How To Render Duck Fat

March 20th, 2008


I think it is probably hard to convey, in writing, exactly how giddy this photo makes me. Do you see that beautiful, clear, golden liquid? That’s duck fat. Otherwise known as, “one of the most delicious substances you could possibly ever consume.” Also known as, “nearly impossible to find without paying a fortune.” Finally, known as, “the substance Katy is so in love with that her parents worry she will die of a heart attack at 26.”

Heart heath aside, I am so incredibly excited to have this little jar in my fridge (and two others in my freezer). And I am extra, extra, extra excited to share it with all of you! So let me start at the beginning.

Sometime in early 2008, I came to the conclusion that many dishes, be they vegetable, soup, or sauce, could be improved with a richer, more flavorful cooking fat. I like olive oil as much as the next girl, and I’ll use butter on occasion, but I was intrigued with the idea of cooking with other types of fat. I experimented with sesame oil, dabbled in truffle oil, but finally I realized what my dishes were lacking: duck fat.


So, I started looking. None of the grocery stores in my neighborhood sell duck, except in the prepackaged D’Artagnan ziplocs — no duck fat scraps to be had there. But in the back of my mind, I remembered the meat sellers at the farmer’s market. If you can buy a duck breast or leg at the farmer’s market, I figured, the rest of the bird is pretty likely to be for sale as well (the same is probably true of a good butcher, if there’s not a farmer’s market near you).

Sure enough, the following Saturday, I asked at the farmer’s market if the duck meat vendor had any fat for sale. The man gave me a curious look, and said, “we don’t bring it every week, but if you give me your name a week in advance, I can take an order.” I gleefully gave him my name, and asked for a pound of duck fat. And as I was about to walk away, he called out, “I’ll just get you the actual fat — you’ll have to render it yourself, is that ok?”

Brightly, I responded, “of course!” Inwardly, I thought to myself, “um, what is rendering, exactly?” And, I will admit, I was a little bit intimidated when I was handed this:


Somehow that is not exactly the culinary delicacy that I had in mind. But after a little bit of research, I did figure out how cooks render what’s pictured here into that gorgeous golden liquid that one can actually cook with.

And now I’m going to share it with you, because it’s actually quite simple.

Take the fat from the animal, and put it in a flying pan. Cover it with about 2 cups of water per pound of fat, so that the fat is entirely submerged in water. Turn the heat on the burner as low as you possibly can, and just barely simmer for about 60 or 90 minutes, until the water has cooked off and you are left with a beautiful golden fat.

Here’s what it looks like after about five minutes:


After fifteen minutes:


After forty five minutes:


When it starts to look as though the simmer is dying down, watch the fat very, very carefully. It should be a warm golden color, with little lighter-colored bubbles emerging from the center of the pan where the heat is strongest (the water). As there is less and less water, those bubbles will become closer and closer to a boil, and the remaining liquid will turn a darker golden. Eventually, the boiling bubbles will suddenly become much smaller, just back to a bare simmer, which means all the water is gone. At that point, remove the fat from the heat immediately — if you burn the fat, it’s useless and you have to start all over.

In my (humble) opinion, it’s better to have a slighly watery duck fat than to lose a whole batch that you burned, so once it hits the right color and the bubbles start to die down, you’re done.

Next, let the fat cool in a heat-proof container, uncovered, for about fifteen minutes. When it has cooled slightly, strain it through a fine mesh strainer at least three times, and pour it into a small glass container or two.

Allow to the rendered fat to cool, uncovered, for about 2 hours at room temperature, than transfer to the refigrator for 24 hours (it will solidify again). After 24 hours, move any containers that you plan to freeze to the freezer.

My pound of duck fat made about 1 cup of rendered fat. It will keep several months in the refigerator or up to a year in the freezer.


Tags: condiments · food · main dishes · other

145 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nicki // Oct 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    try popcorn popped in duck fat. yum!!

  • 2 Duckfat « The Pig's Tail // Dec 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

    […] According to their website they are described as hand-cut Maine potatoes fried Belgian-style in duck fat, tossed in seasoning salt and served in a cone with choice of eight homemade dipping sauces.  […]

  • 3 janie // Dec 30, 2011 at 10:57 am

    after reading your article, we clean ducks for hunters and have lots of duck fat scraps so i decided to try rendering some ; it turned out great to mutch for my on use, im wondering if it would sell and how people might like to have some , thanks for your article i love it never thought about rendering it before

  • 4 djhunt // Jan 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    i don’t have any flying* pans lol jk thanks for this

  • 5 Duck cracklings and Chinese sausage fried rice // Jun 17, 2012 at 1:31 am

    […] easy enough to render duck fat. Just cut the skins into small pieces and simmer in a pot with a little water until the water evaporates and only the fat is left. You’ll only need about two […]

  • 6 morisan // Jul 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Thanks for the post! A good tip is to cut the fat into small pieces before rendering so that you can use the bits of skin as crackling. Also, it yields more oil. Here is a helpful link:

  • 7 SUE // Sep 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Laura Caulder has a recipe for roasted potatos in duck fat looked so good.

  • 8 Chef J. // Oct 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    As im reading you helpful advice on how to render my duck fat. to my horror my boyfriend is to the right of me in the kitchen making what smells to be duck rins. Should i punch him in the face if my duck fat is unusable and inedible or should i spare him?

  • 9 Christmas Feast-Worthy Roast Duck « One Day Café // Dec 24, 2012 at 9:36 am

    […] to serve the duck, trim off excess fat and skin around neck and tail areas. (This can be saved to render duck fat later). With a paring knife, prick the duck skin all over, sliding the knife between the skin and […]

  • 10 Luba // Jan 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    When I was growing up we aways had poultry fat. For baking sweet bread and buns my Grand-Ma always used rendered chicken inner fat and butter. Goose fat where used for more thing than just food,as burn cream, hand cream, before Vick’s a mixtur of goose fat and turpentine was used to relieve chest congestion. I am so glad to see that young people dicovering these great things.

  • 11 Duck Fat! Duck Fat All the Time! « Think, Read, Cook // Feb 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    […] duck, which usually just means it’s missing a wing, and you render the fat according to these instructions, you get both duck fat and delicious roasted duck. (I honestly don’t know how free-range or […]

  • 12 lee // Mar 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you for teaching me that process .

  • 13 Megan // Apr 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    If you are in the Piedmont area of NC, I frequently butcher ducks, and have fat available for sale. Visit my website to see our farm practices. All birds are fed a strictly organic diet.

  • 14 emma // Apr 7, 2013 at 5:41 am

    yum yum, i will be trying this very soon.

  • 15 Kimberly (Badger Girl) // Apr 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the great post! I am recipe testing for a cookbook and had a bunch of leftover duck fat. Glad I saw your article so I can make the most of it. 🙂

  • 16 Julia // May 20, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Thanks for a fantastic post. Your description of the bubbles and how they change was a huge help in knowing what was happening. I rendered the skin and fat from a whole duck which I’d cut into pieces raw. Love it when nothing is wasted.

  • 17 keith // Jan 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    try sauteing chanterelle mushrooms.
    you’ll never go back to butter

  • 18 Valentine's Day Food Porn // Feb 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

    […] of the rendered fat over the final product.  I will be using this method to render my duck fat: How To Render Duck Fat | Sugarlaws I tried doing parfaits before with granola and muesli and she didn't take to it. Thanks for the […]

  • 19 three-ingredient peanut butter cookies | Sugarlaws // Apr 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    […] from whatever was in season. December in Manhattan meant apples and local goat cheese and rendering duck fat, spring brought ramps and sunchokes and dragonfruit. I made my own sourdough starter and piped […]

  • 20 Rembrandt // May 6, 2014 at 10:21 am

    What you made is great for baking or if you prefer mild flavor dishes, but if you want more duck flavor you can start the fat on low heat without water, just pour off the fat as it accumulates like you would for bacon.  Once the fat is nicely browned and lost about half it’s volume than render with water, be sure to scrape the bottom well (cast iron pan recommended) when you add the water.  And don’t strain, those dark bits are the flavor, we want them in there.  It may not look as pretty but it’s bursting with roasty duckness, and it keeps just as well.

  • 21 Lavern // Oct 12, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Beautiful essay, received the pleasure of reading

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