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.

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80 thoughts on “Three Dishes with Three Animal Fats: Lard, Tallow and Duck”

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    1. I render my own animal fat. It is fun. It tastes sensational. Recently we took a 13 day holiday. By day 12 I was looking forward to getting back to my kitchen and home made animal fat.

  1. Lard really is superior for cooking a lot of things. I fry fish and chicken in it. Fish, breaded in pulverized pork rinds and fried in lard is a beautiful thing. Even my non-primal boyfriend inhales it and thinks it’s better than flour/cornmeal breading.

  2. My mom used to make me eggs in chicken fat as a special treat when I was a kid… I eat that stuff on the weekly now. Nothing tastes better!

  3. I roasted a goose last Christmas and had delicious goose fat to cook with for weeks =)

  4. That chicken recipe looks like tonight’s dinner to me! Duck fat blended with liver and garlic is also divine, I love that stuff.

    1. If you have any Hispanic markets or carnecerias they often sell lard that they’ve rendered themselves. Go to the meat counter and ask for manteca.

    2. At local slaughter houses in farming communities most of the hog, & beef fat goes in the inedible barrel. A meat locker near my home has given me liver heart tongue, & animal fat free.

    3. they sell the leaf lard from their pastured pigs. They recently started selling it rendered. Excellent quality

      1. Paula, where are you from? We live in the Nashville area and Peaceful Pastures is our CSA farm! Good people and good meat.

  5. I’m sorry, this is off topic, but heads up. CalorieCountDOTaboutDOT com (weight loss site) just posted a review of Primal Blueprint.

    1. “Because Sisson is neither an anthropologist nor nutritionist, his arguments regarding how early humans ate and how people should eat now seem disjointed at times” I’m pretty sure someone with biology degree who’s undergone a premed program understands human metabolism and good nutrition just as much as or more than the next brainwashed dietitian.

      1. Everyone KNOWS that the only way to learn anything is to enroll in an accredited school. No one can learn anything otherwise, and no one without a bunch of letters after his name can know anything either. Just ask Einstein,

  6. I started cooking exclusively with tallow three months ago and my goiter completely disappeared.

    1. That is interesting. I used to have a swollen thyroid…nothing else was wrong with it, it just looked enlarged when looking at my neck.
      Since going primal and cooking with lard, butter and coconut oil ONLY (no seed oils of any kind not even salads) that swelling has completely disappeared.
      And I thought it was coincidence.

      1. OMG – you’re right! me too – I totally hadn’t noticed until you mentioned that.

        Thyroid problems run in my family, so a slightly enlarged thyroid was (I thought) just par for the course and something to keep an eye on (occasional blood tests always showed its function to be in ‘normal’ range)

        But I just went and had a look in the mirror, and my neck isn’t ‘fat’ anymore! It’s still a tiny bit enlarged, but not nearly as much as it used to be.

        I’ve been primal for about 6 weeks now. Goodness knows if it’s the fats (I’ve been eating lots more animal fats, cooking with dripping etc) or the cutting out of the grains and legumes, but *something* about this lifestyle has made my thyroid happy!

        1. Can all you thyroid-success people visit my vegan, vegetable-oil-grain-soy-and-endless-sugar mum and give her a talk? lol. Kidding, of course. My mum has thyroid problems and has just gone vegan. Recipe for disaster? I think so…

    1. I get a 20 lbs bag of beef kidney fat from the local farmer’s market. They also sell pork fat.
      Check out your local farmer’s markets, there are usually plenty of farmer’s willing to actually SELL what ‘normal’ people throw away.

  7. Another good animal fat I will mention is Ghee. Much higher smoke point then butter and the taste is wonderful.

    Lots of places to get it, if you’re really into organic pureindianfoods makes a grass fed organic ghee.

    1. ghee is just regular butter which is cooked a little and the milk solids strained out. See Wikipedia for instructions.

  8. Just looking around… I can’t find a term for duck fat like “tallow” for beef fat or “lard” for pork fat. I found “Schmaltz” for generic poultry fat but that sometimes includes pork or beef.

    I get such nice bacon that I usually have plenty of bacon fat (another thing which needs a name) to cook everything else in.

    1. My old time Lithuanian grampa called it “bacon juice”. He would always say “Don’t throw away that good bacon juice”. Lol love it! His mom btw lived to the age of 104 on “that bacon juice. “

  9. Braised some beef short-ribs today for dinner. Used spanish pork fat (Iberico) to cook it instead of vegetable oil) like many would normally do. The difference was clear..animal fat as the way to go.

  10. I rendered lard and tallow out of fats from the “junk” bin of my meat CSA. The lard is silky smooth at room temperature and a delight to cook with, but the tallow is dry and crumbly. Whenever I cook with it, it ends up leaving a weird film on the roofs of our mouths, and it solidifies on the food. I ended up frying some sweet potatoes in it, since I thought the higher heat might be a good use for it. They were tasty, but I still had the same problem. I’m guessing there’s something funny going on with the proportions of fatty acids. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure where in the body the fat came from: the package just says “beef suet”. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? It’s entirely grass-fed beef, so I figured it would be great to cook with.

    1. We noticed the same tacky fat thing with elk heart slices we had cooked. Couldn’t figure out if it was because it was elk or heart or elk heart. Agree, though, it is weird — almost like some mutant peanut butter without the nutty taste.

    2. If it’s labelled correctly, ‘suet’ is the fat from around the kidneys – just cut and crumbled, not rendered. It’s traditionally used in baking biscuits/pastry etc instead of butter. It will still have some of the membranes etc in it. (I’ve just read this book: It’s awesome)

      If you want to render it, it might get rid of that weird effect (it might not either – I’ve never actually cooked with suet) – worth a try anyway.

      Rendering it is simple – it’s just melting to separate out the fat from the remaining bits of connective tissue etc and then straining the solid bits out once it’s well melted. Easy 🙂

      1. The book looks great! I’ll check it out.

        Unfortunately, this was *after* I had rendered it. Weird, huh?

        1. Oh. Well, then I’ve got no clue! Maybe it’s just got a much higher melting point than you’re used to, so it will be semi-solid at higher temps than softer fats or oils?

    3. Isn’t suet a beef fat as it is on the cow. I think lard and tallow are fat that is cooked down to liquid and strained as a smoother fat to cook with. At least that’s what I thought.

  11. What is your take on clarified butter. I make it and use it for cooking so it does not burn anything as easily as butter with milk solids still in it?

  12. I cook with lard more than any other fat. If I’m not frying my eggs in the bacon I already cooked, they’re likely prepared in yesterday’s drippings. Onions, mushrooms, peppers, slightly steamed (to soften) vegetables such as brocoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. can be flash fried in lard to crisp the outside. Season however the hell you prefer. Some seasonings I enjoy, not necessarily combined, include garlic, onion, and chili powders, cumin, sea salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne.

  13. I cook with lard more than any other fat. If I’m not frying my eggs in the bacon I already cooked, they’re likely prepared in yesterday’s drippings. Onions, mushrooms, peppers, slightly steamed (to soften) vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. can be flash fried in lard to crisp the outside. Season however the hell you prefer. Some seasonings I enjoy, not necessarily combined, include garlic, onion, and chili powders, cumin, sea salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne.

  14. DUCK FAT is where it’s at. Worth every penny spent on that, and it has lasted me quite some time. I love rubbing it on meat and veggies before roasting, and I cook eggs in it.

  15. mmmmmm, Qawrama – Lamb fat. I thought it would make everything I cook taste like lamb, but instead it deepens the flavor. Why waste a good half-cup to a cup and a half of fat when you’re done roasting your leg of lamb?

    1. Lamb fat is wonderful. I put some aside to use for soothing dry skin.

  16. Such a timely post! I just ordered 2 lbs of rendered, pastured pork lard from our CSA farm. We had a choice between pork or duck and I had a hard time deciding. Could you provide any info on the omega 3/6 ratios of the fats you profiled?

  17. @Sara

    As to your tallow, not all cuts are the same… location in the body.. quality and feed type can all play a role in your result.

    “How to determine tallow quality? Depending on the accepted quality grades, tallow can be classified into four categories – edible, inedible, prime and stock feed. Based on their quality, tallow is variously used in soaps, candles, salves and in animal feeding. The color and the amount of free fatty acids present in tallow determine its quality. Edible and prime tallow can be used in cooking and consumed by humans. Inedible tallow is used in soaps and candles. Stock feed tallow is used as feed to pig and chicken.”

    So I would say yes, your fatty acid composition may have been off resulting in a higher solid temperature of the fat.. aka not being a liquid in your mouth and coating your tongue or roof of your mouth and the like.

    US wellness meats (grasslandbeef) makes a tallow for shipping. What are the best cuts to make your own? I can’t say I know, but if you have access to a good butcher they might know.

    Hope some of this helped.

    1. Yes, thank you. That’s very helpful. I’ll make sure to mention it to the CSA folks, too, so they can label it better.

    2. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find more information online about the different grades of beef suet/tallow. It’s unclear whether the primary defining factor is the temperature at which it was rendered or the source of the fat in the body. My suet looks just like the images online (from how-tos for cooking tallow), so that pushes me to think it’s the rendering itself that makes the difference in grade.

      I did read one how-to site that suggested removing progressive fractions of your tallow, turning up the heat each time. The idea being that the first fatty acids to melt will have a lower melting point and be more sensitive to higher temperatures. So you pull that off, and turn up the temperature to get the next fraction of fatty acids. I’ll try this method on my second package of suet and see if that gives me better results.

  18. I just ordered tallow…so excited to try it! My local farmer sells her tallow to a candle-maker, so until I can convince her to sell me some, I guess I’ll have to keep ordering it online. Yay for the internet!

    I’m also excited for the crisper weather. Every week I make some sort of dish that involves searing meat in animal fat and then braising it in homemade bone broth. The flavor is incomparable. Everyone wants to know my “secret,” and I tell them that I use real food as ingredients. 🙂

  19. I heard that you should stay away from chicken fat, due to the imbalance of the ratios (I.e. Chicken fat is 21% polyunsaturated, as opposed to beef fat or butter (3-5%) or coconut oil.

  20. This might sound dumb, but I cut the adipose tissue from my meat, collect it in a box in the freezer, and then render fat from that once I have enough. I know it sounds CW to trim my meat, but when I used to leave it on I felt sick or got headaches. Maybe it’s my vege-veteran digestion? 😛

  21. We got some tallow from our Organic Dairy, and it too was nasty. My husband said it smelled bad. He used it to make soap.

    @JerseyAC Thanks for the info, but what kind of tallow should we look for, how about suet or kidney fat? What’s the yummy kind?

    We cook with bacon fat now almost exclusively and it is fabulous.

  22. A couple weeks ago, I roasted a chicken and collected the fat to cook with. The next day, we cooked scrambled eggs in the chicken fat. I wondered if it was morally wrong to cook the unborn babies in the fat of the dead parent.

    I was going to ask my Facebook friends, but didn’t want my vegan friends to freak out. 🙂

    I thought maybe I was heartless (especially since it tasted so yummy), but I’m happy to see in the comments that I am not the only person who’s done that. 🙂

    1. 🙂 Eggs aren’t unborn babies (unless they were fertilised eggs?!) Eggs are eggs. They only get to be babies if the mummy hen was visited by the rooster – which mostly doesn’t happen in egg-production hen set-ups.

  23. Question for the knowledgeable: I’m still learning the ins and outs of the Primal Diet/Blueprint, so this might be a basic question.

    If I make one of these dishes, say the pork one, is this considered to include all three macro nutrients: protein, fat and good carbs? I love guacamole and eat it with almost everything. So, would I be eating too much fat if I added guacamole to one of these dishes? (Not suggesting, it would

    1. There is no such thing as too much fat =P.

      If you consume too much fat you simply get diarrhea. Fat will wash out the toxins in your body. If you ate a toxic diet for years and still have fatty tissue to lose, that fatty tissue most likely still has toxins stored within the fat cells. New, clean fat will replace old, toxic cells and flush the poisons out. On top of it, if you don’t eat anything with it that raises insulin high for hours afterwards (commercial high fructose ice cream as dessert for example)you will not only flush out toxins but also eliminate some of those fat cells completely.

      This fat will also trigger your gallbladder to release bile, preventing you from ever having gall stones or gallbladder inflammation. Fat also keeps the liver healthy, supports heart health, is important for brain function and is needed to carry minerals around the body. Fats are the base carriers for nutrients, everything from the bones in your feet to the hair on your head.

      1. I second that! About 17 years ago I decided to lose weight by going low fat-i got these Richard Simmons diet cards and cut almost all fat from my diet. I lost weight, I lost energy, and I developed severe gall bladder disease leading to surgery and a temporary impairment in liver function. None of my docters asked me about what I was eating, and it was years before I happened to see a magazine article connecting low fat intake and gall bladder disease.I guess the moral is you’ve got to do what were doing – reading, researching, networking to find out what is truly the right way to eat. I’m just thankfull I found this website and am finally getting healthy.

      2. I recently purchased 5 gallons of (allegedly grass-fed) beef tallow from US Wellness Meats to use as my new fat source. Everytime I eat any, I get (watery) diarrhea within thirty minutes.

        Is this just me detoxing poisons or is there something wrong with the tallow, or me, like a sensitivity?

  24. God I love duck fat. I fried some broccoli-cauliflower-carrot mix in it yesterday and it was the bomb!

  25. I strain my bacon fat by lining my mini strainer with a square of muslin, then pouring the grease through into the container. I’ve started doing it for my hamburger grease as well, and I find it really improves the mouth feel of the finished fat.

  26. And a bonus – animal fat is generally WAY cheaper than coconut oil. 2 lbs of pork lard is $5. That amount of coconut oil would be $40!

  27. I have a tattoo of a duck in a heart, with a banner that says: ‘I Love Duck Fat’ and indeed I do. Great heart lubricant!
    My favorite way to render duck fat is to steam a duck. Big pot of boiling water, with either a wire rack or a framework of chopsticks to support the duck resting on the top. I then top with a similar sized pot, to contain the heat and simmer gently. Result? A tender, well cooked duck, with flabby skin, ready to glaze with mustard, miso… whatever strikes you, and broil for a couple of minutes. Faster than a microwave meal and much more elegant!
    Let the water cool, and a lovely layer of purified white duck fat floats to the top.

    1. Elaine, I’ve done the same thing – steamed then roasted a couple of ducks for Xmas and am still eating the fat a year later! One question though – does broiling crisp up the skin? Flabby poultry skin is the worst!

  28. I buy leaf lard via mail order from Flying Pigs Farm in New York. To render it, I just take the block and chop it down into 1-2 inch pieces. Chopping it first helps it to render evenly. Put it in a pan over medium-low heat and the lard will melt into a liquid. There will be little bits of meat and “stuff” in the lard, I cook it a while longer until these crisp up, but not too much or they will start to get dark brown or burn. When they’re done, pour through a few layers of cheesecloth. I pour it into mason jars and let cool and put it in the fridge. It seems to keep this way for weeks. The little fried bits are delicious (my kids can’t keep their hands off of them).

  29. I have three ducks whom I am not very fond of. If I ever decide to make them into dinner, I know one more use for them. Don’t get me wrong, I love their eggs, but their increased mess (compared to my chickens), noise and treasure hunting for eggs is a pain.

  30. I am lucky living here in MN where I know great ranchers who raise animals solely on pasture (and on hay & silage during the winter). I have lard from trusted sources in my freezer, next to the jars of duck fat I rendered. Animal fats add so much flavor to foods that I have ceased cooking with anything else. Before we gave up starches, I cooked new potatoes in duck fat. Oh my! Duck fat and freshly dug potatoes go together perfectly. Sigh… So until our homegrown potatoes are gone, we will cook them thusly, less frequently, and in lesser amounts. Baby steps…

  31. Thanks so much for this post! I have been using unrefined coconut oil to cook my meats in since I went primal last November I do not even notice a coconut taste which is what I was afraid of.
    BUT after reading this I will be searching for lard, tallow and duck fat at the farmer’s market and Mexican grocers and/or rendering my own. It will be delish!!

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. 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…..

  35. 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?

  36. Does anyone know where to get pure rendered lard or tallow without antibiotics, hormones, or other added chemicals in Alameda, CA?

  37. 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.