Since pasture-raised chickens spend more time outside running around, the cooking method is VERY important to ensure a delicious final product.
This is hands down the best way to cook pastured poultry - tender and juicy meat guaranteed!
Do you feel like you easily overcook your chicken? Or you are sick of plain, dry chicken?
You should definitely try ‘confitting’ your chicken! What in the heck is confit?
Essentially, the confit cooking method involves covering your meat in fat and cooking it at a low temperature, as opposed to deep frying. Deep frying typically takes place around 350-350 F, confit is done much lower around 200 F.
The term itself (pronounced ‘kon-FEE’, so fancy) is derived from the French verb confire, which means to preserve. So, confit traditionally refers to any sort of preserved food and the confit method was originally created as a matter of necessity.
Now, confit is used simply because it tastes amazing.
So if meat is cooked in fat, how are the results so different than deep frying? Think low and slow (confit) versus fast dehydration (deep frying). After a deep fry, we get a crispy surface accomplished through dehydration. Water is expelled from surfaces rapidly due to evaporation from the high temps. The water quickly turns into steam, bubbling out of the oil. The high temperatures trigger the Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor).
During confit cooking, the fat temperature doesn’t rise much above 200-250 F, which is hoot enough to break down tough connective tissue, but not hot enough to boil water or cause too much evaporation. The meat cooks and tenderize without any moisture or flavor loss. For confit, the cooking times are on the scale of hours, while deep frying is accomplished in a few minutes.
So why do you cook it in fat? First, temperature regulation. This method is similar to what you accomplish using a sous vide. Second, the fat creates an environment that bacteria cannot thrive in, enabling preservation. And third, adds tenderness and incredible flavor!
Is the fat now inside the meat? Not really. The fat is largely a surface treatment for the muscles and connective tissue, and will not penetrate very far into the meat itself, which you will see when you cut into the final product.
While confit is typically used for duck and goose legs since the method originated in France, we wanted to try it out on a full chicken and it did NOT disappoint. This is easily our favorite way to prepare chicken now! Incredibly easy and we were left with a super soft and tender full chicken, ten times better than a grocery store Rotisserie Chicken.
1 full chicken, cut into breasts, and leg quarters, or the full chicken sliced in half
2 T kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 garlic cloves, smashed
4 bay leaves, broken into pieces
1 T thyme
1 lb, 13 oz Pork lard (can also use duck fat or chicken fat, if available)
Slice chicken in half
Lay the 2 halves of the chicken on a baking sheet, skin side up
Spread the kosher salt all over. Spread garlic cloves all over, and sprinkle on the 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 T thyme, and the bay leaves.
Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day preheat the oven to 250 F
Remove the chicken from the fridge. Remove the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme and place them at the bottom of a large pot (wide enough to place the full chicken halves) or dutch oven.
Rinse the chicken with cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.
Lay the chicken skin side down on top of the spices. Spread the pork lard evenly over the entire chicken.
Cover and bake for 3.5 to 4 hours, until the meat pulls away from the bone.
To serve, remove the chicken and heat under the broiler for 4-5 minutes to brown the skin.
If preserving, pick the meat from the bones and place in a container, cover the meat with the strained fat (it should be fully submerged with a ⅛-¼ inch layer of fat on top.. The chicken confit can be stored for apparently 1 month. We have not yet tried this!
Hope you enjoy! If you source anything from White Oak Pastures, you can use code "strongsistas" at checkout to help support us. Thank you!