Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 Oct

Three Dishes with Three Animal Fats: Lard, Tallow and Duck

While there is nothing wrong with throwing a big hunk of butter or a glug of olive oil in a pan, these two fats are far from perfect when it comes to cooking. Butter burns easily, turning dark and bitter when the heat is too high for too long. To a lesser extent, the same goes for olive oil. Coconut oil is a good alternative since it’s less sensitive to heat, but the coconut flavor is hard to mask and not every dish is enhanced by it. Even so, it’s not uncommon to reach for these three fats first while cooking, mostly out of habit, and overlook the most versatile fat of all: animal. (Yes, yes, I know, butter is technically animal fat.)

Glossy, shimmering animal fat is a near perfect fat to use for sautéing, stir-frying, pan searing, deep frying, baking or any other type of cooking method you can think of. Higher heats and longer cooking times affect animal fat less and contrary to what some believe, animal fat does not make food greasier than other fats. Animal fat gives food a boost, making it crispier, juicer, more flavorful and more succulent.

If you’ve never cooked with animal fat before and aren’t sure how to get started, here is your answer: buy either rendered pork, beef or poultry fat and cook with it however you like. Okay, so there are a few details about buying animal fat that you might want to keep in mind (and you can even render your own), but for the most part, it really is that simple. Saute or stir-fry meat, veggies or eggs. Cover a chicken or turkey with the fat before roasting. Deep fry just about anything. Use animal fat in the same way you would use butter, olive oil or coconut oil when cooking with heat.

Lard (pork fat), tallow (beef fat) and poultry fat (duck, goose or chicken) can be used interchangeably to cook any type of meat or vegetable. If you taste any of these fats, you’ll detect just a whisper of flavor (except bacon fat, which pretty much tastes just like bacon). The subtle flavor of animal fat won’t detract from or mask the natural flavor of whatever you’re cooking. Although some people prefer to only use lard to cook pork or tallow to cook beef, a dish like chicken cooked with lard really is a beautiful thing.

Store the fat in the fridge and scoop out what you need when you’re ready to cook. It will soften quickly at room temperature and melt quickly over heat. Try one of the simple, deeply flavored dishes below and you’ll instantly be reminded of what makes cooking with animal fats so great. Although three different types of fat are used in the three recipes, you can use whichever fat you have on hand – lard, tallow or poultry fat – for any of the recipes.  And if you don’t have any animal fat on hand, well, what are you waiting for?

Pork, Red Pepper and Shiitake Mushrooms Stir-fried with Lard

3-4  servings


  • 1 pound pork, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 3-4 tablespoons lard
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, chopped ginger
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 red peppers, sliced thinly


Clean and prep the ingredients.

Marinate the pork for 10 minutes in 2 tablespoons tamari.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of lard in a hot sauté pan or wok. Just as it starts to smoke, add the pork. Cook 1 minute untouched then stir and cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove the pork from the pan. It should be nicely browned.

Add 2 more tablespoons of lard to the hot pan with the ginger and garlic. Stir fry 30 seconds then add mushrooms and peppers. Stir as the veggies cook so the garlic and ginger don’t stick to the pan. After 2-3 minutes add pork back to the pan. Stir fry 1 minute more. Take off heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of tamari.

Chicken and Vegetables Roasted with Duck Fat

4 servings


  • 1 whole chicken, 4-6 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup duck fat
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspooon pepper
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • Half a lemon
  • A selection of vegetables: 1-2 rutabagas, 2-4 turnips or parsnips, 4-6 carrots, 1 onion


Take the chicken out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking, preferably closer to 1.5 hours. This is an important step that helps the chicken cook evenly throughout.

Preheat oven to 475

Pat the chicken dry. Rub down with 2 tablespoons duck fat.  Season with salt and pepper. Fill the chicken cavity with thyme sprigs, garlic and lemon.

Cut the root vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces and the carrots and onion into 1-inch chunks.  Cover with 1/4 cup of duck fat, lightly season with salt and pepper or fresh thyme if desired.

Place chicken in a roasting pan surrounded by vegetables.

Roast for 25 minutes at 475 F. Lower temperature to 400 F and roast for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 160 F. Allow chicken to rest 20 minutes before carving.

Beef and Coconut Curry Seared with Tallow

2 servings


  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound chuck meat, cut into small cubes and lightly salted
  • 3 tablespoons tallow, or more if needed
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • Cilantro


In a food processor, blend spices, onion and garlic until a paste forms.

Heat 1 tablespoon tallow in a pot or deep skillet on high. Sear meat, several minutes on each side until brown. Remove from the skillet.

Add 2 tablespoons tallow to the skillet. When hot, add the onion and spice mixture. Fry 3-5 minutes, stirring and adding more fat if the pan seems dry.  Add beef back to the skillet. Add the coconut milk.

Put on a lid and simmer 35 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thick and the meat should be tender. Add salt to taste. In the last 10 minutes, you can also add other veggies – spinach, thinly sliced carrot, small cauliflower florets. Garnish with cilantro.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Whoo Hoo! I just bought ‘Rendered Duck Fat’ from Central Market here in Dallas. I am excited to try cooking with it this week. :)
    I will have to render the lard on my own

    Gayle wrote on October 2nd, 2011
  2. I like clarified butter for most frying. It is simple to make in a large heavy bottomed pan. I usually make it with 1kg of butter which lasts several months. Just simmer until the water is gone, and the protein have turned golden (beurre noisette). Then strain into jars after it has cooled a little.

    – It smells nice.
    – It has a complex fatty acid profile, perfect for growing calves. It includes 14% medium chain (saturated) fatty acids like in coconuts.
    – It is low in polyunsaturates (4%), better than lard,olive oil, chicken/duck fat. Also grass-fed cows produce a good omega 3/6 ratio for the small amount of polyunsaturates.
    – Because it relatively high in saturates fat (66%) it keeps well.
    – It relatively cheap – 1kg of grass fed butter is less than 5Euros.
    – It doesn’t burn like butter.
    – It doesn’t fill the kitchen with smoke like tallow.

    I sometimes use extra virgin olive oil for gentle frying. Tallow is good for roast potatoes or to fry steaks.

    Mike wrote on October 3rd, 2011
  3. I cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast on the weekend in left over duck fat from the night before (roast duck breast). My husband (who is used to me shunning all forms of fat) couldn’t believe I was touting it as ‘healthy’….this is while he is tucking into his bacon and white bread sandwhich……I’m on the slow road to converting him…..

    Rio wrote on October 12th, 2011
  4. I just rendered my first batch of tallow. I’m planning to use most of it for making soap. I’m wondering if the smell (of roast beef) is normal or did I do something wrong? I didn’t cut the suet up into small pieces but instead just threw the whole 4# frozen block into a stainless steel pan and put it on my wood cookstove to melt. The bottom browned before I realized it. Can I still use this for soap or will the final product smell like roast beef?

    Priscilla Tait wrote on November 2nd, 2011
  5. Why are you presenting a recipe as an alernative to coconut

    Hungry wrote on February 13th, 2012
  6. Does anyone know where to get pure rendered lard or tallow without antibiotics, hormones, or other added chemicals in Alameda, CA?

    Peter wrote on November 28th, 2014
  7. I found organic pastured leaf lard and organic 100% grass-fed tallow on etsy! The shop’s name is FannieAndFlo and they are pretty affordable.

    Kiran wrote on January 30th, 2016

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