This post is sponsored by our friends at Fatworks.
Fat is Back: 8 New Fats to Fall in Love With
“Eat like your great-grandmother did”
This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I could give you if you’re new to real food. Why? Well, it gives you a framework, or point of reference, from which to be able to evaluate if a food you’re about to eat is 1) nutrient-dense, 2) minimally processed and 3) devoid of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
Your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize about 90% of the foods in the modern supermarket because most of those things aren’t food – they’re ‘food-like products’ (to use a term made popular by one of my real food heroes, Michael Pollan).
And granny definitely would not have heard of or been able to pronounce ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the back of a box of premade pie crust. Why? Because granny cooked with real fats like lard and tallow. And if your granny was Jewish or just thrifty and inclined to use every part of that Sunday chicken dinner, she’d have used schmaltz too.
Granny didn’t even know you could make oil from vegetables much less cottonseeds or other seeds. That technology likely didn’t exist 100 years ago – much less back when your ancestors arrived on the boat or crossed the prairie in a covered wagon. But what did exist then were what we now call ‘traditional’ fats. Minimally processed solid fats rendered from beef (tallow), pork (lard), chicken (schmaltz), duck or other fowl and wild game. If it was good enough for granny, why not for you?
Fat is back!
I bet you never thought you’d heard dietitians talking about lard and tallow in a positive way.
Well, now that we’ve laid the days of low-fat everything to rest and exonerated saturated fats of their involvement in heart disease it’s time to take a closer look at which fats granny ate that allowed her to enjoy a life free of diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, diet-related cancer and obesity.
One company that’s been working hard to spread the word about these traditional fats while sourcing only the highest quality ingredients is Fatworks. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Fatworks is a small family-run business committed to quality and providing eaters the best fats for your cooking, baking and skin care needs(yes, fat is good for your skin too!)
We first met the husband and wife team behind Fatworks at Paleo(fx) and immediately fell in love with their products and their passion for wholesome, traditional fats. We also love the cheeky way they talk about their products and their mission that they share on their website.
Apparently fat isn’t only rad, but it’s also funny. You’ll find the folks at Fatworks referring to all who use their products as ‘Fatworkers’ – or ones who zealously spread the word about real fat – while referring to their line up of fats as the ‘Fattitude Adjusters’, referring to their ability to change your mind about lard and tallow.
Best of all, the fats produced by Fatworks are all sourced from small farms where the animals are raised on pasture and never given antibiotics or hormones. We like that in a fat.
Bring on the fat
I bet you’re asking yourself “Wait! Isn’t fat bad for me?” I’m glad you asked because it turns out that it’s not.
Recent evidence has overturned the diet-heart disease connection, or ‘lipid hypothesis’. This hypothesis held that the consumption of animal fats – particularly cholesterol and saturated fats – would lead to elevated blood cholesterol levels which then caused heart disease. The studies that linked fat with heart attacks were done over a half century ago on rats and humans with faulty and haphazard methodology. However, more recent analyses of the data shows the data to have been cherry picked to prove the principle researcher’s point – which was that fat from animals caused heart disease. No questions asked. Nice.
So what does that mean to people like you and I? It means that animal fats aren’t the nail in the coffin they were once thought to be. In fact, we now know that it’s the highly-processed, rancid vegetable oils and refined sugars and carbohydrates that have been wreaking havoc on our hearts all along. For a more in depth review of the debunking of the lipid hypothesis, check out this series by Chris Kresser where he breaks it all down for you.
Side note: We recognize that some of you do have medical reasons to have to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol (i.e. hereditary conditions, etc.) But, like all things nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation and we are not providing medical or nutrition advice here.
Now, let’s talk fat!
Pure (Beef) Tallow
Beef tallow is probably the most versatile and best-known fat when it comes to traditional fats because it can be used in so many ways – from baking to frying. Beta carotene is responsible for the rich golden color of this fat thanks to the all grass and sunshine diet of the cows used to produce it. Fat from grass-fed cows is rich in an important fatty acids called omega-3’s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). These types of fat may be protective against tumor formation and heart disease.
Tallow is also the hot new (old) ingredient in many lines of organic skin care products – and may have even been the secret weapon in your great-grandmother’s daily beauty ritual as well.
How we use it: To start soups and chilis, to brown meats before roasting or slow cooking, to pan fry potatoes and even stir fry.
Before you think “I don’t like lamb” and skip to the next fat, hear us out! Fatworks Lamb Tallow is crafted from 100% grass-fed, pastured lamb and has none of the ‘gaminess’ you might expect (for you non-lamb lovers). In fact the flavor is mild yet lends an incredibly savory depth to soups, stews, roasted vegetables and pan seared meats and poultry.
Affectionately referred to as ‘thunderfat’ by its creators, Fatworks Buffalo Tallow is sourced from organic grass-fed bison. You really can’t get any more traditional than the fat that fueled Native American tribes for generations. And you can’t get a better ‘entry-level’ traditional fat than buffalo tallow because its flavor is milder and more neutral tasting than other tallows. In fact, its mellow flavor makes it the perfect fat for frying, braising, sautéing, stir-frying and even baking!
Like its cousin, beef tallow, buffalo tallow makes a great moisturizer for dry, cracked skin when you add a few drops of your favorite essential oils.
How we use it: Pie crust and pastry, sautéing and roasting vegetables and starting soups and stews.
Fatworks Pure Lard is made from the back and belly fat of pasture raised pigs. And it’s 100% lard – no added hydrogenated vegetable oils like you’ll find in most modern lards on your supermarket shelves. Pure lard is flavorful and has a high smoke point making it a great fat for making crispy pan-friend potatoes in your trusty cast iron skillet or frying up a batch of fries or killer crispy fried chicken on occasion.
How we use it: Crispy oven roasted or skillet potatoes or other vegetables.
If you’re looking for a light and neutral tasting lard for frying or baking, then Fatworks Pastured Leaf Lard is our recommendation for stellar pie crusts and crispy fries. Leaf lard is rendered from the internal, or ‘leaf, fat rather than muscle fat which makes it less ‘porky’ tasting than pure lard. We personally use leaf lard for all of our pie crusts – both sweet and savory – and it’s high smoke point makes it the ideal fat for making a fierce batch of sweet potato fries.
Stretch your fat dollar: Any of the tallows and lards that you use for frying can be saved and used again! Simply allow fat to cool enough so that you can touch it without burning yourself but it’s still liquid and pourable. Carefully pour your precious fat through a cheesecloth or coffee filter-lined strainer and into a clean jar. Store in the fridge until ready to use again. Make granny proud! Don’t toss that fat after the first batch – get your money’s worth by reusing it!
Wild Boar Lard
Like the lards above, Wild Boar Lard is great for all of your savory cooking applications. It’s ‘assertive’ flavor, however, doesn’t lend itself well to sweet dishes. This lard is best used when starting a soup, braise, stew or chili. Something hearty whose flavors can match the bolder taste of this wilder and more exotic fat.
How we use it: To brown meat for a stew or roast.
Chicken fat, also known as schmaltz, is the go-to fat for traditional Jewish grannies. This rich, golden fat is rendered from the fat of 100% organic free-range chickens and it’s what makes matzoh ball soup so irresistible. Chicken fat is versatile and easy to use in the kitchen and lends an intensely delicious and aromatic quality to anything you cook – including roasted vegetables or potatoes, stir fries or sautéed greens.
How we use it: Anything we want to be super savory like steamed or sautéed vegetables, rice or quinoa or to saute the vegetables for a soup using store-bought broth (to give it more of that home-cooked flavor and mouth feel).
If you’ve been to any local farm-to-table restaurant worth its salt lately, you’ve likely enjoyed the intense flavor that duck fat imparts to roasted vegetables. Now you can get that fancy restaurant flavor at home thanks to Fatworks Duck Fat. Made from the fat of 100% cage-free, antibiotic and hormone-free ducks, this fat is specially rendered in a kettle in small batches and put through the finest filter to give you the cleanest and purest duck fat possible.
How we use it: For roasting all the things – including potatoes, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, rutabagas, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots and more.
See, fat IS back and it’s better than ever
It may have never crossed your mind to try these old ‘new’ fats on for size until now and that’s ok! That’s why we’re here – to spread the word about wholesome, high-quality fats that your granny loved (and thrived on). In fact, granny probably wouldn’t have survived a day out on the prairie (or anywhere else, for that matter) without real fats to fuel her daily activities and ensure that she was able to reproduce so you could be reading this today. Real fat is pretty powerful stuff!
Get yourself some new (old) fat and start exploring the world of incredibly flavorful and nourishing fats here.
Not sure which to try first? Try them all in the new 1 ounce sample size
What new (old) fat are you curious to try and what would you make with it? Share in the comments below!