Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rendering Chicken Fat

I know, I know, some of  you will cringe at the thought that I actually serve my family food specifically cooked with rendered chicken fat, but as blasphemous as it sounds, as the daughter of a cardiologist I'm still a fan of the Weston Price Foundation's traditional foods diet.
I believe that the less processed a food is, and the longer our ancestors have been eating it, the healthier it is. (And yes, there has been scientific research backing up that claim.) Chicken fat and other animal fats have been around much longer than other, more frequently used oils; I feel 1000 times better serving my family something cooked with chicken fat than made with canola or soy oil.

Rendering chicken fat is a fairly simple and easy process. I love using rendered chicken fat because of a- the health reasons, b- the price (free or very cheap!) and c- the taste! I love that food cooked with chicken fat is so saturated with flavors that no artificial flavorings and chemicals need to be added to the food.
(You can also render fat from any animals. Beef, lamb, and pork are but some of the other options, but I've only rendered chicken fat.)

Rendering Chicken Fat

To make rendered chicken fat, you must do a few simple steps.

 1. Obtaining the chicken fat.
For me, this is the easiest part. When I go to the grocer, I hang out while I watch him helping other customers. When I see the grocer preparing chickens for someone by cutting off the fat, skin and scraps and he's about to toss it into the garbage, I ask him to put aside that and save it for me. Usually by doing this, I am able to get quite a large amount of chicken scraps easily.
Even if he's already tossed it into the trash, I will occasionally ask him to take it out; all that goes into the garbage there are chicken bits and the wrappers from other chickens. I just wash it very thoroughly when I get home if this is the case.

Some of the chicken scraps from the butcher. One of three I got like this.
To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed about asking for the chicken scraps, so I've been known to fudge a little and say that it's for my cats. Maybe one day I'll gain the courage to say that it's for myself.
If your butcher doesn't want to give you the fat for free, even if he charges you for it, it'll probably be such a small amount that it's worthwhile even to buy it. If your butcher is part of a large grocery store and they're unsure if they're allowed to give you the scraps, it may help to request from the manager of the store yourself; doing that afforded me an easy "Sure, no problem".

2. Wash The Fat
Who knows what those chicken scraps have touched. Especially if you sometimes use scraps that were in the rubbish bin, you'll want to run those chicken parts under a ton of water, making sure no bits of dirt or paper or wrapping remain.

3. Sort and Cut
Usually chicken scraps will be comprised of a few different parts- plain fat, skin, and unwanted bony parts. when rendering the chicken scraps, you don't really want the bones. Put the plain fat and skin into one pile and the bony parts (wing tips, tails, breastbones, etc) in another.
Chicken fat and skin.
Chicken scraps with bones. Mostly chicken tail bones.
Cut the chicken fat and skin into small pieces. I usually try to cut them into 2 inch chunks, but if I'm doing really large quantities, I usually cut the pieces a little larger.

4. Cook.
Put all the chicken fat and skin in a wide pot or pan. Depending on the amount, I usually use a deep frying pan, but when I have a really massive amount, a large soup pot will do the trick.
If you rinsed your chicken scraps, there probably will be some water remaining on them, so you needn't add more, but if you're using unwashed chicken scraps or are not sure that enough water remains, add about a half a cup of water to the pot.


Heat the chicken parts on a medium high heat, occasionally mixing it. You'll gradually see more and more melted fat at the bottom of the pot.
At some point, your pot will be covered with a bunch of golden "oil" with some skin floating in it. If it still looks like skin, it is not fully rendered- you want the skin to look fried.
Chicken fat before it's finished. Note that the skin only looks boiled, not fried.
If you still see little bubbles rising from the bottom of your pot, keep the fire going for a bit longer. This means that there is still some water present; any water present when trying to use the rendered fat will cause dangerous splattering of hot oil, making burns likely. (Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.)
When the bubbles have ceased to rise, the fat is a golden liquid, and the skin is crispy, your chicken fat is ready.
Note that the skins are now golden and crispy. The oil is completely rendered now and ready to strain.
5. Straining.
Put a colander inside a big bowl or pot. Line with a cheesecloth (or a cloth napkin designated for this purpose, as I do). Pour the rendered fat into the cheesecloth, letting the fat drip into the container and the solids remaining in the cloth.
Yum yum. Note this is chilled fat. When warm, it is a darker yellow.
Sorry, didn't catch a good picture then.
Store the fat in the fridge or freezer and use as necessary. Note that it will harden when chilled but liquefy when heated.

Ok, not a terrific picture, but the light yellow liquid in the back is liquefied rendered chicken fat.
The bag on top are the cracklings.
The solids left in the cheese cloth are cracklings and are absolutely delicious eaten as is, or as a replacement for bacon bits as a crunchy topping on various foodstuffs like salads, mashed potatoes, etc.

Alternative Fat Rendering Method


In step 3, I had you put aside the bony parts of the chicken scraps. This method of rendering fat is more suitable when you have bony scraps, or when you would like to make a chicken broth as well. The downside is that you don't end up with cracklings and it is a bit more time consuming.

1. Fill a pot with your chicken scraps obtained in step 1 above. Cover with a decent amount of water.

2. Bring the pot to a boil. Simmer for at least an hour or two on a medium or low heat.

3. Strain the soup through a cheesecloth.

4. Put the broth in the freezer until solid.

5. Your fat will float to the top and freeze in a white layer on top of a golden soup.

Notice the white layer on top? Sorry, camera's a bit funny. The colors are a bit off.
Though hard, the frozen fat will be a lot softer than your frozen soup. With a spoon carefully scrape off the fat layer from the soup and move into another container.

Soup with the fat scrapings.
Soup with the fat scrapings removed. Yes, a little fat remained with the soup. Oh well.

Rendered chicken fat, scrapings and all.
(The scrapings are sitting on top of frozen chicken fat from the other method.)

6. Store the fat in the fridge or freezer and use as desired.
Defrost the broth before using and cook with vegetables and season before eating.

Do you ever cook with animal fat? Which type? How do you obtain it and how much do you pay for it? 


Linking up to Fight Back Friday and Pennywise Platter Thursday and Real Food Wednesday.  

8 comments:

  1. Hello Penny
    I read your chicken fat article with interest.I can only give my dog chicken due to allergies so boil what ever cuts I buy and use the stock for sauces and soups. The fat sitting on top of the stock helps to preserve it when it is cold. I use the same stock to boil the next batch of chicken so over time it becomes very rich.
    Jayne Meon

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  2. Thank you so much for this article. My neighbor froze the fat from the chickens he butchered and gave it to me to use! I used your rendering guidelines and rendered about 2 quarts of chicken oil! I plan on trying it out in a soap recipe and in the kitchen!

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  3. Thank you so much for this article. My neighbor froze the fat from the chickens he butchered and gave it to me to use! I used your rendering guidelines and rendered about 2 quarts of chicken oil! I plan on trying it out in a soap recipe and in the kitchen!

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  4. Yay! So glad to find your post as I didn't want to waste a whole bunch of chicken fat that I rendered on the chance that it was actually a useable product. (happened upon a good chicken sale, ended up with a lot of fat/skin trimmings) My cooking method actually mirrored yours and now I know to strain the remaining liquid. The outdoor feral kitties actually got the cracklin's. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this great tip.

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  5. If one has a fine mesh sieve, there isn't need for cheesecloth or separting out the bones, correct?

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  6. Ditto for me Penny!! With turkey being so cheap at this time of year I decided to buy a 20# when it was on sale for 50 cents a pound and try my hand at grinding my own turkey meat but without using the rest of the turkey it really isn't that cost effective. However, I am making stock, rendering the fat, using the crispy skins as treats for my dogs, although I will try it in place of bacon bits. I can't tell you how proud I am of myself. Thanks again Penny!!

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  7. I am going to try that. Some nearby Chinese groceries sell chicken bones at a dollar a bag and the bones are loaded with fat and skin.

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  8. Thank you so much! I am preparing a Passover Seder dinner for 120 people at our Church and your recipe will help me make the best matzo ball soup! I do have one questions, any tricks on cleaning the pot afterwards? Suzanne

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