Rendering is the process of slowly cooking solid raw fats to evaporate their water and extract a versatile, purified fat for cooking. Rendering them yourself is simple and economical, especially if you are already purchasing large cuts or whole animals.
- Grind, Grate, or Chop Your Fat.
Begin with chilled fat. Grinding fat in a meat grinder will expose more surface area resulting in a higher yield. Ground fat will also render more quickly. Cut the fat into 1/2-inch cubes and freeze for about 45 minutes. Once the fat has a light freeze, follow the instructions for grinding, step five (found here). Alternatively, for small amounts of pork, beef, or lamb fat, grate thoroughly chilled or partially frozen chunks of fat on the large holes of a box grater. For smaller amounts of poultry fat, chop the fat as finely as possible by hand.
- Choose the Right Pot.
Select an appropriate-size, heavy-bottomed, tall-sided pot. For large amounts (5-10 pounds), use a tall stockpot. For smaller amounts (say, the cavity fat from a duck), a deep saucepan or a Windsor pan (flared sided and flat bottom) will be sufficient. The fat should fill the pot at least halfway but not more than three-fourths. Too much fat in the pot risks splattering and too little or using too shallow a pan risks burning. Add about 2 Tbsp. water for every pound of fat to help hasten the melting process and prevent sticking. The added water will cook off quickly after the fat melts.
- Simmer the Fat.
Set the pot over very low heat. Stir the fat every few minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the fat begins to stick, add a small amount of water to help loosen the fat. Once the fat has melted, turn up the heat to medium and simmer until steam is no longer visible. Cooking times will vary depending on the water content of the fat. Turn off the heat and let the fat cool in the pot for 20-30 minutes. The solids will fall to the bottom of the pot.
- Strain the Fat.
Ladle the fat through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean glass jar or other container to remove any solids. A locking-lid glass jar is ideal. Keep refrigerated. The chilled fat should be quite firm. However, if it seems loose or watery, return it to the pan and simmer for an additional 20 minutes to evaporate any extra moisture. Properly stored, rendered fat will keep for 3 months in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
- Grind, Grate, or Chop Your Fat.
A Note About Collecting Pan Drippings
Drippings are the delicious by-products of roasting and searing. They are the fat that literally drips from the meat when you cook a roast, fry bacon, or brown a duck breast. The fat that is rendered this way will not be as unadulterated as traditionally rendered fat, but it is still worth saving for sautéing greens, roasting vegetables, or adding flavor to a pot of beans.
To collect the drippings, pour the accumulated fat and juices through a strainer into a clear glass jar or measuring cup. Allow the drippings to cool until the fat separates from the jus (juices). Ladle off the fat into another container and save the jus for a pan sauce or for enriching soups or braises. Refrigerated, most drippings will keep well for several weeks.
This information is an excerpt from In the Charcuterie by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller. To purchase click here.