Chicken fat or schmaltz is a traditional fat, very budget-friendly and quite healthy to use. Be sure to follow these important cautions if you choose to cook with it on a regular basis.
A recurring theme on this site is the critical importance of utilizing Traditional Fats for cooking. Avoiding industrialized factory fats that are rancid from processing and devoid of nutrients is critical to long term health. These frankenfats include margarine, spreads and vegetable oils. Is chicken fat, also called schmaltz, one of these fats?
Let’s take a look in-depth.
Is Chicken Fat Healthy?
The type of fats you choose for cooking can literally make or break your health!
This is the case regardless of other kitchen practices that may be right on target such as sourcing local and organic produce, consumption of antibiotic/steroid-free grass-fed meat, and use of freshly ground flour to prepare traditionally made baked goods.
Factory fats such as hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are obviously unhealthy. Less obviously damaging are the heavily marketed liquid edible oils. These include soy, rice bran, corn, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, canola, pumpkin seed oil, and others as they are modern fats only recently introduced to the human diet.
Consumption of these industrialized fats can cause cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, fertility problems, learning disabilities, growth problems, and osteoporosis. They are inflammation in a bottle! They must be vigilantly avoided to achieve maximum health and vitality. (1)
Nutrient-rich traditional fats best used for cooking include the following:
- Lard from pigs outside in the sunlight (this recipe plus video shows you how to render lard at home)
- Tallow and suet from beef and lamb
- Chicken and goose fat (schmaltz), and duck fat
- Coconut, palm kernel, red palm oil, and palm oil
These traditional fats are primarily composed of saturated and monounsaturated fats. They maintain their integrity when heated, meaning they do not become denatured forming free radicals during the cooking process. This is true as long as the heat remains below the smoke point. These fats have nourished healthy cultures for millennia.
Wondering why olive oil is not on this list? This article outlines the reasons I choose not to cook with olive oil although it is great for salad dressing and is definitely a healthy traditional fat.
Chicken Fat vs Other Nourishing Fats
What many folks do not realize is that all fats are actually a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are the rancid ones full of free radicals that are used in processed foods. They are the bad fats that when consumed to excess as is the case in the Western diet, inflammation and degenerative disease is the result. Vegetable oils also contribute to a tendency to gain weight.
A common characteristic of nearly all traditional fats is that they are all very low in polyunsaturated fats. The one exception is chicken fat which is about 21% polyunsaturated (2).
This compares with a polyunsaturated fat content of the following nourishing fats. (2)
- 4% for butter and ghee
- 4% for beef tallow
- 8% for mutton tallow
- 11% for goose fat
- 12% for duck fat
- 3% for coconut oil
- 9% for palm oil
- 2.3% for palm kernel oil
Cautions using Schmaltz
If you are new to Traditional Diet and your pantry is still fairly loaded up with processed foods in the form of chips, crackers, cookies, etc – even if organic – it is best to use another traditional fat for cooking than chicken fat.
This is because eating even a moderate amount of processed foods will likely result in an excessive intake of polyunsaturates. Cooking with chicken fat will exacerbate the problem as it is the highest in polyunsaturates of all the traditional fats with the exception of sesame oil. A much better choice would be to cook with one or more of the traditional fats listed above that are very low in polyunsaturates.
On the other hand, if you have eliminated most processed foods from your diet and are eating nearly all whole, home-prepared snacks and meals at home, then cooking with schmaltz poses no problem whatsoever.
The reason? There isn’t an excessive amount of polyunsaturated fats in your diet already.
Healthful and Budget Friendly
I hope this article has not put anyone off chicken fat! That was certainly not the intention.
This wonderful traditional fat is fabulous to include in the diet. However, the caveat is the high polyunsaturated content that is not common knowledge for many people.
Instead, I hope this information motivates you to further reduce your family’s use of any remaining processed foods.
Then, you can fully enjoy and utilize the budget-friendly convenience of chicken fat with complete peace of mind.
It is so simple to gather rendered schmaltz into a jar. Simply peel it off the top of a quart of chilled homemade chicken stock! Then, use it for vegetable sautes, stir fry and other savory dishes. It keeps for weeks when refrigerated.
How to Use for Maximum Health Benefits
Think you’re ready to use chicken fat? A good rule of thumb to know for sure is to open your pantry and take a look. If you see a lot of boxes from the store, you should be doing your cooking with a traditional fat.
These fats include butter, ghee, coconut oil, tallow, lard, and suet. Palm, goose and duck fat, while a bit higher in polyunsaturates, would also be fine for cooking occasionally even if some processed foods still remain in your family’s diet.
Save the chicken fat for when you are more fully transitioned to Traditional Diet. This approach ensures that no overconsumption of polyunsaturates occurs which would keep the brakes on your journey to optimal health.
Once you get to that point, there is quite possibly no cooking fat that is easier on the budget than schmaltz!
(1) Principles of Healthy Diets
(2) Chicken Fat Nutrition Data
Selecting a Healthy Cooking Fat and Reusing it Safely
Argan Oil Benefits Health
Walnut Oil: Healthy Sub for Flax Oil
I’m so glad to get your recipe for mayonaise, Sarah, and I’m integrating two different posts of yours. The mayonaise with egg calls for all olive oil or half olive oil and half safflower oil. But the post here about being cautious with chicken fat says that safflower oil is a processed oil that can cause cancer. Maybe I’m missing something…is safflower oil OK not heated, but becomes harmful when heated? Thanks so much for clarifying.
Hi, I am surprised by your advocacy of palm oil. What I have been reading about palm oil is all negative.
When you skim the chicken fat off of the stock, do you store it in the refrigerator?
thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook
I don’t use a slow cooker myself so not much help in that department.
I am a real newbie. I see you talk about chicken fat and tallow but not plain old beef fat. Is that a traditional oil that can be used for cooking? I cannot eat lard for religious reasons and was wondering if beef fat can be substituted?
Samantha, beef fat IS tallow. Grass fed beef tallow is a wonderful, traditional cooking fat. I have a 5 gallon bucket of it!
I watched one of Sarah’s videos and she mentioned tallow is the fat between the kidneys. She said that it was a superior fat. I thought she was distinguishing that fat from other beef fat which is not tallow. Did I not understand something?
The beef fat between the kidneys (or the pig fat) is referred to as leaf tallow or leaf lard (in the case of pig fat). It is preferred in many cases (particularly when used in baking) because it has a very neutral flavor. Fat from other parts of the cow or pig will have more of the flavor associated with that animal.
Just FYI if you haven’t found this already: tallow is beef fat. 🙂 Lard is pork fat. Chicken fat and duck fat are just that, to my limited knowledge. It’s funny how some things have different names and others don’t. I hope you are still working toward more traditional eating!
Mich Magno via Facebook
I’d also like to know about a safe crock pot/slow cooker. Thanks.
Robin AKA GoatMom
My Mother’s family gave me insight to Traditional vs Modern diet and the sad effects. My maternal Grandfather was one of 12 children , one died before age 2 , 11 lived to age 65 or older. Half of those 11 lived beyond age 85. My Grandfather was the only one who died of cancer, survived his first round and lived 11 more years. They all were poor farmers living in rural areas, growing their own vegetables, fruit, animals, not using commercial fertilizers because they couldn’t afford to. AS their income improved they started buying white sugar and store bread, my Granny even threw out their quilts for better store bought blankets. I fortunately took the quilts home with me, at 13 I knew they were more special than store bought! My Mom was 1 of 5 children, she and 2 siblings died of heart disease or cancer before age 50. I’ve been following a more Taditonal diet and food preparation for 7 years now and see many dramatic health improvements. I use chicken fat, smaltz as my Jewish neighbors called it, for some of the special recipes I have from them.
In The Kitchen, Keepin' It Real via Facebook
always helpful sarah. any thoughts on how/where to buy a safe slow cooker? or do away with that idea completely?
Hi Sarah, the convo above brought up a question when you talked abt the excalibur dehydrator and heat.
I was using a plastic restaurant pitcher to strain my bone broth (still hot but not boiling) into before pouring into glass jars. Well I looked it up and guess what…BPA, do you think there is a worry of it leeching into my broth or am I being paranoid?
love your blog, you really stir it up and give us some good info, I read it almost everyday! thanks!
Juliette, I strain my hot broth into a large glass mixing bowl to cool in the frige before putting it into jars. I wouldn’t put hot broth into plastic with BPA.
From one Juliette to another 😉 I wouldn’t put hot broth into plastic either.
I heard that Palm oil is bad for you, am i wrong?
No, palm oil is not bad for you. Like coconut oil, it’s a saturated fat and so has the same benefits for cooking (more stable, doesn’t oxidize like polyunsaturated oils) and health (protects against cancer, reduces inflammation,etc.). The bad part is that it is often grown in areas that used to house tropical forests where endangered species of animals (like orangutangs and tapirs) live. So many of the palm oils on the market are contributing to the destruction of rain forests and wiping out the habitats of the native animal that live there. However, there are some varieties of palm oil that are grown on small scale farms in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way such as Tropical Traditions. I’d suggest contacting the company who makes the palm oil to find out if clear cutting tropical forests was done in order to grow the palm trees used to produce the palm oil.