Thanksgiving, season of schmaltz.

This morning I was re-reading the (very timely and very wise) discussion of bird-roasting in a cookbook I usually love. But this time I noticed something that made me gasp and smack the page. The sentence began: “Remove and discard the lump of fat…”

Discard the lump of fat?!?! Is she crazy? Schmaltz is the most wonderful stuff. To discard it is absolutely ridiculous. (How very American, really, to remove and discard the lump of fat. The most nutritious, energy-rich part. The most flavorful part. To throw away the fat of the land. Such a waste, such a waste!)

Okay, okay, I’m done channeling the Ashkenazi grandmas of the world.

I’m just here to remind you that poultry fat is lovely stuff. If you’re roasting a bird this Thanksgiving, you should save its fat in a little jar in your refrigerator. You can use it to sauté vegetables, to flavor beans, to enrich sauces, to enliven soups… anyplace that wants a bit of tasty poultry richness. (And who wouldn’t want that?)

Just pour the extra fat off the juices in your roasting pan. And save the fat from the broth you make with the bones. And that little lump of fat inside the bird? You can leave it on if you like, and it will melt as the bird roasts. Or you can cut it off and render it as you would any other fat. Just please don’t throw it away, okay?

Happy Thanksgiving!

In case you’re geeky about fatty-acids (like I am), here are the details on all kinds of schmaltz (USDA data for 1 tablespoon of each):

Chicken fat: 2.7g polyunsaturated; 5.7g monounsaturated; 3.8g saturated.

Duck fat: 1.7g polyunsaturated; 6.3g monounsaturated; 4.3g saturated.

Goose fat: 1.4g polyunsaturated; 7.3g monounsaturated; 3.5g saturated.

Turkey fat: 3g polyunsaturated; 5.5g monounsaturated; 3.8g saturated.

And for reference…

Olive oil: 1.4g polyunsaturated; 9.9g monounsaturated; 1.9g saturated.

Butter: 0.4g polyunsaturated; 3g monounsaturated; 7.3g saturated.


  1. Kevin said,

    November 21, 2007 @ 9:31 am

    Love it!

    I knew that anyone with a post titled “Thank the Lard” had to be an all around good person. America’s fear of fat is very odd. Particularly since we stuff ourselves with an ungodly amount of chemicals and other processed nastiness without batting an eye. But, heaven forbid that someone would eat a little extra fat.

    I married a French woman, so she keeps me in line pretty well. I am also reminded that the fat is where the flavor is!

  2. Gillian said,

    November 21, 2007 @ 10:08 am

    I apparently have some residual fat fear because I was very comforted by the breakdown of monounsaturated:saturated fat ratios. Perhaps you could do a post at some point on saturated fats? I have read that the research points out that people who eat indigenous saturated fats and have active lifestyles seemed to have no ill effects but my doctor likes to talk about the instantaneous changes in the body after consuming saturated fats. I want to say “toss it all” and assume that short term changes are probably for a beneficial reason that we don’t understand yet and try and eat as my great grandmother did but it’s hard somedays to fight the tide…

  3. Kevin said,

    November 21, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    Well, there is also research to suggest that animals that are fed their “natural” diets (i.e., cows eating grass, chickens eating bugs, grubs, seeds, etc.) have better fats than animals that are fed “unnatural” diets (i.e., cows eating corn, chickens eating grains, antibiotics, other animals, etc.). So, it is not just the fat itself. There are much more complex factors at work. And, we have to understand these facts. As we move further away from how we and other animals have “evolved,” we are seeing many more diseases, ill health effects, etc. I am a full believer in taking an evolutionary perspective when we start discussions of diets. A few million years of natural selection have served us well!

  4. crabappleherbs said,

    November 21, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

    Ah, yes, I do plan to blog about the “saturated fat is the devil” thing.

    And yes indeed it matters a great deal how the animal in question lived.

    There really is so much to say about fat!

  5. Leda said,

    November 23, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

    I’ve been saving and using poultry and other animal fats and using them as part of my local foods diet. Much as I love olive oil, olive trees don’t grown in New York! The food cooked with fat from local free range animals is delicious. I was worried about the saturated fat thing at first, but I am increasingly skeptical about that national phobia. My intuited opinion is that there is a world of difference between the fat from healthy, free range animals and those from the commercial factories. Fat has a tendency to store toxins in the body after all. Oh, and my CSA meat farmer offers leaf lard for a very cheap price–you have to render it yourself, but that’s not a big deal.

    Many thanks for the post, and I look forward to more on this topic.

  6. crabappleherbs said,

    November 26, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

    Thanks, Leda… I’m working on a “fat” post right now.

  7. Riana said,

    November 30, 2007 @ 1:50 am

    I adore schmaltz! I cook it up with onions and green apples and then jar it to smear on my sandwiches and it’s the secret ingredient of chopped liver! I fry my potatoes in duck In fact, almost all my winter recipes start with melt three tablespoons of duck fat… and its yum, yum yum.

  8. crabappleherbs said,

    December 1, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

    Ah, duck fat. How lovely. I’m hoping to get a duck or two from a farmer over the mountain. We shall see.

    In the meantime, the goose fat from our Thanksgiving bird is infused with rosemary, and it should be lovely on roasted potatoes.

  9. Heidi said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    It’s funny. I always knew throwing out the fat was a silly thing, but I’d never heard of anyone actually keeping it for any reason, let alone having a name for it! Schmaltz. Ok, I will never throw it away again. I did roast a whole organic free-range bird this week, and am proud to say I used absolutely everything! The bones made the best broth I’ve ever tasted, and the fat went into a little jar I keep in my freezer. Is freezing it ok too? It wasn’t totally filtered, and had little bits of roasted skin in it, so I figured it would stay better there.

    Thanks for this post. I feel like I discovered a little secret, putting that fat away….

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