Render Your Own Duck Fat

I use duck fat an awful lot. It makes the best hash browns, tastes better than butter for sautéing greens or green beans, and is of course incomparable for making confit. And while you can just buy pre-rendered duck fat from gourmet stores, it’s crazy expensive and you get no cracklins. If you ever eat duck, save the fat for rendering. If you don’t, save trimmed chicken fat in the freezer until you have enough to be worth rendering. Schmaltz is awesome.

This isn’t really a recipe so much as a lesson in patience. To start, you need a deep, wide saucepan. Mine is only wide, but that’s okay as long as you work slowly.

Start with about a pound of fat and skin. Chop the fat into about one-inch cubes and put it in your biggest saucepan. Chopping it up is easiest if the fat is still partially frozen, but still possible if it isn’t. Messy, but manageable.

Spread the fat into an even layer and pour 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water over it. The water keeps everything in the pan at the boiling point of water, which means none of the fat can burn before it’s all melted.

Turn the burner on to medium-high just until the water begins to simmer. I hope you brought a book into the kitchen, because this takes a while. Let the water gently boil, keeping an eye on it and stirring every now and then. After ten minutes enough fat will have melted and be failing miserably at mixing with the water to make everything look scummy. It gets better, I promise.

After 30 minutes there will be more liquid than solid in the pan and you can definitely see that there’s more fat than water in the liquid.

After 45 minutes the liquid is finally clear and golden.

You can see here that almost all of the water has boiled off. It’s just fat.

Keep boiling the fat–carefully! Those spatters hurt!–for another 15 minutes. That’s a total of one hour for those of you keeping track.

You want to do this because cracklins–fried brown crispy bits of duck skin–are amazing.

Use a slotted spoon to skim the cracklins out of the fat and drain them on paper towels. Pour the fat through a strainer into a GLASS OR CERAMIC bowl, cup, or ramekin. That’s in all caps because I melted a plastic bowl once by pouring approximately 370°F fat into it. Oops.

Toss the cracklins and some paprika and salt in a zip-top bag and shake it up.

These are tasty.

The fat is a rich golden liquid at room temperature.

It’s white and creamy, much the same texture as butter, once chilled.

Rendered fat keeps a few weeks in the fridge, or a few months in the freezer. Use it in just about any savory dish in place of butter.


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  1. #1 by Jereme's Kitchen on July 21, 2011 - 3:13 PM

    That is awesome! Too bad I never get the chance to get duck.

    • #2 by koshercorvid on July 21, 2011 - 3:37 PM

      Is there a Chinese grocery store in your area? The ones around here all stock duck at very reasonable prices. It’s impossible to find duck almost anywhere else in the area, though.

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