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Why duck fat but not chicken fat?

It seems that so many recipes I see are singing the praises of duck fat, but, with the exception of some of my Jewish cooking cookbooks, I don't think I've ever seen a recipe that calls for using chicken fat. What are the differences between the two? Chicken fat is so much more accessible. Why aren't the two interchangeable? Or are they?

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  1. Duck fat is a healthier fat than chicken fat. Which is not to say that you cannot sub chicken fat when a recipe calls for duck fat.

    1. You absolutely can.

      Duck fat is in vogue and is just sort of the fat du jour these days, which is why you may see it more of the recipes that you read.

      Truth be told, as far as I know, people have been using chicken for as long as they've been using chicken eggs.

      There are supposed health benefits that duck fat has over other animal fats -- e.g. it's high in beneficial unsaturated fats, and its chemical composition is closer to olive oil than to butter. It's also high in oleic acid (although not as high as olive oil).

      Plus, it just taste good.

      But to answer your question, yes, they are absolutely interchangeable.

      1. Duck fat has a flavor that chicken fat will never, ever be able to duplicate. It's really, really delicious.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          I agree 1000%. Schmaltz has its purposes, but compared with duck fat, it's like Secretariat racing an old mule.

          1. re: Veggo

            I beg to differ. I just rendered about 1 1/2 c. duck fat this weekend and feasted - with a blissful expression and a guilty conscience - on the gribenes, aka cracklings. Both the Spouse and I were wondering why, as good as it was, it just wasn't as good as schmaltz and chicken gribenes.

            I believe it's a combination of 2 things. Duck fat is the fat du jour. So trendy and expensive and chi chi, it's a must-have. Chicken fat is none of the above.

            Chicken fat is the taste we grew up on. It's homey, warm, and reminds you of your favorite grandmother. If you grew up with schmaltz you'll appreciate duck fat but it will never be as good as the tastes of your childhood.

            1. re: Veggo

              Agreed, Veggo. The flavor difference is profound.

          2. Duck fat has nice flavor. And ducks (and geese) render a lot of extra fat that cooks traditionally had to find something to do with.

            That said, a lot of it boils down to tradition. Chicken fat can be subbed for duck fat in most situations, and it does have a nice flavor of its own, though more subtle. It's underused, mainly because it's neither trendy nor traditional.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cowboyardee

              (and it's cheap and easy to find, which disqualifies it immediately as a trendy gourmet food item....)

            2. As others have already stated - both duck & goose fat have healthy properties that far outweigh chicken fat. Since I usually rotisserie-roast duck, I normally don't save the pan drippings, but the roast Xmas goose every year easily yields a couple of pints of fabulous rendered goose fat that last me for the whole year. But of course duck fat could easily be substituted.

              Potatoes - as well as other roastable vegetables - roasted in goose fat? Roasted vegetable heaven. Breakfast home-fried potatoes sauteed in goose fat? Heaven again. Anything that you might use bacon fat for? Goose or duck fat is a viable alternative. The result won't be smokey, but it'll be healthier & delicious. :)

              6 Replies
              1. re: Bacardi1

                i don't save chicken fat from commercial supermarket chickens -- only antibiotic-free birds. toxins collect in the fat of birds, just like in humans.

                that being said, scrambled eggs sauteed in chicken fat are awesome.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  This is a genuine question, so please treat it as such...

                  That made me hesitate for a minute -- are scrambled eggs sauteed in chicken fat kosher?

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Eggs are parve, neither meat nor dairy, so you can cook your eggs in chicken fat and have them be kosher. You would need to use a meat pan, meat dishes, and not serve the eggs with cheese, butter, or milk, though.

                    1. re: rockycat

                      thanks for that -- and for not snarking....I couldn't help but see the "offspring in mother's milk" parallel, and realized that I didn't know if eggs in chicken fat would cross that line!

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        even as somebody who doesn't keep kosher -- eggs are NOT dairy. dairy all comes from 4-legged ruminants.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          no, no -- not that chicken or chicken fat is dairy -- I knew that egg is parve (and that schmaltz is meat), but if cooking a calf in its mother's milk isn't kosher... it didn't seem all that farfetched to wonder if it follows that cooking an egg in its predecessor's fat is forbidden, or is it allowed?

                          and Rockycat had the answer.