You may wish to consider introducing Duck Fat as one of the cooking fats in your kitchen — for both health and taste reasons.
Here’s why I think duck fat is a healthy fat
Duck fat’s “nutritional profile” falls between butter and olive oil.
|Butter||2.9 g||0.4 g||7.2 g|
|Duck Fat||6.3 g||1.6 g||4.2 g|
|Olive Oil||9.8 g||1.4 g||1.9 g|
Now, technically, a clinician looking at these cold hard numbers on a spreadsheet in a lab would say that the facts seem to confirm that you should always still choose olive oil over duck fat1 . But there’s another aspect beyond the strict clinical lab profile: out in the real world, an actual cook knows that duck fat can be less fattening simply because you use far, far less of it than olive oil. When you sauté something in olive oil – say, a pan of sliced mushrooms and onions — you usually add a few glugs of olive oil which, if you were honest and measured them, are usually around 3 tablespoons (45 ml — if not more.) If you were instead to sauté that same food in duck fat, you really honestly wouldn’t want to use more than 1 tablespoon of duck fat, and maybe just two teaspoons even, or it would be swimming in grease.
To help compare the health impact of this, we’ll refer for a brief moment to the Weight Watchers points system to measure the “fattening” power of food. Those 3 tablespoons of olive oil you added would be 9 points; the 1 tablespoon of duck fat would be 4 points.2 There it is, plain and simple, something that olive oil marketing literature won’t tell you: the duck fat needed has less than half the fattening power than the needed olive oil would. And at a time when weight reduction and management is a massive, primary health concern in the First World (owing to blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, etc) , anything that helps in the real world to get weight under control needs to be under consideration as part of overall healthy cooking in the kitchen. ( As always, though, everyone’s body is different: so please consult your physician as to which cooking fats s/he feels may be best for your unique case. )
“‘All in all, duck fat is a good fat,’ says Alejandro G. Marangoni, a professor in the department of food science at the University of Guelph.” 3.
Why cooks love duck fat
- Duck fat has a rich, deep flavour that is also somehow neutral and complementary at the same time, so it works with almost anything;
- Duck fat does not evaporate or get absorbed into food in the same way that oils do. Instead it coats the food, giving food a satisfying mouth feel. This means you need less of it and often end up eating just a lil bit less, as you feel fuller;
- Duck fat performs well at very high temperatures without burning or evaporating away. Consequently not only do you need less, but it means you can get the food up to higher temperatures, resulting in crispier potatoes, and a wonderful Maillard effect on food such as mushrooms, meats, onions, etc.
Facts about duck fat
- What you’ll buy in stores is actually rendered duck fat from domesticated ducks. This means it won’t taste pondy, fishy, or muddy like fat from wild ducks can: it’s a whole different ballgame;
- Duck fat is usually sold in jars, cans or tubs. The tubs should be refrigerated; the jars and cans should be refrigerated after opening. Now duck fat is not cheap. We are paying 7 bucks for 300 g tubs of it; the Brome Lake brand being sold in tubs at Loblaw’s in Canada. But remember a lil does go a long, long, long way;
- You can also save the duck fat that renders out of (domesticated) duck you cook at home. Put it in a jar with a lid and refrigerate;
- It’s very soft and must be kept refrigerated. It will start to melt on your fingers just from your body warmth;
- Duck fat will keep many, many months in the refrigerator;
- You can freeze duck fat in tubs or containers for long-term storage. It will freeze rock-hard, so you will need to thaw it to be able to scoop it out easily;
- You can also use goose fat in place of duck fat;
- I’m not exaggerating about how little you use. In fact, many times you will use just a few teaspoons, and still be surprised at how much remains in the frying pan at the end of cooking that wasn’t soaked up by the food, so you could have actually used even less. So, I find it’s best to add a teaspoon at a time to what you are sautéing or roasting and just gauge as you go along, so that you don’t end up feeling dumb for having used too much. (You can, apparently, pour that back into the jar and re-use it another time, but I’ve just been washing it away because it could be now flavoured with whatever was cooking in it.)
To be clear, I’m not suggesting by any means that duck fat should replace olive oil in your kitchen.
I’m suggesting that from both a health and cooking aspect, you may wish to consider using duck fat for sautéing and frying because it’s far less fattening than oil in this role owing to the lower quantities needed, AND gives superior cooking results at the same time. What’s not to like? Reserve your good fancy olive oil for use as a condiment for drizzling on food, as a star ingredient in salad dressings and marinades, etc, where it will truly shine in healthier small amounts.4
Where to buy duck fat
First time out, if you’re like me, you’ll be cautious and just go for a starter amount to see how it fits into your cooking.
In Toronto, I’m getting my duck fat in tubs in the chiller sections at Loblaw’s grocery stores. It’s from a farm at Brome Lake, Québec. It costs about 8 bucks per plastic tub of 300 g / 10.5 oz (which goes a LONG way), but it’s often on sale for around 6 bucks, at which point I’ll grab, like, a dozen. The tubs freeze beautifully; just toss them straight into the freezer.
In the UK, you can get it at Sainsbury, Tesco or Waitrose, for around £3.00, brands such as Gressingham Foods Duck Fat (250g). Check the chiller cabinets for it.
In the US, I’m not sure (aside from pricier venues such as Williams Sonoma); ideas anyone?
In Australia, you can look for brands such as “Luv-a-duck” duck fat. In South Africa, Woolies sells their own brand.
You can also order it from Amazon; I’ve listed the following links (valid as of August 2014) in ascending order of quantity / savings. Who knew you could get it in 7 lb tubs, holy moly! I guess you’d split that up into smaller tubs and freeze them.
Clinicians tend to look at it from a narrow lab perspective, rather than where the rubber hits the road: “Though duck fat is among the healthiest of animal fats, it’s still a significant source of saturated fats, said Dr. Freny Mody, director of cardiology for the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. “It may be a peg closer to olive oil, but it’s still miles away,” Mody said.” In: Conis, Elena. Pour on the duck fat, in moderation. Los Angeles Times. 27 March 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/27/health/la-he-nutrition-duck-fat-20110320 ↩
PointsPlus® values supplied for any food items or recipes do not indicate endorsement or approval by Weight Watchers International, Inc., the owner of the Weight Watchers PointsPlus® registered trademark. ↩
Best Health Magazine, January/February 2011. Accessed June 2014 at http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/is-duck-fat-actually-healthy-for-you ↩
Weight Watchers recommends that we only need 2 teaspoons — that’s right, just 2 teaspoons — of a healthy fat per day, in total. “Have 2 teaspoons of healthy oils (olive oil, canola, sunflower, safflower or flaxseed) each day. Retrieved June 2014 from: Weightwatchers.com: The Good Health Guidelines. http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=2071 ↩