The confit is a technique created in the in the Middle Ages in the southwest of France to preserve food.
In fact, confit comes from “confire”, which means ‘to preserve’.
This technique was very useful for its ability to store food for very long periods (almost a year), at a time in which the food, exposed to air, quickly suffered bacterial contamination.
This type of cooking is in fact carried out in a liquid inhospitable for bacteria, which can not proliferate.
Today this technique is no longer used as a method of preservation, because the refrigeration is a better alternative, but it is popular again thanks to the particular flavors and textures that it gives to foods.
How does it work?
The confit technique is based on a slow and prolonged cooking at a low and constant temperature: around 80 °C.
The main trait of this process is the use of fat heated at low-temperature to transmit the heat.
Fruits and vegetables are often subjected to this process, but also meat and fish.
The fat used in the confit process is either of animal origin (kidney fat, goose fat, pork lard; while the butter is preferred at temperatures below 80 ° C), or of vegetal origin (olive oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil)
The sugar-based confit cooking is generally used for fruit (the sugar at low concentrations creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth, while in larger quantities it blocks it); for meat is generally used its own fat; vinegar is used for other types of vegetables.
At the end of cooking, the product will be soft and it will be ready to be transferred to glass jars or airtight containers in the refrigerator.
The food at this point will have undergone several structural changes: muscles and connective tissues will be broken and the meat will be more tender.
So the consistency of the food will be extremely soft and it will melt in your mouth.
The change of food after this process is evident: the color, smell and taste change; the nutritional aspects also change, making the food more digestible.
So we can state that:
- at low temperature there are no stodgy macro-molecules (as opposed to frying, which tends to make foods heavy and more difficult to digest, due to its high temperature of 163 ° C / 232 ° C).
- Vitamins and some essential amino acids, remain largely in the food.
Frying and Confit
As explained above, the confit process involves dipping and cooking food in fat; thus we should expect to obtain a fat food, similar to the ones obtained with the frying process.
Yet it is not so!
By frying, the food takes on a crispy texture because of dehydration. In fact, the high temperature forces the water to evaporate quickly from the surface of the food.
Meanwhile, the high heat triggers the Maillard reaction (a series of chemical reactions which develop new flavors and give to the food the typical golden brown crust).
The cooking time amounts on a few minutes, and as soon as the food is cooked, it is immediately served.
The confit technique is completely different and it needs much lower temperatures.
The fats are poured over the food before cooking it at a temperature of about 80 ° C (this is as average temperature, which can change, depending on the kind of food).
Despite the heat is not very high, the temperature will be high enough to break the tough connective tissue, but not so high to cause boiling of the water and its evaporation.
The food will be cooked and softened without any loss of moisture or flavor.
The cooking times settle on a few hours rather than a few minutes as in the case of frying.
The confit process is therefore ideal for all foods which lend themselves to slow cooking at low temperature.
When used on vegetables, the confit technique will generate the same results: high tenderizing and intense flavors.
In this case the process will require less time. Garlic, onion and the like are perfect for a confit sauce and take about an hour to be prepared.
Is this preparation healthy for us?
As already said, it is a common mistake to consider the confit food a fat meal.
The fact that the food is immersed in fat does not mean that the fat goes into the inner part.
In fact, fat is used as a surface treatment of muscles. It is true that a thin layer of fat covers the surface of food and that is able to move through the larger muscle groups, but it never penetrate very deeply.
This is easily verified by cutting food near a large muscle group and checking the inside: the appearance resembles any other slow-cooked meat such as braised or steaming.
Here are two examples of confit cooking, through which you can check out what we have discovered about this wonderful technique.
Confit garlic – used whole or blended once cold
Ingredients: clean garlic and extra virgin olive oil
After cleaning as many cloves of garlic as you want, put them in a glass jar and cover them with olive oil. Then cook it in a bain-marie for 45 minutes at 75 ° C approx.
Garlic will tend to have a reddish and soft appearance, while the flavor will decreased a bit, remaining still recognizable and developing a sweet taste of toasted nuts.
Keep everything in glass jars in a refrigerator.
Serve with some salt and a little bit of oil.
Lobster and cold pineapple and curry sauce
Ingredients: lobster, peanut oil
Take away the head and claws, add peanut oil to the point untill the lobster is fully covered.
Cook for 5 minutes at 72 ° C (adjust the temperature according to the desired cooking).
cold sauce of pineapple and curry
Ingredients: pineapple cubes, coconut milk, curry, salt and pepper
Marinate pineapple in coconut milk flavored with curry for at least 25-30 minutes, adjusting with salt and pepper.
Serve the lobster with pineapple sauce.
As we said before, the confit process is very delicate, slow and long; it is therefore necessary to pay close attention to the cooking time and temperature, in order to achieve the desired results.
It is a very old technique and of course special equipment are not required. Today we do not use it to store but to obtain unique flavors and textures .
To get the best result you have to keep temperature and cooking time under tight control.
If you think that controlling the temperature and the time is uncomfortable, please remember that HotmixPRO, with its innovative Wait Temperatures function will allow you to make the confit process even more efficient and simple. Times and cooking temperature will always be under control, error-free and without the inconvenience of requiring your constant presence.
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