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
Sarah, thank you so much for your blog and all the beneficial topics! What a blessing!
I would really like to hear your take on consumption of Black Seed oills (Nigella sativa oil) (Good or bad?)
And also your take on soya source (they add a lot of MSG/E621 into these, even when they call their soya source “organic” – Any thoughts on this?
Is peanut oil OK?
Sarah Pope MGA
Some peanut oil is fine. Here’s how to know what to avoid and what is fine to buy. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/peanut-oil/
So are you really saying it is ok to use palm oil after what we all know about the destruction of the Amazon forest and more that it is causing.
Sarah Pope MGA
Palm oil can be sustainably harvested. That is the kind I recommend. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-many-shades-of-palm-oil/
When making chicken stock can I use the fat on top as like rendered from skin
Sarah Pope MGA
In the winter, I like to make chicken soup broth with a whole organic chicken and a variety of herbs and roots veggies and spices to drink as tea or in a soup or add to souces for health reason. 2018 I have retained the chicken-fat to braised veggies for risotto or baked sweet potatoes fries. The result is a superb taste that satisfies the palate stomach and keeps me full longer than when I use other fats. I intuitively feel that it must be better for joint pain arthritis anxiety etcetera. Am I right?
My main goal is sound health for a strong mind body and spirit. In the past, I have treated physical aliments with food successfully for myself and others. Awaiting your response. Thank you!
Thanks for confirming a suspension of mine. I have been going back to the old days in my approach to cooking. A less complicated kitchen seems goal. With little effort on my part I get along without processed foof and enjoy less trips to the garbage dump with packaging. Figured people have survived for centurys with a few basic ingredients like a flour, a fat, a root veg, a green, a crudité and natural flavors/spices
Thank you for this info.
So when I roast a whole organic chicken, can I strain the fat in the pan and use it for cooking?