How To: Why You Should Never Throw Away Chicken Fat

Why You Should Never Throw Away Chicken Fat

Poor chickens. Bacon fat is revered (and justifiably so), and duck fat is a staple at most fine grocers. Marbles of fat make a steak divine, and goose fat is the holy grail of fatty goodness. Yet chicken fat is usually thrown away.

If you're one of those people who roasts a chicken and pours the pan's gooey and oily contents into the trash, then you are missing out. Chicken may be considered a lean meat, but its fat certainly isn't lacking for flavor.

Chicken fat isn't an overpowering flavor, but it does taste strongly of the bird. You won't want to use it in desserts, unlike lard, but it can add a deep and rich chicken flavor to many savory dishes. And it's easy to store: simply pour the drippings into a jar, and keep it in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a month.

So how do you use chicken fat? Really, it can be used in any savory dish where you would use butter or oil, either in addition to those fats, or as a substitute. But there are a few areas where chicken fat truly shines. Here are three of my favorite uses for the rich, golden drippings.

Fry Your Toast

Is there anything better than toast with butter and a pinch of kosher salt? Yes, there is... toast with chicken fat and a pinch of kosher salt. Skip the toaster and crunch up your bread in a frying pan, with a teaspoon of chicken fat. Finish with a touch of salt and you have a remarkably simple and sumptuous snack.

This also works perfectly with homemade croutons, which take on an added depth of flavor when cooked in chicken fat.

Make Addictive Griebens

While chicken fat is sadly missing from most kitchens, it is as essential to Jewish cooking as olive oil is to Italian cooking. One of the most beloved Jewish dishes is griebens, which is made by first rendering a large amount of chicken fat (which is called schmaltz in Jewish cooking).

Image via Bamitbach

After the fat is rendered, small bits of chicken skin and fatty meat are added along with onions, and everything is cooked until it becomes nice and crunchy. You then strain the fat and store for later use and enjoy the crunchy bits on bread. I wouldn't recommend eating this every day, for obvious cardiovascular reasons, but it makes a helluva treat.

Quick & Easy Infusions

This is my favorite use of chicken fat. It's easy, too, since it makes quick use of what indubitably happens after I've cooked chicken. While your fat is still hot and fluid from your cooked chicken, add any herbs, spices, or aromatics that you like to it. My go-to is garlic, chili flakes, and thyme, but rosemary, fresh chilies, oregano, and shallots are all superb. After the fat has firmed up, all you need is to warm it back to a liquid state, and you have the perfect infusion for drizzling on soups, potatoes and veggies, pasta, or bread.

More Chicken Fat Tricks

A reader over at The Kitchn notes that when making schmaltz, you can render the fat in a couple of cups of water, which then gelatinizes beneath the fat. This collagen-filled liquid is perfect for thickening soups and stews.

Image by Michael Ruhlman/The Splendid Table

Also, if you want chicken fat but usually cook small pieces of chicken that don't render large amounts of fat, simply trim the fat off the pieces and freeze it. After a dozen or so chicken dinners, you'll have enough frozen fat that you can render it for a jar of tasty, golden chicken fat.

You Want Chicken Hacks? We Got 'Em

Learn how to truss a bird without using any twine, how to spatchcock poultry for perfectly tender and evenly cooked meat, and how to make a DIY roasting rack for a chicken or turkey. And this easy tip can help you easily separate fat from stock and drippings of any kind.

Photos by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks (unless otherwise noted)

3 Comments

If you save a large amount of chicken fat and melt it down, can you fry chicken pieces? I wonder would the taste be so good.????

sure, you could! But I prefer to use the rendered fat for non-chicken applications, because then you add a chicken flavor to a non-chicken dish. If you cook the chicken in its own fat, you're not really adding any new flavors, so it won't be very noticeable.

I make chicken stock from chicken carcasses and often include the skin in the pot for flavor. Before freezing or canning, I strain to get rid of skin, bones and any veggie I've added in and allow to cool in the fridge. This creates a layer of fat on top -- can I use this rather than fat from cooking?

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