What is schmaltz? That’s probably the first thing you want to know, and the quick answer is that it’s rendered chicken fat. (“Render” means to cook the fat out of something). Technically schmaltz can be the rendered fat of duck or geese, but most commonly it’s used to refer to chicken fat, and it’s nothing new. Many butchers sell it -- especially kosher butchers! Many grandmothers used to make it. And it’s easy to make schmaltz -- if you’re making chicken stock, you will get schmaltz. Don’t skim it off and discard the chicken fat as many recipes tell you to. Instead collect that fat and use it.
How to Make and Store Schmaltz
There are several ways to extract the fat from the stock, all are best done after you’ve strained the stock. You can skim the fat off the stock with a spoon or using a fat separator, which makes it very easy, but what I really like to do is chill the strained stock in the refrigerator overnight and then scrape off the solidified white cap of fat that has formed on top of the stock. If not making stock, cook chicken fat in a skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fat liquefies. Once cool, store schmaltz in a lidded jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Schmaltz is packed with chicken flavor; a little goes long way. It’s used in traditional Ashkenazi Jewish recipes like Matzo Ball Soup and Chopped Liver (and was used in other Central European cuisines). It can be used in place of other fats such as butter and olive oil, in small amounts such as a tablespoon or two, to bring a rich chickeny flavor to soups, stews, and sautés. If you’re roasting a chicken for a dinner party and can’t fit all the vegetables you want to roast in the roasting pan, toss the extra vegetables with a tablespoon or two of schmaltz so they take on the chicken flavor when they’re roasted on a separate tray. Toss potatoes in a little schmaltz before roasting. Melt a little and spread on a chicken salad sandwich; there are so many ways to use that schmaltz.
Watch Sarah Carey deftly use rendered chicken fat, aka schmaltz, in her light and fluffy matzo balls: