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Cooking with Duck Fat: The Topic


FoodMan
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From the front-page New York Times (Nov. 17, 1991) "Can Foie Gras Aid the Heart? A French Scientist Says Yes".

The actual publication of the "French Paradox" study by Dr. Serge Renaud in 1991 concluded that because duck fat (and the fat in foie gras) is mono-unsaturated, it's what's responsible for what he termed the French Paradox - it's why people in regions of France that eat tons of foie gras and cook with duck fat have a rate of heart disease lower than anywhere else.

When "60 Minutes" did its famous French Paradox segment, they ignored this, and played up the 'red wine' angle. But in Europe, when the results of the study were published, it was explained in detail that researchers were trying to find why it was that France had the lowest rate of death from heart disease in the world; (in fact, when they showed the rates, they had to break the axis to include France at the bottom) and it was also found that the rates of heart disease were so incredibly low in the regions of France where duck fat is the principal fat, that the brought down the entire French national average, which is what led them to study the fat. They also went on to report that while wine was suspected as one possibility, wine drinking is a constant throughout Europe, and was ruled out because it could not explain the results. (That is to say, other places drink a lot of red wine, but they don't eat the same amount of duck fat.) They truly believe it is the mono-unsaturated nature of the fat.

Though I can't find the articles that I read in London when the study was reported on, I do remember one story that talked about the life of the typical farmer in Gascony. It said that he gets up at the crack of dawn when the ducks and geese start quacking; he goes to the kitchen, pours himself a tumbler of rustic red wine, cuts a slice of bread and slathers it with duck fat from the omnipresent crock, calls it breakfast, and lives to an average age of over 100.

So that's why they make those claims. The duck fat is good for you.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Duck fat is good for you. Everything in moderation, but duck is the preferred fat. Goose is just as good, but harder to get these days as the geese don't cooperate as well as ducks for larger scale farming.

I live in the middle of duck/ goose fat country & can attest to the number of healthy octogenarians around here.

For recipes just try parboiling potatoes, cutting the into nice chunks, coating them with duck fat & a bit of salt & pepper then roasting at 210 degrees until the outsides are crispy.

For a book try "Goose Fat & Garlic" by Jeanne Strang. Amazon have it.

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For recipes just try parboiling potatoes, cutting the into nice chunks, coating them with duck fat & a bit of salt & pepper then roasting at 210 degrees until the outsides are crispy.

:wub: I parboil the spuds until they are *not quite* done; pull them out to cool on a sheet tray heavily oiled with duck fat; and I cook them at 425*F while the rest of the meal's cooking. Flip when the bottoms are golden, bump the heat to 475*, and rock out with my bad self.

Good Lord: eat right; exercise; die anyway. You could die in your bed in the middle of the night from NOTHING!! Have a little duck fat, for cry yi yi.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

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HI All,

I was in the store today and saw a tub of duck fat. Now I must say I rarely use fat (aside from olive oil or my fish oil capsules) but sometimes to satisfy a craving I may add some fat once in a while (one every week or two). The label reads as follows,

Better than butter! Nutritionally similar to olive oil; low in saturated fat, with a good combination of poly and monosaturated fats.

Is this true?

Not exactly.

Olive oil: 74% monounsaturated, 9% polyunsaturated, 14% saturated fat.

Duck fat: 49% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated, 33% saturated fat.

Duck fat does have less saturated fat than butter, but it contains about 91mg/100g cholesterol (similar to butter), vs zero for olive oil.

I like duck fat as much the next cook but I don't use it because it's healthy. I use it because it's delicious.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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I've tasted duck fat before and it tastes really good which leads me to beleive it's not good for me

Sad, sad.

You really are the subject of the Puritan propagandists.

Taste is an evolutionary mechanism that helps us distinguish what is good for us: if it tastes good it probably is good, provided you stick to natural products. Duck fat is a natural product. Its only when manufactured food came along with trans-fats, sweetners, corm syrup and the like that these things got screwed up.

The chloresterol and saturated fat is bad for you is doubtful anyway, once you take trans-fats out of the mix. If you remove fat from the diet you die of other diseases instead.

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Thanks for the responses. Please don't misinterpret how much fat I take in. My diet consists of a significant amount of nut fats, olive oil and fish capsules. I do get enough fat but try to limit the amount of saturated fat such as animal fats. I'm not one of the low fat zealots from the 80's/90's, we all know that doesn't work.

Everything in moderation I suppose. I'll let you know how my taters turn out :smile:

Joe

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I mentioned in another thread that for almost a year-and-a-half, when the foie gras restaurant, Sonoma Saveurs, was open, Ms.W and I ate there two to three times a month. When Chef Mary Dumont left and the restaurant closed, I had a physical and found out my cholesterol had actually LOWERED from the 200 range to close to 180!

I use duck fat all the time and keep a large tub in my refrigerator for multiple uses; roasting potatoes, sauteeing vegetables, etc...

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As I also said on the other thread Carolyn's referring to, I agree! Here's what I had posted right after:

After reading the Renaud study (I was in Europe when it came out, and they concentrated on his findings about the beneficial nature of the fat, and discounted red wine because that's a constant in European diets - unlike the 60 Minutes reporting which gave the credit to red wine and omitted the very part of the study results that were reported all through Europe.) - anyway, after reading that, and having been diagnosed with high cholesterol, my partner and I created a pretty scientific study of our own - for six months we carefully elimated all the animal fats and sugars that you'd normally associate with high cholesterol, but we ate duck and foie gras on average 2 nights per week (easy for us to do). And our cholesterol levels dropped low into the range of normal for the first time. Even my doctor was convinced because of the European media coverage we dug out for him, and how well we had designed the experiment.

Reconciling markk's comments with HKDave's, shouldn't Italians have the lowest rate of heart disease then if they (presumably) mostly olive oil?

Olive oil: 74% monounsaturated, 9% polyunsaturated, 14% saturated fat.

Duck fat: 49% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated, 33% saturated fat.

Duck fat does have less saturated fat than butter, but it contains about 91mg/100g cholesterol (similar to butter), vs zero for olive oil.

Well, maybe they should, but they don't. Renaud discovered that in his study (much to everyone's surprise).

You know, the chemical elements of food that we are able to isolate for study actually exist in food in symbiotic and synergistic relationships with thousands of other elements in the food. So perhaps it's not just monounsaturated nature of the duck fat; maybe it's that particular ratio of mono-unsaturated to poly-unsaturated; maybe it's that the cholesterol in duck is the good cholesterol, and maybe we just can't second guess Mother Nature. But the people who live in the regions of France where duck fat is used for cooking and spreading instead of olive oil and butter, and where they eat a lot of duck, have lower rates of heart disease than the olive-oil-eating Italians, and Dr. Renaud's study, after scientific analysis of the factors and constants, decided that duck fat is good for your heart.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 2 months later...

The other night I was making dinner for the future Mrs. slkinsey: pan-fried skirt steak, baby carrots glazed with homemade beef glace, scallion mashed potatoes. As is my wont, I slapped a heavy copper skillet on the old Crapmaster 9000 NYC apartment stove, turned it up full blast and left it there for around five to seven minutes to get screaming hot. The idea is to blast a nice crust on the outside of the steaks while keeping the inside nicely rare.

Ordinarily I'd drop in a little grapeseed oil, because it has a high smoke point. For some reason, I decided to reach into the vast collection of rendered animal fats I have in the freezer and toss in a chunk of duck fat instead. Holy crap, what a difference! It wasn't so much that the steaks tasted like duck, but rather that they tasted even more beefy and savory somehow.

Using duck fat and other rendered animal fats with vegetables is relatively old hat, I know. Roasted potatoes, sauteed greens, even biscuits made with duck fat are familiar uses. But I hadn't thought that using duck fat as the cooking medium for even short-term cooking of meat would make such a dramatic difference. I've since experimented with using duck fat to cook other meats, and so far it has always been a success -- even with fish, which I've tried both in the pan and sous vide with duck fat. Right now I'm long-cooking a beef foast sous vide with nothing in the bag but beef, salt and a tablespoon of duck fat. The result should be interesting.

Who else likes cooking with duck fat?

--

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Made my eggs for some huevos rancheros in duck fat-- fabulous. In general, it's my favorite fat in which to cook scrambled eggs, even better than pig fat.

I made potato chips on a deep pan full of duck fat. Messy but delicious.

Rubbed a whole chicken with a mix of herbs, butter and duck fat.

Browned meats in duck fat.

There have been more experiments. I'll try to recall. Overall, I've never regretted using it.

Drink maker, heart taker!

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Me! It's nice rubbed on a chicken before roasting, in lieu of butter or olive oil.

And it can't be beat for those sautes you mentioned. Or poultry livers.

As it has a relatively low smoke point (around 375, I believe), did you have any problems with burning?

Usually when I do the steak thing in my trusty cast iron pan, I use no fat - or maybe just a piece of the beef fat rubbed on the pan before the steak goes in - I'll have to try the duck - thanks for the idea.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

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As it has a relatively low smoke point (around 375, I believe), did you have any problems with burning?

It was smokey, sure. But there's smoke when I'm cooking steaks no matter what. What I did was toss in the frozen chunk of duck fat and then almost immediately drop in the steaks. This seems like a good technique to avoid burning the fat. There were no burnt flavors.

--

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The way I've seen it done in restaurant kitchens is through basting. In other words, you use your neutral vegetable oil for the actual cooking. Then, towards the end, you add a big lump of butter, lard, duck fat, whatever, to the skillet. As it liquefies, you tilt the skillet to that it pools up at one edge, and you spoon the liquid fat over the piece of meat over and over again. Then you turn the meat over and repeat. This gives the meat a really nice exterior flavor and color.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The way I've seen it done in restaurant kitchens is through basting.

Yea, that's what I'd be likely to do with a thicker cut of beef. Skirt steaks are so thin and cook so fast that there wouldn't be any time for basting (they probably spend 2 minutes in the pan).

--

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I feel totally lacking in imagination after reading this! I use duck fat for many things but never to sear other meat but I can soon change that! :biggrin:

Then, I thought, why not pot stickers - bet they would benefit from duck fat.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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the first time i ever purchased duck fat, it came in a little container with a fancy logo and the words "Duck Fat--Better than Butter!" My kids latched onto that, big time, and if you wave a container of duck fat in any of their general directions, they will reflexively and gleefully announce "Better than Butter!" ....makes me smile.

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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I have a friend who loves my cooking but can't eat a drop of dairy. So it works out great to use duck fat when she comes to dinner. Duck fat has worked out wonderfully for me in everything from pie crust to risotto. I love it. Duck fat is close to my heart, literally.

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I no longer buy chicken, I buy whole ducks from the Chinese supermarket ($7.99 frozen), remove the breasts and legs, confit those, make stock with the rest and skim the fat. This is enough fat to supply all my cooking, plus it leaves me with superb stock (better than chicken) and delicious duck confit. I am to duck what Native Americans are to the buffalo.

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Duck fat is "free" if you're willing to do a bit of work. Buy 2 whole ducks, carve out the breasts and the legs render the trimmings and roast all the bones in the oven until well browned. You should get about a pint of duck fat from the trimmings and bones combined. You can then make a stock out of the bones and confit the legs with the rendered duck fat. Once you use up the confitted legs, you have a pint of wonderful, aromatic duck fat to use for cooking. Due to the economics of the situation, 2 whole ducks actually end up costing less than 4 duck breasts and with just a couple of hours of work, you not only get the 4 breasts, you get 4 confit legs, a pint of duck fat, a wonderful duck noodle soup from the broth and a duck gizzard & crackling salad.

PS: I am a guy.

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