Confit (French, pronounced [kɔ̃fi] or in English "con-fee") is a cooking term for when food is cooked in grease, oil or sugar water (syrup), at a lower temperature than deep frying. While deep frying typically takes place at temperatures between 325 (163°C) and 450°F (232°C), confit preparations are done much lower—an oil temperature of around 200°F (93°C), sometimes even cooler.
Although the term is usually used in modern cuisine to mean long slow cooking in oil or fat, the term "confit" means "preserved". In meat cooking this requires the meat to be salted as part of the preservation process. After salting and cooking in the fat, sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, confit can last for several months or years. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a specialty of southwestern France.
In modern cooking many dishes slow cooked in oil at low temperature (e.g. Confit potatoes) have no element of preservation.
The word comes from the French verb confire (to prepare), which in turn comes from the Latin word (conficere), meaning "to do, to produce, to make, to prepare". The French verb was first applied in medieval times to fruits cooked and preserved in sugar.
Fruit confit are candied fruit (whole fruit, or pieces thereof) preserved in sugar. The fruit must be fully infused with sugar, to its core; larger fruit take considerably longer than smaller ones to candy. Thus, while small fruit such as cherries are confits whole, it is quite rare to see whole large fruit, such as melon confits, making large fruit confits quite expensive.
Confit of goose (confit d'oie) and duck (confit de canard) are usually prepared from the legs of the bird. The meat is salted and seasoned with herbs, and slowly cooked submerged in its own rendered fat (never to exceed 85 °C/185 °F), in which it is then preserved by allowing it to cool and storing it in the fat. Turkey and pork may be treated in the same manner. Meat confit is a specialty of the southwest of France (Toulouse, Dordogne, etc.) and is used in dishes such as cassoulet. Confit preparations originated as a means of preserving meat without refrigeration.
In a restaurant context, confit is seldom served without further preparation. Whole confit leg is baked to crisp the skin or added to a casserole type dish. Confit duck leg is used to make rillette.
Traditional meat for confit include both waterfowl such as goose and duck, and pork. Duck gizzards are also commonly cooked in the confit method. Varying forms of this delicacy thrive throughout southern France.
Confit country is divided roughly into regions where one type of meat predominates the confit preparations. Goose confit is associated with the Béarn and Basque regions with their classic specialties of cassoulet and garbure, hearty and earthy dishes of confit and beans. Saintonge and Brantôme feature duck confit, often with potatoes and truffles.
Non-waterfowl meats are frequently treated to the confit process, but they are not classically considered true confits. The French refer only to duck and goose confits as true confits; other meats poached in duck or goose fat are considered en confit ("in confit"). For example, chicken cooked in goose fat is called poulet en confit. Pork is often confit and shredded to create rillettes.
Italian cooking uses a number of "condiment confits", such as onion confit, chili confit and garlic confit.
- Plummer, Paul. Sensual Preservation: The Art of Confit.
- Larousse gastronomique: the encyclopedia of food, wine & cookery, Ed. Charlotte Turgeon and Nina Froud. New York, Crown Publishers, 1961. The English translation of the 1938 edition. ISBN 0-517-50333-6
- James, Kenneth. Escoffier: The King of Chefs. Hambledon and London: Cambridge University Press, 2002.