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!