Zero Waste Cooking: How To Use Animal Fats

Video uses for animal fat

If you’re interested in nose to tail cooking, you may have already discovered the magic of animal fats and rendering by now. Animal fats are not only delicious, but they’re really good for you! Re-using the drippings/fat from roasts and other slow cooking dishes is a great way to reduce waste, save money and add flavour to all kinds of dishes.

1. Roasting

When you’re cooking a roast with a higher percentage of fat, you’ll get lots of gorgeous drippings as it cooks. Pop your roast up on a trivet/rack while cooking and catch the fat in a tray below, then set aside in your fridge for use later. Pork belly is an awesome cut for this! Ducks and geese are great options too as they have a high fat content and extra coveted drippings.

2. Broth

If you make a bone broth with marrow bones, you’ll tend to find you have a good layer of fat on the top of the broth that will need to be skimmed off. You can either skim this while it’s hot (which is a bit trickier) or cool the broth completely in the fridge then remove the solidified fat layer from the top and set aside for use later.

3. Rendering

If you have some raw, separated fat (such as beef suet, from around the kidneys) that you’d like to use for other dishes, chop it coarsely and pop it into a pot or cast iron pan over a medium heat. The fat will break down and melt – you want this process to happen slowly so it doesn’t burn, so adjust the heat if needed as you go. Separate the browned chunks from the liquid fat by straining (cheesecloth is good for this). Transfer to a jar or container and store in the fridge.

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4. Frying

If you’re a fan of the crispy fat on steak, this tip is an absolute revelation. Before you cook up your steak (or green veggies!) pop some chopped up fat pieces in the pan with a sprinkle of salt and fry until crispy. Remove the crispy bits and eat separately, then use the liquid portion to cook the rest of your meal. This tip is SO good in a cast iron skillet with broccolini!

How to store fats:

Pour liquid fat into spare jars or containers with lids and keep in the fridge (fats have a nice long shelf life). Use as you would butter or olive oil in your cooking!

Our favourite fat pairings:

  • Duck fat or lard with roast potatoes (YUM!!)
  • Beef tallow and broccolini
  • Scotch fillet (or your favourite steak) cooked in beef tallow
  • Toast crisped up in bacon fat – perfect for smashed avo!
  • Mixed roast veggies (we love any kind of fat with this)
  • Fried chicken cooked in lard (life changing)
  • On that note – fries cooked in lard are INCREDIBLE

Honourable mention:

Lard makes an awesome substitute for butter in baking (especially cookies), however if you go down this route you’ll want to grab a jar of our Cannings Lard or render your own (rather than using the drippings from a roast) to make sure it’s not too meaty.

Why use animal fat in your cooking?

  1. To reduce waste: Using a nose to tail approach (i.e. using as much of the animal as you can) is a great way to honour the animal. In Australia there is a huge amount of food wasted each year which is such a shame! This is a handy way to incorporate another element of sustainability into your lifestyle.
  2. Flavour: Animal fats have been prized for centuries for the amazing depth of flavour that they give to dishes. There’s a reason you see duck fat roast potatoes on fine dining menus the world over!
  3. Suitable for high heat cooking: Animal fats have a high smoke point, which makes them more suitable for frying than some other fats like sunflower or canola oil.
  4. To save money: Depending on what your favourite option is, cooking oils can be expensive (especially if you love a fancy olive oil like we do). Using tallow for roasting and frying is a really easy way to save your gorgeous extra virgin olive oils for the good stuff (salad dressing, crusty bread, a gorgeous pasta dish) without compromising on taste.
  5. It’s fun! Who knows if everyone feels this way – but we just get a real kick out of doing as much as we can with one piece of meat! It feels good to use your little jar of fat that you rendered yourself, or to make that ragu with a bit of stock you whipped up in the slow cooker using leftover bones.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>