January 29, 2016

How To Render Chicken Fat

Remember those commercials about never selling a fatty yellow chicken? Well, fatty yellow chickens were what we had when we thinned the flock of our oldest hens not too long ago. The idea was to make way for the up and coming Australorps, so they would feel comfortable in the hen house, rather than constantly being chased away by the older birds who thought the place was theirs. I saved all that yellow fat and recently pulled it out of the freezer to render.

Rendering is the same thing as clarifying. Are you familiar with ghee, or clarified butter? The idea is to remove the non-fat parts in order to increase shelf-life. Solid fats are extremely stable (which is why hydrogenation came into being). It's the bits of liquid, muscle, and connective tissue which decompose quickly.

Contrary to what those commercials wanted us to believe, the yellow fat in a chicken is the prime fat. The whitish skimmings from cooking chicken are of lower quality. When we butchered all those hens (about ten of them), I canned the meat, collected the yellow fat, and froze it for rendering later.

The process is a simple one, it just requires the time to hang around and keep an eye on it.

Cut the fat into small chunks. Smaller = quicker melting

Put in a heavy-bottomed pot with a small amount of water. Heat gently.
When it seems that no more will melt, skim out the unmelted bits.

The water keeps the fat from browning and evaporates as the fat melts.

It does not want simmering or boiling! It only needs a gentle heat to melt the fat. Not all the chunks will melt and can be strained out. These are the "cracklings." They can be used in cooking (see my recipe for Cracklin' Cornbread), or fed as treats to cats, dogs, or pigs. (Chickens like cracklings too but since feeding chicken to chickens may seem repulsive, let them have the cracklings from goat or pork.)

Strain into wide-mouth canning jars and allow to cook in the fridge.

After the fat has solidified I put on lids. I always wait to put on lids
to avoid condensation by capping a warm or hot substance. The small
amount of chicken broth in the jars will be well-preserved by the fat.

As you can see, those ten fatty yellow chickens gave me four pints (a half gallon) of rendered fat. It remains a soft fat and never becomes truly hard like lard.

So what does one do with it? According to Putting Food By, it makes great biscuits (and it does). It's also said to be the must-use fat for good matzo balls. Others like it in pie crusts. For me, it's mostly a matter of not wasting anything from the animals we process at home. 

Other animal fats can be rendered too. For how to render goat fat click here. 

28 comments:

  1. you can be sure that if we had animals that i would be rendering their fat. my friend wendy in northern ontario renders all fats - cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, moose, deer and bear fat. she uses all of it for a variety of things and because she has so much of it - gives a nice scoop of fat on top the dog's bowls when she feeds them her home-made dog food. your fat looks lovely!!!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Moose, deer and bear? Interesting! I've read that the way to prevent a gamey taste (with venison at least) is to remove absolutely all the fat. I wondered if it could then be used for cooking; obviously yes! The bear fat reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder writing how she loved bear meat when she was a little girl.

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    2. I've never actually rendered fat for eating (I'll have to try it now!), but some of the best soap I've ever made has been from venison tallow.

      I also can't say I've ever found venison to be particularly gamey. But then again, most of the deer I've eaten have come from agricultural land, so they get pretty much the same diet as the local beef cows!

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    3. Jake, good point about diet. We have a lot of deer around, but Dan hasn't gotten one for eating. Sometimes are bucks can make for strong flavored eating, but that's related to hormones rather than diet.

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    4. Leigh - my friend Wendy is on speed dial with animal control in northern ontario. if any wild animal is struck down by a vehicle on a provincial road - they call her - and she goes out and assesses how long the animal has been down, field-strips the animal for any use-able meats and fat. she is an amazing woman. she can be found at www.whisin.blogspot.com. she hasn't posted in a while due to certain circumstances but all of her older posts are there to read. she is an amazing fount of information.

      she has some amazing information that i know that you would love. as you would expect from a woman who can field-strip a bear on the side of the road!

      my jam will be out hunting next october and he will be going by himself. he can shoot a ben-pearson re-curve from both the left and the right - he's something else, he is! and i'll be rendering some kind of fat from his hunting, and from both yours and wendy's info - so thanks so much for that!

      sending love! your friend,
      kymber

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    5. Kymber, that is very amazing. Both Jam and your friend Wendy! Sounds like you will have some good eating next winter.

      I've never heard of field-stripping. Dan and I have often thought that road kill is a huge waste in more ways than one, and that sounds like a truly good thing to do.

      The blog address comes up not found. Did she take it down? Sounds like a blog I'd like to read.

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    6. sorry. her address is www.whishin.blogspot.ca
      have a look around at some of her posts - i think you will really enjoy her blog!

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  2. Very interesting - I'm assuming you could do this with the fat from a Prime Rib also? Could you use this to make Suet also? Or is it too soft?

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    1. That's an interesting question about the suet. From what I recall, suet is fat from around the kidney area of cows and sheep. (I'm guessing that's what they call leaf lard in pigs).

      You can render any fat, though. Some of it is stronger flavored than other. Some of my goat fat has a distinct taste, so I like to use it when sauteing strong flavored veggies like greens, garlic, and onion.

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  3. I usually run what ever fat I am rendering through the meat grinder and put in a warm oven to melt. If you really want to get the most out of it you can press the cracklins in a "lard press". The one I saw was also used for stuffing sausage. We always fill jars with hot rendered fat and put a lid on right away so the lid seals.
    We have used chicken fat in biscuits and pie crust.

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    1. Howard does this seal make the fat shelf stable?

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    2. Howard, I've never heard of a lard press but that's a good idea to press the cracklings for every bit of fat.

      I hadn't thought about sealing the jars by lidding them hot (good question Carol). I may have to try that. In our summer heat, I'd refrigerate it anyway, but the sealing would be nice.

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    3. We are using lard that I rendered in November 2014 right now and it is fine. There is no broth in the jars and as I said they are sealed. We store it in our unheated dry shed so it is frozen in the winter but the shed is dark and stays cool in the summer. The rendering is usually done in the wood stove oven in fall so it is usually under 250 or 300. We wipe the rims and tighten lids as soon as they are filled. Hope that helps.

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    4. My biggest lament for living in the south is our horrendous summer heat and humidity. They are a severe challenge in terms of food storage.

      Helps a lot Howard, thanks!

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  4. This the best part of butchering fat old hens! I use it for roasting potatoes and sautéed veges. Once I ended up with very fatty chicken stock. I skimmed the fat and it was extra tasty with the herbs from the stock!

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    1. Great idea to used it for roasting potatoes and veggies. Yum! I love the idea of seasoned fat too.

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  5. Yummm with baked potatoes. You are so frugal Leigh. I remember my Mum doing this so thanks for the memory.

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    1. Thanks for that Lynda! I'll have to try it with baked potatoes. I don't buy oils or hydrogenated fats, but coconut oil and palm shortening are pretty expensive, so I save every bit of fat I can. Like sausage fat is great for cooking eggs!

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  6. I remember my parents using lard when I was very young but other than that, I've always used butter. If I went to rendering fat for use, I would have to school myself a bit on how to cook with it, especially when it comes to baking. Thanks for the lesson!

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    1. My grandmother used lard for frying dougnhuts and they were always the best. Now lard from the grocery store has hydrogenated fat and preservatives - yuk!

      I think butter is one of my most commonly used fats too. Although I keep home-rendered, coconut oil, and olive oil available too.

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  7. That's interesting Leigh, I have never heard of rendering fat before. Thanks for the info.

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    1. It's a great way to not waste a valuable food item!

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  8. In the US we call that Shmultz , or a heart attack waiting to happen LOL!

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    1. Old science! LOL! I also just read that schmaltz (chicken or goose) is used as a spread on bread.

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  9. Leigh,

    Now that's some really good looking fat. I wonder if you can make soap with this rendered chicken fat?

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    1. Good question, Sandy. It's fairly soft, so I think would make a soft soap.

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