Make chicken confit at home? No way in hell, man! Or at least – until yesterday.
Now, I’ve seen chicken or duck confit in restaurant menus a number of times, in particular fancy restaurants. The price tag is usually hefty, which gave me the impression it must be super delicious AND super difficult to make.
The former IS true, but not the latter.
How is chicken confit different from roast chicken?
The ingredients are pretty similar. From outside appearances, chicken confit looks exactly like roast chicken, and yes it has the same crispy skin. But under the skin lies a world of the difference: the meat retains much more moisture and because of this it’s unbelievably fall off bone tender. Because it’s been cooked slowly in the herb-and-spice flavoured oil for so long, the chicken acts as a sponge and absorbs their flavours as well. Unless you’re a vampire, adding garlic is a must. In the oil, it becomes meltingly soft, creamy and sweet … omg, my mouth is watering even at the memory.
Think roast chicken, but 100x more delicious.
The key lies in how the chicken is cooked.
Confit is a method of cooking food in which the meat is submerged in an oil or fat bath at a low temperature of no more than 130 C. For comparison, baking or roasting typically takes place at temperatures above 180 C and dries out the meat. By cooking meat at such a low temperature, the loss of fluids from meat is minimised and results in succulent, juicy meat that’s incredibly rich in flavour. Read more about the science of confit cooking here.
You can eat the chicken as it is when you take it out of the oven, but the skin will be meltingly soft instead of crispy. So what people do is to take the chicken out of the oil, then sear it over a frying pan until the skin is crispy. Think Peking duck crispy.
The best part? Making chicken confit is so EASY.
You literally just assemble everything in an oven-safe dish, cover it with oil and then pop it in the oven and let it do its thing while you go do your nails, wash your hair, or even watch a Netflix movie.
Just like there are many ways to skin a cat, there are variations on chicken confit. Here are some tips:
— Add whatever aromatics and spices you like to flavour the oil. Most recipes call for Italian herbs and garlic is a must.
— Add vegetables to the dish. Try carrots, mild peppers, or even potatoes. Voila, you have a one-pot meal 🙂
— Use a large enough baking tray so that you have enough room to tuck those additional vegetables etc.
— Of course the authentic recipes use duck fat or chicken fat, but I used a mix of rice bran oil and olive oil as that’s what I had. It turned out fine.
— What to do with all that oil? Just strain and reuse to saute vegetables, toss salads, etc.
Lastly, let me address an “issue” which worried me but never came up. I was terrified that the oil would bubble and splash all over my oven, but that never happened because I cooked the dish at 130 C, which is too low to evoke that kind of explosive reaction. So folks, don’t worry.
- Oven-safe dish, oven
- 2 chicken legs
- Dry or fresh Italian herbs of your choice
- 1 carrot, quartered
- 1 bulb garlic, cut in half
- Salt & black pepper
- Enough oil to cover chicken halfway
- Preheat oven to 125 deg C.
- Make cuts in chicken so that it can absorb more flavours. Rub salt and pepper into chicken.
- Place chicken legs in a oven-proof dish.
- Tuck carrots, herbs and garlic in the nooks.
- Pour enough oil until it covers chicken HALFWAY. A lot of recipes call for you to fully cover the chicken, but I didn't have the heart to use so much oil, and my chicken turned out ok.
- Cook in oven for 1.5-2 hours. Remove chicken and vegetables from the oil.
- Press the chicken meat from the side so that it detaches from the bone, in order to get a "flatter" piece of meat and bone, meaning all the skin is now mostly on one side.
- Now, in a saucepan, add back 2 tbs of the confit oil and heat to medium high. Fry the chicken legs, skin side down, for a few minutes until the skin turns golden brown and crispy.