traditional cooking – how to render your own chicken fat

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rendered chicken fat

Traditional foods are currently making a come back. 

One food that foodie traditionalists are particularly fond of is old fashioned animal fat for cooking.

If you’re frugal, that’s great news because you can take something that is often thrown away (in this case chicken skin) and use it to make free cooking oil.

Along with brewing the bones to make stock, you are using more of the whole animal, reducing food waste and saving money at the same time.

Rendered chicken fat is called schmaltz and is common in traditional Jewish cooking. The process to render your own chicken fat takes about an hour and is a similar process for any kinds of animal fats.

We buy meat in bulk and I usually get a kilo each of chicken breasts and thighs – skin on. I  trim and cut the meat and divide it into portions before freezing – this makes cooking dinner quick and easy.

And the chicken skin goes straight into the frying pan to render.

Here’s how you do it.

First, chop the skin up into smallish pieces, no need to be too particular about this. Throw these in a fry pan (I’m using my trusty cast iron pan) and turn the heat to medium/medium-low.

How to render chicken fat - beginning

Now all you have to do is wait, maybe give it a stir every now and then. Here’s what it will look like after about 10 minutes of cooking:

How to render chicken fat - after about 10 minutes

And then after about 20 minutes, you can see the fat starting to render out and the skin gain some colour:

How to render chicken fat - after about 20 minutes

Now after about 30 minutes of cooking, just about there:

How to render chicken fat - after about 30 minutes

And after 40 minutes or so of cooking on medium heat, the chicken skins are golden and the fat is fully rendered.

How to render chicken fat - after about 40 minutes

Let the fat cool and strain into a jar or container.

Rendered chicken fat

And pop it in the fridge, ready to use for cooking. The rendered fat is very stable and will last months in the fridge.

What do you cook with chicken fat, you might ask?

Use the rendered schmaltz as you would cooking oil, particularly in hearty recipes like stews and roasts. Use it instead of butter when frying onion or doing skillet potatoes. I can tell you that roast potatoes are completely different when cooked in the chicken fat – so crispy on the outside and delicious. And of course, many traditional Jewish recipes demand schmaltz.

But wait there’s more.

How to render chicken fat - griebenes

Don’t throw the leftover crispy chicken skins away. These are called griebenes and are a kosher alternative to pork crackling. You can let these drain and use them as you might crispy bacon – sprinkled through some steamed greens or used as a crunchy topping on salad, for example.

But they are also nice simply salted and snacked on, just like pork crackling, which my father used to snack whilst drinking home brew. I know, you may be thinking heart attack waiting to happen but just occasionally, it’s a tasty snack, although a little goes a long way.

And that’s the point really, of eating foods cooked in real fat. There’s nothing over-riding the “I’m full” signal from your brain, which is what processed vegetable oils can do. You cannot overeat this stuff, you just start to feel ill if you over-indulge.

So if you’re accustomed to throwing away chicken skins (or any other kind of animal fats), render them down instead and use them for cooking as these frugal fats have been used for thousands of years.

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  1. I usually save the fat that comes out when I bake chicken with the skin on, but hadn’t thought of rendering it directly from the skin. I will give this a go, since cooking things in chicken fat makes them so delicious, and also those skins look very tasty.

  2. Yum! Those chicken skins look fantastic. I don’t eat much chicken, but those would definitely tempt me! Since we transitioned to traditional eating about two years ago, I’ve been rendering my own lard (pork fat) and tallow (beef fat) in my slow cooker. I’ve found the traditional cooking fats to be very economical also. Two kilos each of pork fat and beef fat purchased from the butcher will last us a full year, including of course saving the dripping from any meat or bacon that’s cooked. Remember Grandma’s dripping bowl?

    1. Oh yes, cooking chips in the dripping from nanna’s dripping bowl: Yum!! Do you render fat in the slow cooker the same way?

      1. To use the slow cooker, I fill it with the fat (ask the butcher to mince it), add a bit of water (about a half a cup) and cook on high with the lid off so the moisture evaporates. It’s done when the chittlin’s are brown and crispy. It takes about 6 hours, but I can go about my day and leave it on it’s own until it’s done. Plus there’s no spattering or mess. I was surprised when I read how quickly the chicken fat rendered on the stovetop. If I’m ever in a hurry I’ll try using the stove!

  3. I’m trying this today. I can sometimes get chicken breast skin off for close enough to skin-on prices but not today when I wanted to stock up the freezer. $5.99/kg for skin on or $10.99/kg for skin off