The last time we talked about fat on here we went into a deep dive into butter. How it is made, why it’s different colors, which kind tastes the best and various other topics. I really liked that post because it was a ton of information about something you have probably never wondered about and it makes you think about how you’re cooking and what you’re cooking with. If you’re new here, I suggest you go back and give it a read. It’s amazing what happens to your cooking when you throw away your vegetable oil and start using quality fats. This time around we will be looking into the richest, silkiest, smoothest and most delicious fats out there. Duck fat.
I know, I know. It’s been a culinary fad since like 2012 to cook everything in duck fat. Really original, John.
I AM SORRY I HAVE RECENTLY GOTTEN INTO DIFFERENT FATS AND THE DIFFERENCES THEY MAKE IN FOOD! IF I WAS NOT WRITING ABOUT COMPETITIVE EATING IN 2012 I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT DUCK FAT! I AM SORRY FOR TRYING TO BRING YOU INFORMATION AND MAKE YOUR FOOD WORLD A LITTLE BIT MORE DELICIOUS! LET’S JUST MOVE ON.
The first question you might ask is why is duck fat so delicious? I’m afraid I don’t really have a good answer for you other than fat, in general, is pretty delicious. I can’t break down the chemical makeup and explain how that makes it a superior fat nor is this information readily available. I will tell you that duck fat has the most unique and savory flavor of any fat I’ve cooked with. It has a high smoke point, 375 degrees compared to butter’s 250 degrees, a neutral flavor that can be used with vegetables, potatoes, meats, pastries or basically anything, and gives you that silky mouth feel in every bite. According to health people duck fat also has less saturate fat than butter, beef fat and chicken fat. So yeah, duck fat is good for you. Eat it.
My favorite part about duck fat is the crispiness it adds to the exterior of ingredients if used correctly. If you’ve never had potatoes cooked in duck fat, I’m not sure what your plan is from here on out but it should be eating potatoes cooked in duck fat as quickly as possible. I personally like like smothering it on a piece of meat with a small amount of seasoning and letting it do it’s thing — which brings me to the part where I show you how to cook one of the easier meals you’ve ever made. The best part is it doesn’t look like it was easy. It will look like you really know how to throw down in the kitchen. Let’s cook an entire bird and smother it in duck fat!
OK, so the best part about this is you need seven ingredients. This isn’t complicated. You will need:
- A whole chicken — A good one.
- Duck fat — You can get it at Whole Foods.
- Fresh Rosemary — The sprigs, not the dried kind
- Fresh Garlic
- Cracked Pepper – Not pre-ground.
- Potatoes – Whatever is one sale will work
For your first time, cooking a whole bird can be a little intimidating. How do you make sure the temperature is right? The answer is make life easier on yourself. Buy one of those thermometers with a probe that is attached to a digital reader. I’m a purist with steaks, preferring to go by feel, but with whole chickens I use a thermometer every time. Don’t let anyone give you any shit for this. There’s nothing worse than a stringy, overcooked chicken breast. Nothing. The other thing you must do with a whole chicken is get as much moisture out as possible. Do not bring a chicken home and immediately cook it. You will not be able to achieve the crispy exterior that makes chicken so great. Take it out of the package, dump some salt on it, let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours and then pat dry with paper towel. The salt will draw the moisture out of the bird. If possible, do this overnight. It makes all the difference in the world.
Once you have your bird dried out and ready to go, first make sure all of the giblets have been removed. Replace these with eight cloves of garlic (or more — why not?), a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few turns of cracked pepper and a big glob of duck fat. The duck fat will melt and steam the whole bird with garlic and rosemary goodness. Apply salt and pepper to the rest of the bird and then, the fun part, smother duck fat all over the outside of the bird. Give it a good massage. This step, along with drying the bird out before cooking, is the key to getting a nice crispy skin.
Here’s the best part. Roughly chop up some potatoes into little circles. These will not only act as a side dish, but will also hold the chicken up out of the juices which will prevent the bottom half of the chicken becoming mushy. Once the bird is done, the potatoes will have absorbed both chicken and duck fat and will become one of the most delicious things you have ever eaten. Seriously, the potatoes might be better than the chicken itself.
Spread your potatoes out on your pan, or a cast iron skillet if you have it, and place the bird on top. Preheat your oven to 350 and cook the bird for an hour to an hour and a half. Or until your thermometer reads 160. Then — very important — let the bird sit for twenty minutes. The bird will continue cooking and will reach its recommended temperature of 165. The juices will also recirculate throughout the bird and become more juicy. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to let your meat sit after its done cooking.
Carve, serve and get ready for compliments. The duck fat partners with the salt and pepper to give you a perfectly savory, crispy bite on the exterior. It pairs with the garlic and rosemary on the inside to give you incredibly flavor within the meat. And those potatoes that soaked up the fat of two different types of bird? Come one. This is a seriously great dish using not a ton of ingredients and costs about $20 to make.
Lastly, if you’re saying my chicken could have been a little bit more brown on the outside I completely disagree with you. This bird was perfectly cooked and you could tap on the skin with a fork and hear how crispy it was.
Just go get yourself a bird and cook it. Cooking your first whole chicken is one of those great triumphs in the steps knowing your way around your home kitchen. Smothering it in duck fat takes it to the next level.