Here's Why You Should Repurpose Chicken Fat Before Tossing It

Are you familiar with "schmaltz"? Unless you have an affinity for specialty foods or you're familiar with Jewish cuisine, probably not. Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat — and it's pretty amazing (so much so that it earned an admirable ranking on our list of best chicken parts). You can use it a variety of ways, really any way you'd use any other fat — for frying, as an addition to baked goods, or as a replacement for some of the oil/fats in homemade salad dressings or mayonnaise. Some even like to simply spread it on a piece of toast. 

Schmaltz is incredibly versatile and is essentially lard — just from a chicken and not a pig. Schmaltz is ideal for lending a rich, savory flavor to your cornbread, tortillas, potatoes, dips, biscuits, fried chicken, dressings, confit, sautéed aromatics, and even pie crusts. But how do you go about actually making your own schmaltz, so you can repurpose that chicken fat before tossing it?

Making your own schmaltz at home

If you don't want to pick up schmaltz at your local butcher, you can make your own schmaltz at home rather easily, especially if you're already a home cook who likes to make use of an entire chicken. All you'll need is the loose fat and unused skin from a piece of chicken, either the entire chicken or even just a pack of chicken thighs.

To start, freeze the removed fat and skin. Then, chop it very finely. Add it all to a saucepan with a small amount of water (along with some chopped onions, if you want), bring it to a simmer, turn it on low, and let it sit for two hours or more. You want the skin to go golden and crispy, and the resulting fat to be clear and clean-looking (which means keeping an eye on it throughout the cooking process and giving it a stir every once in a while, to avoid burning). Strain it all through a cheese cloth, let the schmaltz cool (at which point it'll turn solid and opaque), and then store it in the refrigerator. Your schmaltz will stay fresh for about a week, ready to use in all your favorite recipes.