How to render animal fat

>>How do you render animal fat?<<

Sometimes I forget that many things I do that have become second nature to me need explanation!   Rendering fat is very, very easy, and it’s a frugal thing to do since most people tend to throw away the skin and fat; you can save money while simultaneously benefiting your health.

Take the fat of your choice (chicken, duck, beef), and cut it into chunks if it’s large.  It doesn’t need to be ground or minced, but if you have big pieces from beef, cutting it into 2 inch chunks will help it melt faster.  I don’t usually have any pieces big enough to cut.  You can separate any flesh from it, but I don’t bother since that’s more easily done at the end.  Put the chunks of fat into a pot on the very lowest flame/heat setting on your stovetop so that it will very slowly melt – if you put it too high, it will burn.  As the fat melts, it becomes clear.  Keep the pot covered to keep the heat in, and after a few hours (sometimes significantly less) on low, the fat will be totally liquified.  Be sure to take a look at it every once in a while to be sure it’s not cooking too fast.

Once it’s fully melted, you can do one of three things, depending on how you’re planning to use and store the fat once it’s rendered.  1) Carefully pour the liquified fat through a fine mesh strainer/cheesecloth to catch the little drippings.  This will give you the best result in terms of asthetics; additionally, by straining out all of the protein sediment, it will stay good for a very long time.  2) Use a slotted spoon to take the cracklings out, saving them to use in a savory dish.  3) Don’t bother straining it because you’ll be using the rendered fat in cooking (vs baking) and you don’t care about if there are a few little pieces. Whatever you choose, store it in a container with a tight fitting lid.

I tend to go with option 2 or 3, since I only use animal fat for sauteeing, not baking (coconut oil is my ‘go to’ fat for baking).  And I use it so quickly that it doesn’t matter to me if it will only stay good for a few weeks vs a few months.  If I’m doing a huge batch, though, I’ll take the extra few minutes to strain it out.

I also reserve the liquid that is left at the bottom of the pan after roasting poultry or meat.  When it’s refrigerated, it naturally separates, with the fat rising to the top and the gravy sinking to the bottom.  I scrape off the fat layer to saute with and add the congealed broth that is left to  a stew or casserole – it packs in a lot of flavor.  When I make broth and refrigerate it overnight, the fat will congeal on top.  If it’s a very concentrated pot of broth (ie large amount of bones to water), then I skim the fat or the broth tastes too greasy.  This is particularly important when I do lamb broth, since it tastes like drinking oil if you don’t skim it first.

Is anyone familiar with gribenes? My mother used to make these on Pesach (Passover).  Gribenes are a traditional Jewish food, the kind of things people now consider a heart attack waiting to happen, but if you know about saturated fats and why they’re so important to your body, you can enjoy them with a clear mind.  :)

Gribenes are basically just crispy fried chicken skins.  To make them, you take some unrendered fat and chicken skin (cut it in strips).  Chop up an onion, and put it together in the pot with the fat and chicken skins.  Keep the flame on low until the fat has melted, then turn it up to medium and keep cooking until the onions and skins are golden. Sprinkle with a little salt, and enjoy!  My kids like these hot from the pan as is, but it’s a nice addition to chopped liver or any mashed potato dish (on Pesach, you know that means you can put it into everything :lol:).

Note: kosher supermarkets sell chicken fat around Pesach (Passover) time, not so much the rest of the year.  Our local store sells schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) throughout the year, but it’s way more expensive than making your own (I haven’t checked for a long time, but I think it was over $5 lb).

(This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.)


(My apologies for mentioning Pesach when Purim is still over two weeks away; everyone who felt anxious at the mention can now stop hyperventilating. :))

10 thoughts on “How to render animal fat

  1. 2 suggestions: Add some water to the pot–lets the fat melt but doesn’t allow it to burn, & is easy to skim off later. And–if you have the capability, this is a great OUTDOOR cooking chore. A few years ago, we bought a turkey fryer. Aside from frying turkeys, it is great for other deep frying & for tasks such as this. Keeps the mess and grease fire danger OUTSIDE!

  2. I love gribenes. I always made it without onion but it sounds good like that. One question- you find you need to add salt? Using kashered chickens, i find the skins already have way too much salt and I find gribines salty, and would never be able to add any extra salt.
    Or were you writing that for people that aren’t using kashered chickens?

  3. Hi Avivah,

    I wonder if you are aware of a recipe resource that Jewish members of the Weston Price Foundation can utilize to prepare traditional Eastern European (Lithuania/Poland/Russia etc.) meals following the WPF principles?

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