Idea Lab: Steamed Duck Confit?

Can you really leave behind all the fat??

5th Jan 2010 Nick Kindelsperger

idea lab duck confit
Welcome to the Idea Lab, where we explore topics before we head into the kitchen. We welcome your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, so please leave them in the comments!

Is duck confit a lie? According to Dr. Myhrvold, who runs Intellectual Ventures in Seattle, the technique is actually rather pointless.

...confit, the French technique of cooking slowly in fat, is supposed to impart a unique taste and texture as the fat penetrates the meat.

But Dr. Myhrvold said: “There’s no way [fat] could penetrate. The molecules are too big.” He said double-blind taste tests proved that the same tasty results could be achieved by steaming and then rubbing some of the fat on the outside.

- from the New York Times Article Scientist at Work

Dr. Myhrvold is actually claiming that steaming a leg of duck instead of poaching it gently in delicious duck fat will taste as good. Is that possible?

Confiting duck legs was originally done to store them for long periods of time, sealed under their cooking fat. But in the age of refrigeration, we do it because it tastes great. So actually, its original purpose is no longer valid.

I'm not a scientist, but I do love duck confit. I've made a few batches over the years. But I would surely make it far more often if I didn't have to purchase a tub of expensive duck fat to get it done. If this is true, then duck confit, or something that tastes an awful lot like it, might get a lot cheaper.

I'll be testing out this process in the kitchen shortly. Unless anyone out there can tell me why this is all wrong.


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