Want to learn how to render chicken fat on the stovetop? I’m going to teach you how to collect fat on butchering day and also, how make a delicious schmaltz you can use in your home cooking!
If you raise your own beef or pork, you’re probably familiar with the idea of rendering (melting down) animal fat. But a lot of folks don’t realize that you can also render chicken, duck, goose and turkey fat for cooking purposes!
And it’s delicious!
Let me show you how to render chicken fat (or any type of poultry fat) on the stove.
What Do You Call Chicken Fat?
Beef, sheep, goats and all ruminants product “tallow.” Pigs product “lard.” Do you know what you call poultry fat once it’s been rendered?
Chicken, duck or goose fat is often referred to as “schmaltz.” And it has an interesting history, particularly among the Yiddish Jewish people who use it in their traditionally cooked dishes.
What Does Chicken Fat Look Like?
Chicken fat (or fat from other birds) ranges in color from white to a deep yellow. As a general rule of thumb, the older a bird is, the yellower it’s fat will be. Or so my experience says!
Old hens always give you the best fat yield!
This is what chicken fat looks like in it’s raw state and is exactly what you’d see on butchering day.
Is Chicken Fat Healthy to Cook With?
I don’t think it’s any secret that many cooks are returning to traditional fats in their culinary arts! We’re no longer buying into the idea that a low-fat diet is healthy. Nor do we accept the idea that natural fats are bad for you.
Things like raw butter, lard from pasture raised pigs, tallow and yes! even poultry fat is making a comeback in real food kitchens of today.
Chicken fat is excellent for high-heat cooking and contains unsaturated fats that feed and nourish the human body. And while I wouldn’t use it as a skin cream, consuming chicken fat can even improve the quality of your skin!
When it comes to using animal fats in the kitchen, chicken fat is right up there with the best!
How to Collect Fat on Butchering Day
If you butcher your own birds and specifically old laying hens, saving the fat is simple.
Interestingly enough, the best fat comes from the bird’s innards. You heard me right! The gizzard itself is usually surrounded by a golden lump of tender, luscious fat.
This inner fat is quite soft and to harvest, all you have to do is pull it loose with your fingers or carefully scrape it away with a knife.
After separating it from the organs and intestines, fat should be placed in a little bowl or pail, so it doesn’t get bloodied or dirtied.
Once butchering day has wrapped up, you can make schmaltz immediately or bag and freeze the fat until you have time to render it down.
How to Make Schmaltz
To render your lumps of golden chicken fat, all you have to do is chunk it up, toss it into a dutch oven and slowly melt it down on the stovetop.
Keep the heat as low as possible. To avoid burning it, I usually set the stovetop dial between 1-2. Feel free to add a lid and stir every 30 minutes or so.
The fat will slowly melt (as pictured below).
Now unfortunately, I forgot to measure the fat I used in this tutorial! So I can’t give you a specific rendering time, because it really depends on how much fat you have and also, the size of your fat chunks! But unless you have a lot of bird fat, the entire process shouldn’t take more than 2 hours.
Just like rendering tallow or lard, you’ll eventually be left with “cracklings” in the bottom of the pot. Cracklings look like darkened, cooked lumps of meat floating in the liquid fat.
And when you see these, your chicken fat is done and can be filtered.
The Best Way to Filter Chicken Fat
Filtering your chicken fat is important if you want a pure, end product that will keep for months in the refrigerator! Here are the steps you should follow once your chicken fat has been melted.
- Remove the dutch oven from your stove and let it cool a bit, so you won’t burn yourself if you spill.
- Line a bowl with a cloth and pour the warm liquid fats into it.
- To separate the cracklings from the melted fat, just lift the cloth.
- Let the fats drip out, then set cloth and cracklings aside.
- Pour the filtered chicken fat into a clean jar.
- Let cool to room temperature.
Just like that, you’ve learned how to render chicken fat!
How to Store Chicken Fat
I like to store rendered chicken fat in a glass jar with a lid. And then, I usually pop it into the refrigerator.
Chicken fat isn’t like lard or tallow. It’s actually quite soft at room temperature and so, I like to keep mine in the fridge, both to preserve it and keep it firm.
My schmaltz never lasts more than 3-4 months, so I can’t say exactly what it’s maximum refrigerator life is. I’m guessing (like most animal fats) it would easily last 8-12 months in the fridge!
5 Ways to Use Chicken Fat
No one wants to go to all the work of learning how to render chicken fat, only to discover they have no idea how to use it! So here are some great ideas for you, actual ways I’ve used chicken fat in my own cottage kitchen.
- Use rendered chicken fat for frying eggs or making an omelet.
- Fry breakfast potatoes in schmaltz (instead of butter or lard).
- Use schmaltz to add chicken flavor to your homemade stir fry.
- Cooking chicken in a skillet? Use melted chicken fat instead of oil!
- Coat vegetables in schmaltz before baking in the oven.
- Dairy free? Salt your schmaltz and lightly spread it on toast as a savory butter replacement.
Because chicken fat is so soft, I prefer to use lard or butter when making biscuits or pastry crusts. You’ll get flakier results with a firmer fat.
That being said, if you do decide to use schmaltz in your pastries, make sure it is chilled and be sure to use a tool to cut it into the flour. The warmth of your hands will quickly melt this soft fat and the result will be similar to using melted butter (vs firm butter) in your pastries.
If you raise laying hens (chickens, ducks, geese or turkeys) and butcher them too, I highly recommend you try making schmaltz at least 1x.
You might say “never again.” Or you may fall in love with it and wish you had harvested more!
In this house, we plead guilty to the love of fat. Yes, even chicken fat!