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Mar 4, 2012 08:26 PM

Animal Fat & Crispness

Why does duck fat create the crispest potatoes? (A scientific explanation). Is there another animal that compares? Lard? Tallow? Also is there a list in order of Crispness, ie:

1. Duck Fat
2. Goose Fat
3. Beef Tallow
4. Lard
5. Butter
6. Olive Oil

The above is just a guess on my part.

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  1. In general, the higher the saturated fat content of an oil, the more efficiently it'll crisp foods. A high smoke point helps as well.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Yes, so asserts J. Kenji Lopez-Alt in

      Yet, if that is the case, Palm and Coconut oil would yield the crispest food. I am not certain this is the case. What I am looking for is a scientific explanation for why animal fats (or saturated fats of any kind) appear to crisp foods best, and a list of fats in order that are best for that.

      1. re: dish

        I'm not sure that animal fats necessarily crisp foods better than non-animal fats/oils, so long as there are high enough levels of saturated fats.

        I may be wrong, but I think that you probably feel that duck fat provides the highest level of "crispness" because duck fat is so tasty.

        Perhaps the tastiness and savoriness of duck fat (or lard) gives you the impression that foods are crisper.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          "If you must, extra-virgin olive oil will certainly do admirably well, though you won't get quite the same level of crispness you'd get out of an animal fat."

          I don't know what Harold McGee has to say, but I remember Heston Blumenthal opining - not surprising given his restaurant's name.

          Butter certainly wilts things because of the milk solids - High Fat Butter probably less. Clarified butter obviously is better.

        2. re: dish

          my experience is that goose and duck fat provide the same amount of crispiness. i have not deep-fried with tallow or lard. butter also smokes and burns before olive oil, so i don't try for much crispiness with it.

          btw, here is a table showing the saturated fat content of various oils and fats.

          the type of potato and its relative moisture content also affect crispy-potential.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Thanks. This is much appreciated. I don't think anyone has done this comparison - so I think we will. Theoretically, coconut oil should make the crispest crust.

            I am going to use it for Hamantaschen under the theory that they will hold their shape better owing to high smoke point.

            I still wish there was a food scientist on here, i feel certain we are talking triglyceride chain length here.

            1. re: dish

              coconut is a medium-chain. as much as i like it, the flavor is too pronounced for me to use with everything.

        3. re: ipsedixit

          I had no idea! Is this common knowledge?

          1. re: jvanderh

            Dunno exactly what constitutes "common knowledge" but having grown up with chefs/cooks as parents and then working at bakeries, donut shops and restaurants in high school, it sort of became innate for me.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              That's very interesting. It sounds like you had a very culinary upbringing, but still, I feel like a dope. Glad you posted it.

        4. Harold McGee in Keys to Good Cooking, talks about the flavor that the fat contributes (or does not), but focuses on crispness when talking about the batter (generally more starch, less gluten makes it more crisp). For potatoes, without any batter, temperature may be more important than the fat (there I'm reading between the lines).