20 hours duck legs cooked sous vide were far better.

Don’t forget to sear the legs both sides in a hot pan in order to obtain a crispy appearance, 20 to 30 secondes are enough.

Bon appétit!

Jean-François

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8 Comments for this entry


  • my best result has been following Baldwin’s recipe pretty much to the letter: 24h in a 5% salt brine (to make up for loss of moistness during cookery) followed by 12-20h at 80ºc (have tried lots of temps but this one yields better collagen breakdown) and then deep-fry at 160-190 for 30secs to get extra crispiness. I don’t actually use duck fat in the pouch, I find it unecessary.

  • Jean-François

    Zé,

    Thanks for your feed back. I’ll try the brine next time. But the try I did at 80°C was not really great. Do you think the brine will change something? FYI I cured the duck leg with casher salt for 24 hours and it didn’t change anything.

    Jean-François


  • The brine will definitely make the meat juicier. I’d say that the 9 hours you gave the 80º leg might not have been enough, but that’s really overstepping my experience, I’ve never cooked confit less than some 14 hours. I’ve done most of my confit at about 70º and though the meat turns out just fine, the bones don’t separate completely and the tendons don’t ‘melt’ like they do at 80º, so that’s where it’s at for me. But the biggest revelation for me was the post sous-vide deep-frying, you get two times as much crispy skin and none of those skin-burning grease splatter bombs that burst randomly out of the leg when you pan-fry.

  • Jason

    Zé,

    How can you make a confit without fat?

    Jason


  • I don’t really care if you want to call it a confit or not, but the cooking process doesn’t change in the least by putting some extra fat in. The duck leg itself renders a tupperware full of fat while cooking, way more than enough.

    Really, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of the fat is, just like with any other ingredient when cooking: in traditional confit it’s a convenient heat transfer medium, a preservation tool, and a way to not fuck with the duck flavor while cooking and storing. When you don’t actually need any of those functions it just becomes irrelevant, if not an expensive nuisance.

  • Chris

    We’ve been cooking duck confit for years now, originally using the traditional salt, thyme, garlic, juniper, bay, pepper cure (24 to 48 hours in the fridge) and cooking in a pan of goose fat. I then moved to the same cure before gently roasting in the oven which produced more consistent results. I finally moved to Sous Vide when the tech became available in my kitchen.

    I thought the following observations would help,
    • I’ve always used 80oC for 8 to 12 hours and have never felt the need to experiment with different temperatures.
    • At 8 hours the texture is very good and lends itself to crisping the skin in a fry or griddle pan or on the BBQ as there is less danger of the leg falling apart.
    • At 12 hours there is a danger whole lot just falling apart when you take it from the pouch so it is great if you want to just use the nuggets of flesh for some other presentation – try transglutaminase to make up skinless sausages of duck confit which can be sliced and coloured for service.
    • When w moved to Sous Vide we started off curing the duck in the traditional manner outlined above, then tried brine (as per Douglas Baldwin) which did improve the succulence. In both cases we rinsed and dried the legs before packing with a tablespoon of cold goose fat before cooking.
    • Recently we have started chucking the thyme, juniper, garlic, bay, pepper corns and a generous seasoning of salt along with a tablespoon of cold goose fat in the pouch before sealing and resting in the fridge over night. We then cook the whole lot as above. We think this results in the best flavour and texture. The only down side being that you get bits of herb sticking to the leg which need to be flicked off before finishing.

    Cheers!

    Chris

  • kyrill

    hi
    I am not French and thus don’t have a history based passion for confit duck legs. The confit you can buy in cans or glass full of solid white fat taste …”just acceptable” maybe promising? I w a n t to like them as I like any duck out of the oven. I am so fond of duck and goose. Anyway just got my sous vide surpreme and want to try yr recipe and experiment with time and temperatures. Yr approach seems so effective, but my question is does it not taste too salty?
    You do say : “a generous seasoning of salt”. Also Baldwins logic for the brine makes sense instead of the old logic to use salt for better preservation ( they didn’t know back then the existence of bacterias but must have found out that salting preserves food for unknown reasons

  • Jean Francois

    Hi Kyrill,

    If you rince properly the duck legs you will have no salty feelings. I have tested several time the duck confit sous vide and my conclusion is that there is no need to immerse totally the duck in the fat. This is useless to put a lots of fat when cooking sous vide.

    JF

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