ooking with duck fat is kitchen alchemy at its tastiest. With a silky mouth feel, propensity for deep browning and delicate savory flavor, duck fat seems to spin anything it touches into culinary gold – from potatoes to poultry to popcorn. It’s an incredibly versatile fat, having a high smoke point, long-term freezability and unlike butter or olive oil, can be reused.
And you can use duck fat without guilt. It’s low in saturated fat (20% less than butter) and high in unsaturated fat, making it one of healthiest animal fats you can eat. It’s the cooking fat of choice in Southwest France where the incidence of heart disease is about half that of the rest of France, already less than half that of the United States.
Storage & Use
When kept cold, duck fat stays “softly” solidified, much like vegetable shortening or lard, and can be scooped out as needed. It can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for 6 months, but if you’re going for long-term storage we recommend the freezer. Duck fat freezes beautifully and when stored in an airtight container, can be kept indefinitely. For the ultimate convenience, before storing, gently melt the fat and pour into ice cube trays before freezing. Once frozen solid, move the cubes to a heavy-duty freezer bag or tub and use the small portions as needed. Another benefit to using duck fat is its ability to be “recycled.” After using a large quantity of fat, let it cool slightly then strain through butter muslin or a fine sieve into a clean container for later use.
Use duck fat as you would any other lipid. It can be used directly from a solid, soft or liquid state. As a good rule of thumb when replacing other fats in recipes, use duck fat in the same manner as the fat you’re replacing. For example, in place of a cold pat of butter, use a cold scoop of duck fat. For a drizzle of oil, use a drizzle of slightly warmed duck fat, and so on. When using duck fat for deep-frying, gently melt the solid fat over medium-high heat until completely liquefied then raise the temperature to high to bring it up to proper frying temp.
Just a Few Ideas for Cooking with Duck Fat
- Perfect Potatoes … The combination of duck fat and potatoes is a match made in food heaven. Duck fat enhances the earthy potato flavor and imparts a golden crust. Use duck fat for potato galette, roasted potatoes, pommes anna, hash browns, croquetas, sautéed fingerlings, mashed potatoes, and just about any other spud application you can think of.
- Crispy Poultry Skin … We all know that roasted poultry benefits from a pre-oven butter rubdown but trade the butter for duck fat and watch what happens. Rub some softened duck fat under the skin of the breasts and inside the cavity then massage some more over the outside of the entire bird before seasoning and sticking in a very hot oven. The gleaming, golden skin will crisp up beautifully while the breasts stay moist and succulent with extra-rich, full-flavor.
- Ultimate Sear … Using duck fat to sear meats, poultry, fish and shellfish is a surefire way to achieve an evenly browned, flavorful crust. Use it to sear veal chops, pork loins, chicken breasts, scallops, shrimp and much more!
- Dressed for Success … Warmed duck fat dressings add delicious savory character to salads, especially those made with hearty greens like frisée, radicchio, kale, endive and chards. The keys to a good duck fat dressing is keeping it simple and giving it balance, so temper the richness with an acidic bite and touch of sweetness from a fruity vinegar, citrus segments or minced shallots. Toss with greens and serve immediately.
- Vamped up Vegetables … Oven-roasted or sautéed vegetables earn gourmet cred when tossed in duck fat before cooking. A little fat goes a long way in adding richness and facilitating caramelization. All veggies will benefit from a quick toss with duck fat, from earthy roots and tubers to sugar-packed onions and more astringent produce like asparagus or artichokes.
- Classic Popcorn … Popcorn made the old fashion way - in a heavy bottomed pot right on the stove top - is ridiculously delicious when popped in duck fat. The fat adds depth of flavor that hard to describe until you try it. Check it out for yourself with our recipe for D’Artagnan Movie Night Popcorn.
- Off the Deep End … Duck fat when used alone or in combination with other high smoke point oils, such as safflower or peanut oil, makes for fabulous deep-frying. Duck fat adds extra-oomph to fried chicken, croquettes, beignets, breaded calamari, potato chips and of course – french fries. Crisp and golden on the outside, light yet creamy on the inside with a wonderfully rich flavor, duck fat fries are out of this world.
- Bake Star … Duck fat is an unexpected secret weapon in the pastry kitchen. It makes crisp, golden puffed pastry and Viennoiseries. It creates tender, flaky pate brisée and short crust pastry while adding subtle depth of flavor and is an excellent add-in for Yorkshire pudding and pop-overs. It’s also key ingredient in our favorite duck fat cookies. Use a 50/50 duck fat and butter blend for most baking recipes unless using as a replacement for lard, in which you can use equal measure.
- Preserving … Of course we can’t talk about uses for duck fat without touching on confit. Duck, goose, rabbit and pork are all delicious when given the confit treatment. As is garlic! Duck fat works its magic in pâtés, terrines and also potted meats, like rillettes and rillons.