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Duck confit

Normally curing relies on large quantities of salt; any fat present in the meat aids the curing process and enhances the flavour of the finished product. Here, the balance is tipped in the opposite direction. A large quantity of fat is used first to slowly cook the meat, creating a unique succulent texture, then as a preservative, forming a protective seal that stops oxygen and light spoiling the meat. Salt is used too, but in the form of a very light cure that seasons more than it preserves. The preserved duck can be stored in the fridge for 6 months or more. When required, it is freed from its suspended animation in the solid fat, and given a quick, hot blast of cooking that crisps the skin. The best and most cost-effective way of making duck confit is to buy a whole duck. You can retrieve the fat from the carcass, then joint the bird, using the legs for confit. The breasts can be hot-smoked or dry-cured and the rest of the carcass can be roasted and used to make stock. There should be enough fat on the duck, when rendered down, to cover both legs. If you don t want to buy a whole bird or there isn t enough fat you can buy a carton of duck fat. Confit fat can be used several times until it becomes too salty.


If you are rendering the fat from a whole duck yourself, first pull all the fat away from the body, then joint the duck.

Put the fat into a heavy-based saucepan with about 50ml water and place over a very low heat.

Leave it, uncovered, for several hours until the fat has rendered down to a clear liquid.

Pass the liquid fat through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove any impurities.

Place the duck legs on a food-standard tray.

Mix together the ingredients for the cure. This recipe requires a significant quantity of salt, equivalent to covering both of the duck legs.

If you would like to store the legs in fat for anything more than a week, this amount will make the preservation more stable.

Cover the duck legs all over with the cure and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, wash off the cure and pat the duck legs thoroughly dry, using a clean tea towel.

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Gently heat the fat you are using in a stockpot until it is liquid.

Place the duck legs in the rendered fat, making sure they are completely covered. Put the stockpot over a medium heat on the hob.

As soon as the fat begins to simmer, transfer the stockpot to the low oven and leave the duck legs to confit slowly: they will take between 8 and 10 hours to cook.

When ready, they should be tender and submerged in clear fat.

If you intend to cook the duck legs within a week, keep them in the stockpot and allow the fat to cool and set in the fridge.

If you want to store the duck legs for longer, transfer them to a container such as a sterilised Kilner jar or earthenware pot.

Pour the warm, liquid fat from the stockpot over them so they are completely submerged.

Allow to cool, then cover with cling film before putting on the lid and refrigerating.

Light can turn the fat rancid, so wrap the jar in foil to block it out completely.

Leave the legs to mature for up to 6 months in the fridge.Their flavour will improve all the while.

To cook the legs, take the container from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for several hours to allow the fat to soften.

Preheat the oven to 200 C/Gas mark 6.

Remove the duck legs from the fat and place them in a roasting tin. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the skin is crisp.

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  • 1 large, whole duck, OR
  • 2 duck legs, about 200g each, plus 450g duck fat, lard or a mixture of both (see above)

For the cure:

  • About 200g PDV salt (to cover the duck legs liberally)
  • A few sprigs of thyme, lightly bruised (optional)
  • 20g black peppercorns, cracked (optional)


  • Food-standard tray

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook