Alternative to gravy seperator?
In making braises in our new dutch oven we find that the sauces are sometimes rather greasy and I thought a gravy seperator might be nice to skim some of the fat. Instead we've been putting the sauce in the fridge (after removing the meat), waiting for the fat to solidify a little, and scooping it out. Obviously a seperator would be easier but I'm reluctant to buy yet another gadget. Is there any way to approximate a fat seperator, or should i just buy one?
And if I need to buy one, any product recommendations?
In the past I have used one of those cups with a spout connected at the bottom. As I recall it worked, but I wasn't sufficiently impressed to hang on to it.
What I is use now is a spoon - hold the bowl of the spoon just under surface, allowing the fat to flow in, but minimizing the juices. Chinese style soup spoons work well for this, since there is a sharp bend between handle and bowl. A small ladle would also work. The spoon allows me to remove much of the fat without removing the liquid from the pot.
Another trick is to pour the liquid into a measuring cup, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then spoon the fat off. A tall narrow cup makes the fat layer thicker, allowing me to remove more of it.
For a thorough removal, an old cook book (Joy?) recommends sopping it up with the rolled edge of a paper towel.
You can let the sauce cool a bit and then put it into a ziptop or other plastic bag set into a measuring cup. Let the sauce sit for a bit for the fat to separate and then snip a corner off of the bag. The sauce will come out into the measuring cup and you just have to close off or move the bag before the fat starts coming out.
Put it all in the refrigerator. Let it sit until really cold. Then skim off the fat and detrius (sp?) and you have it ready as pretty darned good clear stock. No special equipment needed.
Chilling is most effective, but not practical if you want to eat the dish shortly after cooking it. Pouring all the liquid off the braise, and then separating the juices from the fat works in some cases, but is not that practical if the liquid contains a lot of solids (cooked vegies, etc). Skimming with a spoon, while somewhat tedious, allows you to remove most of the fat without removing the liquid from the pot.
I haven't used a slotted spoon, though I've glanced at them in stores. You use them to withdraw liquid from under the fat layer, right? The place where that would be most useful is if I have a pot of stock, and want to add a few spoonfuls of the stock (minus the fat) to another dish. It would not be useful for removing the fat off the top of a pot of soup.
There's another trick - add beans to the dish, and let them absorb the fat!
I use a gravy separator, but it isn't very big. I found this great tip, though, that I now use when I have large quantities. Fill a pot,/bucket,/bowl, with ice. Pour your drippings into a glass jar (as long as they aren't hot enough to break the glass) and set the jar in the middle of the ice, making sure that the ice comes up at least halfway (more is better) and let it sit for awhile. It solidifies the grease much more quickly than putting in the fridge or freezer.
I also have a grease brush that sops up excess grease but it is a PITA to use and harder to clean!
What I've done that seems to work well is pour all the sauce into a clear glass container - measuring cup or whatever, and wait for it to separate. Obviously, you can put it in the fridge to speed it up a little but sometimes, while I wait for the meat to cool before I start cutting, the sauce will have separated. Then I use a baster to suck up all the good sauce from the bottom portion of the container and I avoid the top part with all the fat.
I use the ziplock bag trick with great success with one alteration. Because the pan drippings are generally pretty hot I put my ziplock in a bowl with a layer of ice underneath it. This isn't to separate the fat as that happens naturally -- instead this keeps the darn bag from melting! Snip off the corner -- let the pan juices return to the pan and sacrifice a small amount of the juices to the trash in order to stop the flow before the fat starts coming out.
Braises always taste better after the cool reheat phase but the question relates to a cook and eat scenario.
Other than a gravy separator, which works well, jfood has heard other lay a piece of paper towel on the sauce and since the oil is on the top the paper towel soaks that first. Jfood has never tried but it sounds like an interesting idea.
I use a bulb syringe turkey baster to suck out the top juices. It's easier than a spoon. For some reason when I use a spoon I either unintentionally mix it up again OR pick out too much of the good drippings. I'm a nurse and maybe I'm just more familiar with syringes. lol!
Actually, that makes sense now that I think about it.
I agree that refrigeration is easiest but it is definitely impractical at times. Usually I need it now, not later.
ETA: I'm like you, I see no need to buy a gadget that I won't use, at least, weekly.
Just buy the separator. It's the shortest distance between A and B.
I recently replaced mine (polycarbonate ones ultimately crack), and investigated the borosilicate glass ones. What I found is that while the glass ones won't degrade and crack from the heat, their spouts are prone to break off if you drop or even bump them hard. This is because the glass ones' spouts are not supported with/by a reinforcing web that connects the spout's end to the wall of the cup. Most poly ones do have a web, and are half the price of the glass ones, so I went with poly again. But I didn't like the OXO one with the built-in strainer.
I got at least 25 years out of my first one, and I'll be lucky to have another 25 years of ambitious cooking ahead of me. But if you're really careful with your things, the glass ones are very nice.