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Lets talk about pork fat

In the past few months we've had people coming in to the shop looking for grease containers like their mothers had, mine had an aluminum one with a strainer and GREASE was embossed on the side. It lived near the stove. We got in some white porcelain ones from HIC with a metal strainer and sold out quickly.

There were 2 articles in the latest Saveur on bacon grease and pork fat. I am going to be talking with a local food writer about the Broadbent's bacon we carry tomorrow. My MD came in to buy some of the bacon not long ago and was remarking how pure and clean that bacon fat was. And, how much he likes it.

I did a little poking around found that in many cases pork fat is quite good for you. Pork fat, lard and bacon, is unsaturated and most of the unsaturated fat, depending on the pigs diet, is monosaturated oleic acid, the same fat as in olive oil. Further reading told me that about half the pork fat is saturted but that the saturated fat helps to raise HDLs. Pork fat is good for you.

My mother used it and still does, I do get locally processed lard from farmers that is pure and has had no partially hydrogenated fat added to it. I keep it around for biscuits, adding to the pan when frying chicken. i roasted a goose at Thanksgiving mainly to get the fat (the bird was organic free range and pretty tough). A bit of the goose fat added to the oil I was frying potato pancakes in gave them fabulous flavor. I use butter. No artificial stuff crosses my threshold.

How about you all? It seems to be a new trend in home cooking and I am glad to see it. What is your position on pork fat, duck fat, & goose fat?

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  1. I love the data you've already provided and hope others weigh in also. Also how do people use those fats?

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Rendered fats from your own cooking are wonderful.

      Chicken (schmaltz) atop rosemary potatoes, or just mashed in. The Tahitians I knew used duck fat to fry eggs. Goose fat--used similarly to the other bird fats. Sauteed onions/garlic/shallots saved in a small jar in the refrigerator will provide a nice flavour addition to whatever savoury dish you're making. It's also nice having some extra fat on hand to make a country pate from the chicken livers I save in the freezer until I have a sufficient quantity.

      I used to make a warm vinagrette with some of the bacon fat drippings to use on spinach salads or to saute the greens, but have also used it as a treat for our dog (a few pieces of Iams soaked in bacon fat; the cat seemed to like it too).

      Due to Saveur, I also made mince, therby using beef suet--another overlooked fat.

      We primarily use olive oil for cooking and salads, with the animal fats to provide flavour and body to foods.

    2. Candy, I'm thrilled to learn that your shop carries the best bacon on the continent! At least as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I am delighted whenever I learn that one of my vices is good for me after all, and in this case several of them make the grade all at once! My pa-in-law let me carry off the fat and some juices I drained off when I was getting the Christmas goose he'd cooked ready for carving, and when I went to cook the moisture out of it I was thrilled to find what amounted to a plug of goose demi-glace at the bottom.

      My position? I think we all know that! The bacon fat gets added to the olive oil when I'm scrambling eggs or braising vegetables, especially the cabbage relatives, and that goose fat, plus some leftover duck fat/lard mixture, is going to get used when I make some turkey thigh confit this week, and then it'll be clarified and strained and used again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        I've now made "your" pork shoulder recipe and this time kept the fat, wonderfully flavored with fennel, garlic, etc. I sauteed spinach in it last night and it was the best. Fried eggs also. This is new to me. I not only like the flavors but also not tossing something that I clearly should have using all along.

      2. In my fridge currently: 1 large bowl of goose fat, 1 medium bowl chicken fat, 1 small bowl of pork fat. They were all rendered from roasts at one time or another. In addition to using them for potatoes and other kitchen duties, I also supplement my dogs diet with a tablespoon pr so on a daily basis. It helps keep her coat nice and silky. I like to use everything and throwing perfectly good fat away bothers me. However, my wife thinks I'm nutz.

        1 Reply
        1. re: adrman

          You're not alone Adrman, I do the same with pint sized bale top ball jars. Duck, chicken and pork fats all have their own home, I even go so far as to throw the skins and excess fat from chicken thighs in an oven proof container on a pretty regular basis. I end up with an endless supply of chicken fat and chicken (hey the oven is hot already and I don't want to run the fat/skins down the disposal...I've already bought my plumber a boat, he doesn't need a jet ski.)

        2. I love this topic. I too am returning to my roots. I have begun to save the fat rendered from whatever meat we roast. I pour into a jar, refrigerate, and try to use soon. I have no idea about formal technique or the science of it. I'm just working intuitively. It seems to be a great shortcut for making soups, cooking rice, or whatever - that is, instead of producing real chicken broth, or buying a can of the prepared stuff, I use a little of the stuff from my magic jars. Growing up in the south, I saved more than my share of pork fat under the direction of "mama." Now living in CT, I find myself admiring the fat from pancetta and wondering if I should save it.

          8 Replies
          1. re: lifespan

            Ouff as do I! :) Yes you should totally save it. It is so good once it has hardened and you spread it on a beautiful piece of bread with salt and some chili flakes or pinch of cayenne...mmmm ... I wish I had it in front of me right now! lol :)
            Happy eating, Oana

            1. re: oana

              OMG! Per your rec, I just spread some pork fat on a little slice of sourdough baguette and sprinkled a little kosher salt on. Only about a gazillion times better than butter. Dare I serve it to guests? Is there some fancy French name for it so I don't have to say "oh, you're eating leftover pork fat!!!"

              1. re: c oliver

                Well if you had some shreds of pork in it you could call it Rillettes. I have a crock of goose rillettes in my fridge right now.

                1. re: Candy

                  Would one shred be enough ?!? Are the "L"s pronounced? LOL

                  1. re: Candy

                    Guilty pleasure, or Why Will Is Still Chubby: when I'm breaking up a cooked shoulder to shred it and serve it as "pulled", I'm pretty industrious about removing chunks of fat...but the wonderful thing about pork is those bands of flesh that are SO ambiguous: is this fat? Or is it meat? It's got a grain to it, but then it just kinda trails off and melts into the background. It's too fatty to serve (to anyone else around here, the idiots), but it'd be a shame just to but it into the rendering pot...so gee, I'd better just take care of it myself, yum yum.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    Saindoux in french and lardo in Italian. It is amazing when very fresh and an event in Rome where stores and restaurants with have hand lettered signed offering Lardo Fresco.

                    1. re: alwayscooking

                      Now what I have is just part of the by-product of a pork roast that was roasted very, very slowly. Wouldn't most restaurants have something like that? I imagine it's sold by weight. I'm ready to cook another roast just for the saindoux/lardo :)

              2. I keep a jar of bacon fat in the fridge for eggs and potatoes and to add a little something to sauteed veggies. The others I don't keep, though looking at all the fat I strained off my last batch of chicken broth I'm starting to think I should hang onto that too. However, I already seem to be getting more bacon fat than I actually use.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mordacity

                  Amazing how that stuff piles up, isn't it? When I was going really easy on the bacon, I'd pour the drippings into a little Belgian enamelled-iron butter melter that sits beside the cooktop, and I'd have to check it periodically to make sure it wasn't going rancid. Now it's really not nearly big enough to hold a weekend's worth of bacon fat, but on the other hand I'm splashing that stuff around so freely it isn't likely to go rancid, either.

                  I always try to generate enough fat with my chicken broth so that I have a good layer to pour over the top when I put the broth in refrigerator/freezer containers. It helps to seal the broth and keep it from going icky. And then, if I'm going to use said broth for something like gravy or sauce for chicken and dumplings, I have that nice chicken fat to make a roux with.

                2. o.k. this isn't about pork fat...but schmaltz. Are we talking about rendered chicken fat or straight chicken fat? I have never quite understood that one and my jewish bride just shudders...plus she is not a cook (yes, I'm goyum.)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: chilihead

                    Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat; you can spread it on toast too (which is not recommended for raw chicken or other animal fat)

                    (discovered during college in NYC)

                    1. re: Caralien

                      Yes, I believe it would be proper to say that schmatlz results from a specific fat-rendering technique. (It's a cultural tradition in cooking.) It is one technique among many fat-rendering techniques. My guess is that every culture has its own slight variation, and it would be interesting to read about the various methods of rendering fat. There must be formal techniques, in addition to the methods of "everyday" cooks. All of them wanted to preserve something very valuable, as well as tasty. You know, our rural ancestors couldn't exactly zip down to the market for cooking fat. They did what they did for most things, made them from "scratch."

                      1. re: Caralien

                        I grew up loving schmaltz spread on matzah, sprinkled with a little salt. OY! These days, I render chicken fat when the opportunity presents itself, but I rarely use it, not because I wouldn't love the added flavor, but because guilt gets the better of me.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          Rendered schmaltz is still better for you than something processed in the plant, in my not very humble opinion.


                    2. If you think rendered bacon fat is good, try getting your hands on some rendered smoked pork shoulder fat. I salvage what I can when I do a shoulder. It's fantastic to start the BBQ beans with.

                      I have a jar of it and a jar of bacon fat beside the stove. My cast iron gets a healthy dose of them to keep them nice and seasoned.



                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Davwud

                        Slow roasted a pork shoulder this afternoon. After lifting off the skin and putting that back in the oven to crisp I now have an excellent supply of pork cracklings and pork fat and had some meltingly tender pork shoulder for dinner. Perfect on such cold night and I am looking forward to a pan of crackling cornbread.

                        1. re: Candy

                          Can I come over??

                          What exactly do you do with the skin?? I've always tossed it and it seems like such a waste.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            I put the skin fat side down on a sheet pan and put it back in the oven at 350 F and allow the fat to render off and the skin to become crisp and browned. That is pure gold. You can sprinkle cracklings over the sliced roast for some crunchy goodness. It is great in cornbread and I try to keep some frozen and on hand. You can use it as you would use crisp bacon.

                              1. re: Davwud

                                If you come to Bloomington, IN I can show you and feed you some too. Don't waste that wonderful skin.

                                1. re: Candy

                                  Candy - you offered to feed some (baked pork skin) to Davwud... Other than making a tasty snack, I wonder what other uses there are for the crispy pork skin?

                                  1. re: lifespan

                                    See my response to Davwud, 2 up.

                                    1. re: Candy

                                      Oops. I guess I missed it the first time around. Thanks.

                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Hail Bloomingtonian! I grew up 40 miles to your east. That part of the country knows hogs and how to cook them.

                                        Growing up my folks rendered our own lard. The cracklings then went into cornbread, along with onions, chopped banana peppers, and cheese. That was good enough baked, but sometimes Mom (a skinny little woman raised during the Depression) made fried bread instead.

                                        Imagine that, fried pork fat bits, incorporated into cornbread which is then itself fried! That was some true goodness...

                          1. I think they ought to find ways to use pork fat other than cooking with since more and more people are getting health conscious. Many people are avoiding foods with pork fat since it is bad for your health.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: isabel1956

                              I think many of the preceding portions of this thread do a good job of refuting that bit of dogma. People avoid pork fat because it is still widely considered to be unhealthful, and I agree that bacon fat might not be the best component to everyone's diet, but many of the old objections to such things as lard have been effectively disproven. I think it would be more accurate to say that many people are avoiding pork fat because they THINK it's bad for one's health.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                I have never been able to verify this but I remember reading once that if you keep pig fat in a jar at room temperature some of the fat will separate and the solids will sink. That liquid stuff on top, it said, was akin to EVOO.


                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  the problem lies in the vast difference in the fats from cafo animals vs. pastured animals whose diet isn't corn and soy. the fats of the former have staggeringly high concentrations of omega-6, which is already sky-high in most westerners.

                                  if you can get meat and fat from healthy, non-feed-lot critters, i don't know if there is a better fat for humans to eat. :)

                              2. My mom still buys her pork lard (when making pastries, and regular home cooking) when she doesn't have enough. She goes into Patterson/Clifton, New Jersey and finds her local Hungarian market. By the quart they sell it. I think her favorite is still fresh bread with some lard melted right on top with a little paprika. I used to tell her it was gonna kill her. Then I found out her cholesterol was better than most people! And her good cholesterol was ridiculously high! Her doctor told her to keep up the healthy diet!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: liza219

                                  My fraternal grandmother used to roast a goose for the sole purpose of having what she called "goose grease" to spread on her bread. A pastry cook in her native Budapest, she constantly rendered her own leaf lard to turn out pastries I still dream about. My father (her son) was raised on a high animal fat diet and, in his later years, was rejected when he volunteered for an employer-sponsered cholesterol study; his was so low they feared his data would skew the curve.

                                  1. re: Pwmfan

                                    Oops, that should be "paternal"

                                    1. re: Pwmfan

                                      As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I can recall my grandfather spreading rendered chicken fat on a slice of fresh-from-the-bakery rye bread, sprinkling it with a bit of Kosher salt, and enjoying it as a mid-afternoon snack with a glass of tea.

                                  2. As a Southerner, I've always kept the fat/grease/drippings, and as an Italian, I've always used whatever was on hand to brown the meat for the sugo. I've never thought nor cared about the health side of things (I mean c'mon - it's called "fat"!) I don't mess around with lard much, but I go through enough butter to have to buy it at Sam's.

                                    I don't know how people make green beans without a glob of bacon grease. I really don't.