Pressure-Rendered Chicken Fat - Modernist Cuisine

Pressure-Rendered Chicken Fat

Recipe • April 2, 2015

A recipe for fat may strike some as strange, but fat is one of the key flavor elements in food. French cuisine would be unrecognizable without cream and butter. Indian cuisine relies heavily on ghee (clarified butter). Chefs in Mediterranean countries turn habitually to olive oil, while those in Tibet always have yak butter on hand. The recipe here is for rendered chicken fat, which is widely used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. (The Yiddish word for it—schmaltz—has taken on a whole other connotation in American English.)

As much as we love cream, butter, and olive oil, rendered fat is sometimes a better choice for use in a sauce or as a complement to meats because it does not distract from the flavor of the other ingredients. We use our Modernist schmaltz to enrich chicken sauce, salad dressing, and garlic, but it has innumerable applications—you can even use it to fry eggs!

Buy chicken skin from your butcher, or collect scraps of fat and skin from other chicken recipes in the freezer until you have enough to render. Note that the same technique can be used for any animal fat, including turkey, duck, or goose skin, and fatty trimmings from cuts of pork, veal, or beef.

– Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home


MCAH Pressure-rendered chicken fat

Step 1 divide and seal
In step 1, combine, and divide equally into two 500 mL / 16 oz canning jars.
Step 3 pressure cook
Tighten the lids fully, and then unscrew them one-quarter turn so that they do not explode.

Tips & Substitutions

  • We use canning jars inside the pressure cooker because it simplifies cleanup, and we aren’t usually rendering more fat than will fit in a couple jars. But you can render a large batch by putting 2.5 cm / 1 in of water in the pressure cooker, and then adding the ground skin. The pressure cooker should be no more than two-thirds full.
  • Removing a pressure cooker’s lid while its contents are hot can splatter boiling water or food all over the kitchen—or you. Before opening the cooker, let it cool, or run tepid water over the rim, to depressurize it. The pressure valve will sink down fully when the cooker is safe to open.
  • For Passover, you can substitute schmaltz for oil in matzo ball recipes, use it to make matzo brei, and add it to your chicken soup to enhance flavor.


  • To wet render, drop the skin or fat into boiling water, and reduce it until all that is left are pieces of meat and tissue floating in bubbling fat. Strain. Discard the solids. Allow the liquid to separate, and then pour the warm fat off the top.
  • To dry render, sauté the skin or fat over low heat until the fat melts. The cooking causes Maillard reactions that enhance the flavor of the rendered fat. Dry-rendered fat keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator. This method works particularly well with fatty bacon.
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