Easter is on the way. Whether you celebrate holidays or not here is some fun food facts for your kitchen….
What Is Schmaltz?
Schmaltz is the rendered fat from poultry, most commonly chicken. You can render the fat from any skin-on piece of chicken, or you can buy ready-to-use schmaltz in a jar. Cooking with schmaltz is common in Jewish cuisine because it adds a buttery richness without adding any dairy, which is crucial in order to keep a kosher diet.
Traditionally, schmaltz is used to make matzo balls, chicken liver pate, roasted potatoes, and latkes. Given that it is made entirely from chicken fat, it exudes a deep, caramelized chicken flavor with a buttery texture. It has a medium-high smoke point that is slightly higher than that of butter.
Ready to see what this liquid gold is all about? You can cook with schmaltz just like you would any cooking oil, though it’s best to save it for applications where its velvety, chicken-laden flavor will really shine. Like bacon grease, schmaltz is solid at room temperature, so make sure to melt it before it’s time to use it.
Once it’s melted down to an oil, drizzle schmaltz into your matzo ball batter, over potatoes destined for roasting, on a sheet pan of veggies, or into a homemade mayonnaise or aioli. You can also substitute schmaltz for oil in savory baking projects, such as biscuits, pizza dough, or bread. Try swapping it in for butter the next time you caramelize onions.
Schmaltz is most commonly used for Passover, a Jewish holiday that is centered around adhering to a strict Kosher diet. While you can use oil in matzo balls, using melted schmaltz is a great way to impart a ton of savory flavor into the dish. Schmaltz can be used throughout the entire meal because it contains has no dairy but still imparts a luxurious flavor.
If you want to make some of your own, ask your local butcher for chicken fat and skin, as they often reserve some when breaking down poultry. (You can also DIY this part with skin-on cuts of chicken if you prefer.) Once you have enough fat and skin — you’ll need 3 to 4 cups of skin and fat to work with — add it to a large pot and cover with water. You can also add a quartered onion to the pot for added flavor, but it’s not required. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat until all of the water has cooked off and the fat begins to turn golden-brown.
Once the fat is rendered, strain it out with a fine-mesh sieve. (Pro tip: Reserve any crispy skin that results as a delicious, crunchy topper for pasta, salads, and veggies.) Store the schmaltz in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
If you’re not up for rendering the fat yourself, you can always opt to buy pre-made schmaltz. It is available in most grocery stores, often in the same aisle as other cooking oils. Some stores may shelve it in an area dedicated to Kosher foods. A store-bought product will likely be labeled “chicken fat,” rather than schmaltz. It is also available in specialty grocery stores and Kosher markets, as well as from online retailers.
If a recipe calls for schmaltz and you don’t have any, you can substitute melted butter, ghee, or your choice of cooking oil. You may miss the full-flavored goodness of schmaltz, but you can easily substitute any cooking fat in its place.