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Schmaltz / rendered fat question


I have a _very_ basic question which I was hoping someone here could answer. I've just begun a foray into roasting / making my own stocks and fats. I don't have much experience with this (as I'm sure this question will illustrate).

I just roasted a chicken and saved the pan juices and drippings in the hopes of making some schmaltz. I've refrigerated the juices and they have separated, leaving two layers : a layer of solid white on top, and a brown liquid layer on the bottom. Which is the schmaltz, and how should I separate them? =)

Many thanks!

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  1. Schmaltz is actually the clarified fat. I usually clarify the fat the same way I would clarify butter because it's easier for me to separate the elements as liquids that it is when they're a combination of liquids and solids. I'm surprise you haven't developed three layers, with the liquids on the bottom. Nevertheless, the dark stuff is where you schmaltz lives. That white gunk on top has gotta go.

    10 Replies
    1. re: todao

      no todao the white stuff on the top is the schmaltz. Schmaltz is fat. The brown stuff is great for gravy or a hearty soup. The white schmaltz is for chopped liver or roasting potatoes.

      1. re: smartie

        OK, smartie, appears I learned something. I always believed that the schmaltz was the brown stuff that was left in the pan when the liquids and fats were removed. Thanks - always looking to learn (re-learn) when possible.
        Sorry, k_r_nyc, if my comments were misleading. I am not, nowever, regretful if I've been cooking with and eating the better part of the remnants instead of the schmaltz. The only person I've ever know who enjoyed using chicken fat for anything was Bill Cosby - when he spred ice cold chicken fat all over the floor to keep the monsters out.

        1. re: todao

          Having grown up in a kosher home, schmaltz was an essential part of our 'meat' meals. It was spread on baked potatoes to add flavor. It was used to sautee onions and mushrooms for side dishes. It was used to grease the pan for a kugel (not a dairy kugel of course!) It was used in making potato latkes and chopped liver. My grandparents even spread it on rye bread. Among saturated fats, chicken fat is healthier than most since it is a semi liquid at room temperature.

          Definitely start with raw chicken fat pulled from the inside of a chicken before roasting. My mother and grandmother saved it up so they would make a big batch all at once. Onions add flavor and gribenes (the hardened skin that is in the chicken fat) are gold. Enjoy!

          1. re: KingsKetz

            Ugh, gribenes makes me weak in the knees. If there's a god food, that's it. You know how good crispy chicharrĂ³ns are? Grigenes is that times six.

            Maybe eight. Ten if you make 'em really salty.

            1. re: dmd_kc

              and do not forget the onions - my arteries are just hardening thinking about them -

            1. re: Stuffed Monkey

              I assume you are kidding about dirt. The brown stuff is pan drippings and assorted bits of goodness.

          2. re: smartie

            Yep, the pure rendered fat is schmaltz. Schmalz is just German for lard, but of course when central european jews made it, they used birds instead of pigs for obvious reasons.

            1. re: tmso

              Except the Yiddish translation is chicken fat - Gribbenes is to die for both literally and figuratively - To render put the fatty pieces of the chicken skin into a pot with plenty of onions on a medium and cook on medium heat wayching so not to burn - the key seemed to be when the skin puieces became nice and crisp -

              1. re: weinstein5

                No, the Yiddish word refers to rendered fat, not just chicken, it would apply to any kashrut rendered fat. I cited the German from whence the word came because, as is typical with German-to-Yiddish loan words, it's meaning was only slightly altered, although with the altered nuance being rather important.

        2. Someone can probably give you a better answer for rendering raw fat (like what you may trim off a bird before roasting), as I have hit or miss luck with that, but it sounds like your've got some nice chicken fat ready to cook with.
          The solid white layer is the schmaltz, basically just scrape it off, leaving the broth and it stores nicely in the fridge or freezer. Shouldn't be too hard to separate, just scoop from the top.
          I use it for lots of things, sauteing veggies or potatoes, in matzho balls(sp?), even when I'm sauteeing mire poix for soup or stew.
          Will be looking for a better response re; rendering chix fat from it's raw form. I've got a nice pints worth in the freezer that I don't want to burn/mess up!
          ETA: wow! Am I that off base??? The white part is the fat that risen to the top when chilled, no? Like what I scrape off my stock and save for cooking with. You really throw that out Todao?

          1. I think schmaltz is usually made by rendering RAW chicken fat. You pull off fat from the bird, with our without skin depending on how you eat your chicken, and cook it on a low flame till all the fat is liquified.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jns7

              I make schmaltz in the microwave. It's made with raw chicken fat and onions. You add water (I can never remember the ratio and always have to google it), and then microwave for 5 minutes.

              What you have is chicken fat, and great for cooking, but not schmaltz.

              1. re: tzurriz

                So is the only difference the onions? I guess k_r_nyc did start with a raw chicken, and the fat rendered out. Does it matter if you render it by roasting, on the stove, or in the microwave?

                Or is it only schmaltz if you also have gribenes?

            2. I always get my schmaltz by making gribenes. Take chicken skin with the fat on cut in small pieces add a little water and let it start melting the chicken fat on a medium fire, about midway through I add chopped onions and let it cook in the chicken fat with the chicken skin until it is golden brown. I strain off the skin and onions and let cool and refrigerate. The liquid is the schmaltz, the onions and skins is the gribenes.

              I guess us could use the fat that you get from roasting a chicken, but the above is the traditional way of making it.

              1. I'm not Jewish, but through the years I have watched Jewish girlfriends (some of whom kept kosher) render their own schmatlz, and from what I've read so far, there's nothing "traditional" here. Here's a link to a recipe that comes very close to what I've known as traditional:


                As you see, the rendering process is begun with some water so you don't end up "frying" from the beginning. You get a LOT more rendered fat this way. What my friends always did was save up the inner fat (especially those huge lumps on the flaps where the innards were removed, but any from inside the neck flap as well) and the skins (all or part) from at least four birds before rendering.

                In today's world, I would just use a big zip lock bag in the freezer to accumulate the fat and skin in. And the more you collect, the more you get! With the holidays coming up, if you're doing a goose or duck, render that excess fat separately because it's a luxury fat and chicken fat doesn't quite have that status.

                As you see in the web recipe, there are two types of schmaltz that are gained with this method; the first is the very clear pure chicken fat that is traditionally the prize ingredient for things like savoury pastries and such. It comes very close to being white when cooled, unless you're using fairly "mature" birds, in which case it will be yellowish. The second is a more highly flavored (and often darker colored) fat that is great for flavoring things.

                As for the pan contents from a roasted chicken, ALL of that chicken fat will be highly flavored and probably yellow, if not brownish. It makes an excellent roux for chicken gravies, and the brown liquid that collects beneath the fat is fantastic in a chicken (or any other) gravy too. I keep mine in the refrigerator, and when I've roasted a very large bird or more than one at the same time, I have the luxury of being able to make a great chicken gravy long after the roasted bird has faded into memory.

                CAVEAT: Anyone with high blood pressure and/or a cholesterol problem, schmaltz is the highway to hell! There is very little higher in cholesterol than chicken fat. <sigh

                4 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1

                  Part of french paradox, chicken and turkey fat worst fats to consume. On the other hand goose and duck are monosaturated so supposedly as good for you as olive oil, stress supposedly as all research was done by french on a question why the french in the southwestern part of France, whose basic cooking fat is goose or duck fat ,as they use little butter or olive oil, have little heart problems. One thought was the genes, all the 'bad' genes died off, the other was that the fat was good, or sort of good, for you. The reports at that time said it was that those fats are monosaturated. Still trying to find out what class my favorite poultry, pintade or guinea hen, falls into

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I was recently told by my cardiologist that I need to work on my cholesterol levels (all of them). Without thinking I had Chinese roast duck for dinner, then half way through thought, "Oh my god! WHAT am I Doing!" So I rushed to my computer and did a little research. Turns out duck is loaded with HDLs, the good cholesterol, and practically free of LDLs, and has good lipids and, as you say, most if not all of the benefits of olive oil or salmon. So now I happily have duck whenever I like!

                    No idea about the cholesterol content of the birds you're interested in but Google probably knows.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Oooh mama, I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

                  2. re: Caroline1

                    Can you taste like apple in the final product?

                  3. paprkutr, I'm so sorry I didn't see your post before I responded. I'm not sure what's going on with the site this morning, but I keep getting "site down" and "can't go there" messages and possibly even incomplete threads. Or I'm just blind today. Sorry!

                    1. Traditionally, german schmalz is made with goose fat. Since schmalz is mostly used as a spread on bread and cold goose fat is too liquid to be useful for that, you add about the same amount of clarified pork fat to it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zeta

                        When making chicken soup, I start out with backs and simmer them along with onions, salt and pepper till it is all falling apart. I then strain and add chicken pieces and whatever else to make my soup. I like to make it the day before and refrigerate overnight so that all of the fat(schmalz) is easy to skim off the soup. If I'm not going to use it in the near future, I store it in the freezer. Of course, if you are rendering fat then eating the gribenes is the best part!

                      2. Because I make stock at least once or twice per week, but always chill it before using, I have a tea strainer (not the egg-shaped type, this one is like a very small sieve, not much bigger than a soup spoon, got it at a dollar store) that is only for the task of skimming the fat off the broth. It works really well, and gets even the tiny globules of fat off of the stock.

                        Obviously the fat makes for a good matzo ball, but for those of you you who don't keep strictly Kosher (as in no mixing meat and dairy), it makes for a great Yorkshire pudding.

                        Bonus: the soups or sauces that come from that stock can be virtually fat-free.

                        P.S.: The French "confit", cooked slowly using duck fat, actually draws additional fat out of the duck legs, so is more healthy than simple roasting.

                        1. While it is true that genuine schmaltz is made from raw fat, skin, and onions, the solidified fat from home-made stock or roasted chicken juices/gravy has plenty of extra flavor (stock vegetablesfor the former, Maillard reaction for the latter) compared to what you'd get if you just boiled chicken in plain water and skimmed that fat. So the seasoned skimmed fat is a good substitution for "real" schmaltz, with the side-benefit that you haven't done any extra work to achieve it. Keeps a very long time in the freezer - also, some supermarkets carry frozen schmaltz.

                          1. I think the easiest and simplest way to harvest schmaltz is when making chicken soup or stock. The top layer comes right off after chilled, and is heavily flavored by whatever is in the pot besides the chicken. Stores for a long time in frig, and extremely long in freezer. To extent it is not as strongly onion flavored as schmaltz from just fat/water/onion, can always add onion to melted schmaltz for few minutes before adding whatever you are cooking in it.

                            1. i do it in the pressure cooker. (the old-timey presto kind with the jiggler weight on top--if you don't have one, GET ONE! cheap on ebay. i got it for pressure canning, but now i use the thing constantly). anyhoo--i save skin, backs (i hardly ever buy whole chickens--i tend to buy leg quarters, and they've got the backs attached. i cut the spines out with shears) bones (cooked and left over from other things). dump 'em in, salt and pepper the lot, add an onion, coupla carrots, and a celery rib or two, and add a bit of water ('bout halfway up the pile of chicken remnants). and cook for about an hour on high (15 lbs) pressure. you'll get a MUCH higher yield in the pressure cooker. and the resulting stock is so rich, it gels at room temp. and every bit of fat comes out of every possible nook and cranny. i'll get four cups of broth, and two cups of schmaltz out of the leftovers of only three leg quarters.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rachbick

                                But you miss one of the treasures of making your own schmaltz - Gribbenes the crispy remnants when you do it on the stove -