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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.

              2. Duck fat is really good. But goose fat, now that is special.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JudiAU

                  DEFINITELY!! Every Xmas I make Julia Child's "Steam-Roasted Goose in Port Wine Gravy", & the pre-roasting steaming step leaves behind a roasting pan chock full of pure clear goose stock & fat ready for rendering. I end up with around a quart of pure rendered fat that I pour into smaller containers to keep in my fridge & freezer & use throughout the year.

                  Of course by now I'm plum out, but Xmas is just around the corner. . . .

                2. Part of it may be that a single duck has a *lot* more fat in it than a chicken does, so it's easier to collect enough fat to use for other cooking.

                  As an aside, apparently duck blood coagulates very differently than chicken blood, which is why you get duck's blood used in cooking but not chicken.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    This is what I was told, as well. Would just take too many chickens to render sufficient quantities of fat.

                    Also, for some reason duck fat has a longer shelf life than chicken fat.

                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                      I made a large pot of chicken soup over the weekend and after the soup was chilled I was left with a lovely layer of chicken fat that was very easy to remove. That's what inspired my question. So, while it's true that one chicken doesn't yield a whole lot of fat, a pot full of chicken soup made with thighs and legs does yield a fair amount.

                      As for chicken/duck blood -- well, that's just not a topic I want to get into.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Here are some things I've made recently with chicken fat:

                        1. Potato cakes fried in chicken fat (mashed spuds with egg, flour and green onion);
                        2. Gravy, without having to have roasted a chicken.

                        Have a recipe for scallion pancakes I've been meaning to try; you smear a little chicken fat on the pancake before rolling and coiling.

                        If you've got it, I say put it to use.

                    2. Another factor is simply that ducks generate way more leftover fat than chicken, and therefore there's traditionally been more of a need to figure out tasty ways to use it up.

                      I like starchy vegetables that have been roasted under a chicken (absorbing fat as well as seasonings and juices). But there's something special--(I'd say more crispy and savory and not as greasy-tasting)--about the same veggies roasted in plain duck fat. That's why I save duck fat in the freezer, but not chicken fat.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: TomMeg1970

                        Texturally speaking, duck fat and chicken fat produce results that are basically interchangeable. If duck fat can make it crispy and non-greasy, so can chicken fat.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I agree, but I was talking more about my perception of the greasiness than the actual fat content. Basically because I don't like the flavor of chicken fat as much as I like duck, schmaltz just seems "greasy-tasting". :)

                      2. My grandmother said chicken was wonderful for baking - but since the flavour comes through it must be a savoury recipe - not the cookies I tried ;-)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: A Pointe

                          ew. But you get points for trying it. ew.