How to Render Fat

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About: Hi, I'm Éva from Hungary. I love baking, cooking, and gardening, not to mention the perfect combination: cooking using fruits and veggies from our garden. I often experiment with new ingredients and try to u...

I remember when I was a kid there was a campaign against the consumption of animal fat (including butter) in favor of margarine. Then it turned out that margarine contains hydrogenated oil, so we should just forget about it.

And this was not the only U-turn I experienced regarding what’s healthy and what’s not.

I try to stick to natural products (I know toadstool is also natural :-)) so I vote for butter and occasionally, other fats. Now I am going to show you the simple way of rendering fats at home. Duck fat in this case as it is the key ingredient of - the starting point so to say - one of my favorite meat prep method. Can’t wait to get there.

Before we start I would like to assure you that you don’t have to be afraid of using fats. I am not saying that you should eat loads of it, but it is definitely useful. If you are interested in the details you can check out Health Benefits of a Low-Carbohydrate, High-Saturated Fat Diet by Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD.

Step 1: You Will Need

I bought roughly one kilo duck fat with the skin on, it came in about 25-30 pieces some had bits of meat on but that's no problem. You need a sharp knife, a cutting board,a saucepan,a slotted spoon, a wooden spoon, jars, a tweezer.

Step 2: Prepping

Wash your fatty bits in cold water, clean them by removing any small feathers left there by accident and cut them into small pieces with a sharp knife.

Step 3: Cooking

Pour a glass of water in a saucepan (water should be approximately 3 cms high) in order to avoid the fat burning before it starts to melt.

Add the fat and start cooking at medium heat.

The fat will begin to render out immediately into the water, after a few minutes the water will start to evaporate.

Once it boils, drop the temperature to low. The fat will be yellow and milky.

Step 4: Ready

About 30 to 45 minutes later, the fat will turn clear, the fat bits will be crispy and golden brown. Now you’re ready.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Remove the fried bits of duck fat. Press them slightly between two spoons and put them on a paper towel. It is a lovely crispy snack with a little salt sprinkled on top.

Set up a strainer over another pan container and pour the contents of the first pan.

All the impurities will stay with the strainer. When the fat is done dripping, pour the liquid into a jar cover it and keep it in the fridge. You may use it for at least half a year, or you might as well store it in the freezer cut into cubes of your choice, for ever, practically.

Once you have your fat, use it to cook with. It’s great with potatoes, deep fried stuff, fried eggs, and it is indispensable when making duck confit. The best thing ever that could happen to duck legs.

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    17 Discussions

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    etmilosk

    2 months ago

    I come from a country (Bosnia) where we do this every winter, for hundreds of years. The surrounding countries also do it. A typical household will produce anywhere from 20-50 kilos of lard annually. We use lard for almost every cooking, we almost never use cooking oil. And lard is very healthy for you, whereas the average cooking oil (sunflower seed, rapeseed, canola) is not. The process starts the same, but we add milk instead of water, try it. When you add milk (you add it in the middle of the process), it will start to foam a lot while boiling, but the foam will soon fade and go away, just keep stirring. The milk makes the resulting ''čvarci'' darker and tastier. You add approximately 0.1 l of milk per 10 kilos of fat. After the fat has melted, we take out the remaining pieces of fat and meat and press them in a manual press, so we get much more fat out of them. What remains after the pressing is then salted to taste and left to cool down, and is later eaten. It's a very delicious and healthy ''snack'' (we usually eat it with bread, some cottage cheese and onions, you can't get enough of it). This product is called čvarci. Here are two videos showing the process:




    As for all the fat that has been melted and pressed out of ''čvarci'', we pour it into metal buckets (containers, deep dishes, whatever you prefer) through a clean cotton gauze which acts like a filter, to filter out the small particles of meat and other unmeltable debris. The buckets in which the lard is kept need to be non-transparent, to keep it away from sunlight. The lard is then left to cool down, it solidifies and takes white colour. You can judge the quality and pureness of lard by the colour, the purest lard is very white (not printing paper white, but almost as white). You can also judge it by the smell once you heat it, an impure lard will have a smell of frying (like you already started to fry something in it). The solidified lard is then kept at a cool place (no need to keep it in the fridge), and is then used for almost anything. We don't use it for classic cake recipes, or for deep frying, but we do for everything else.

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    discostu956

    2 months ago

    That's great, thanks for sharing. Always wondered how it was done but never took the time to look. I remember reading about pimmecan (probably spelt wrong) and the fat was meant to not go bad/rancid in that after being rendered. Is that always the case, and you're just being careful storing it in the fridge?

    6 replies
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    Momos75discostu956

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks for commenting I never heard about pemmican before, I had to google it :-). In fact, one jar that I regularly use for cooking - instead of vegetable oil - is sitting on the countertop. And I remember that my grandma used to keep the weasel with the meat covered with lard in the pantry, that was a cool place but certainly not a fridge. So I guess you are right, the main reason is that I am used to putting food in the fridge.

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    JimF93Momos75

    Reply 2 months ago

    Once you get pure or mostly pure oil, it keeps a LONG time. What goes rancid is NOT the oil (well it does go rancid, but it takes a LONG time). The part that goes bad is what you see in picture #4 above. It is the cracklings (what I call them). The raw fat is only about 60-85% oil (depends on the quality of the fat). The other parts are facia (connective tissue), some muscle, some blood/vessels, etc. Those items are NOT oil, and those items easily 'rot' and turn the fat rancid. Once that is removed in the rendering process, the remaining much more pure oil does not easily spoil, and can last a long, long time. Pemmican is an ancient 'energy bar', very long lasting, loads of energy in it (per size and weight), and is well preserved. Fantastic hiking food.

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    discostu956JimF93

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks for the replies all. I've taken to storing our butter on the bench/counter. Lasts for ages before an issue and it's nice and soft therefore. Only with salted butter though

    I thought similar to you Jim in that the impurities in it are what would give it a particular taste. To get those impurities out is then the process that you mentioned in your other comment about soap making I take it?

    I seen to always be considering food preservation

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    JimF93discostu956

    Reply 2 months ago

    > To get those impurities out is then the process that you mentioned in your other comment about soap making I take it?

    Yes that is correct. with the method momos has shown here, we have removed a very large percentage of this 'extra' material (call it impurities, or simply call it non-oil parts of the raw fat). The part(s) that must be removed for food preservation, are pretty much anything which is water based. When that is removed, the non-oil tissues and micro water droplets, the clear oil produced is well preserved, and does last a long time (up to a year or more in fridge?)

    Soap making is a whole different line of processing, and I do not want to continue forward discussing it on this ibble, since it's not on topic.

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    jannie.lloyddiscostu956

    Reply 2 months ago

    discostu956. I use this method for rendering all my fats. Normally I get more than 1 x 1 kilo jar's worth of fat at a time. I seal the jars in a hot water bath and store in a cool, dark(ish) place. Once open I try to remember to put the jar in the fridge but don't always manage it. I have found that, as long as the fat is kept reasonably cool, it will keep for ages (if it lasts that long) but will go rancid if it gets too warm. Hope this helps.

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    JimF93

    2 months ago

    Fantastic Instructable! Very simple and VERY easy to follow. Thank you.

    I have been rendering for many years, for soap making mostly, and perform multiple 'wash' renderings to get as pure of a fat/oil product as possible. I am not sure it would be needed (or even wanted) for cooking fats, as some of the impurities may actually be wanted within the realm of cooking, for flavors, and other properties imparted.

    I could list those additional instructions (IF there is a large enough want for it), but those instructions make the process more complex, MUCH more time consuming, and like stated, they may actually not be desired for cooking fats, as long as the cooking fats are consumed while still fresh.

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    Momos75JimF93

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks.
    It could be interesting to read about it, but I like to keep it simple. As you said, it’s good for cooking purposes this way. At the same time, I absolutely appreciate going as far as making soap, I’d never have the patience.

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    JimF93Momos75

    Reply 2 months ago

    I do agree, thats why I asked. Your method in this ibble, is very straight forward, and anyone can be successful, and produce very good, healthy (and tasty) cooking oil/grease. I did not want to hijack this very well written and easy to follow set of instructions, when it was likely not needed for the intended usage.

    I have not tried this 'low' of water method. I assume that running half hour on low heat removes all water, and thus the oil clears. I will try this method and produce some 'edible' animal oils. Looks like from start to end is an hour and a half (or so). Very easy and low on time requirements. Would be a fun thing to do with the grandkids after an early dinner on some evening, then pop up a pan of popcorn with them using THE oil we just made :)