Cook’s Notes – Schmaltz

Read the original post here.

Rendering animal fats is a powerful technique to know. Olive oil and butter are still my most common fats for cooking, but having some rendered bacon or chicken schmaltz are so useful to alter or boost the flavor of a dish.

Like Christine said in the post, this is wet rendering. The fat is in a pot and basically starts off by melting into the water. When the water boils, the whole mixture is essentially held at 212F/100C until the water boils off – hot enough to melt the fat but not so hot that it cooks and develops off flavors.

(Dry rendering, by contrast, involves simply cooking chunks of whatever in a skillet. I do this most often with bacon, over a medium-low heat – the fat in the bacon needs to render out before the bacon starts to burn. Wet rendering takes longer but is more forgiving about this, dry rendering requires a little more focus.)

After the water boils off, the remaining liquid in the pot goes from cloudy to clear, and then you’re off to the races. Take care not to burn the fat or the cracklin’ in the pot – you want the skin to fry crisp and golden brown, but you don’t want to get to, or past, the smoke point of the fat in the pot.

If you do this with pork, you get rendered lard and cracklings.
If you do this with chicken, as shown, you get schmaltz and gribenes.
If you do this with duck, you get duck fat (swoon!) and … well, duck cracklings, I think.
And so on.

As I mentioned above, this is a tool on your way to a finished dish. To get a sense of how to use these, buy some potatoes, dice them, dry them with a paper towel, and saute them in these different fats. You’ll find that it all tastes like golden brown delicious potato, but they have background flavors from the cooking fat.


Schmaltz Recipe – Cooking with Mike…

Making Schmaltz - Trust me, you want to do this!

Schmaltz. You may not have ever heard of it before – I know I hadn’t. But it turns out, you want to know what schmaltz is, because it is amazing! I learned to appreciate schmaltz thanks to Michael Ruhlman’s Single, The Book of Schmaltz, available on the iPad in the iTunes store.

Schmaltz by Ruhlman on the iPad

What is schmaltz? Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, cooked with onion for flavor, that is used in many traditional Jewish dishes. For many centuries, cooking with animal fats was the norm, such as butter from cows and lard from pigs. Since the Jewish religion forbids eating anything porcine, they relied on poultry fat (schmaltz) for their cooking, and this characterizes the traditional Jewish cuisine. It isn’t limited to traditional Jewish dishes though – there are many amazing things you can do with schmaltz.

There is also a bonus to making schmaltz! Not only do you get schmaltz (the fat), but you are also left with the browned skin and onions, called gribenes – a delicious byproduct that you can use in a number of ways.

Mike is all about utilization cooking; when he breaks down a chicken to make chicken breasts for one meal, the legs for another, the bones are saved for making stock, and the fat & skin go in to the freezer (in a plastic container that he adds to when he has more) to make schmaltz. There is no waste when cooking food.

Don’t want to save up the skin & fat? Ask your butcher or the farmer who you get your chickens from if they will save it for you. Ruhlman also suggests that you can use the skin from packaged chicken thighs, and then use the skinless thighs for other things.

Random things I learned while we made this? The process of making schmaltz is a wet rendering process – you add water when you do it. According to some of the sources I’ve read since, wet rendering needs less monitoring and is more delicate on the fat.

If you want to learn more about making schmaltz and the many uses for it, I highly recommend Ruhlman’s book. (Actually, I highly recommend anything by Ruhlman.) He describes the steps in making schmaltz, and then has two dozen recipes that explore the various uses of schmaltz, including traditional recipes such as Classic Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls, Egg and Gribenes Spread, Potato Kugel, Knish, Kreplach, and contemporary recipes such as Vichyssoise with Gribenes and Chives (hmm… I’m thinking that some Cauliflower Leek soup might be enhanced with some gribenes too!), Four-Star Matzo Ball Soup, Schmaltz-roasted Potatoes with Onion and Rosemary (yes, please!), Chicken with Schmaltz Dumplings, Chicken Rillettes, and even Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries.

Ruhlman’s goal (and ours too) is to help you create your own variations of schmaltz so that you can add it to your arsenal of cooking tools.

UPDATE: Be sure to visit Mike’s blog for the Cook’s Notes on Schmaltz.

Cutting up the frozen chicken skins and fat to prepare for rendering.

Cutting up the frozen chicken skins and fat to prepare for rendering.

Soon to be Schmaltz - all ready to put it on the stove for the wet rendering

Soon to be Schmaltz – all ready to put it on the stove for the wet rendering.

Starting the rendering process - look at the yummy goodness!

Starting the rendering process – look at the yummy goodness!

Rendering away - clear liquid

Rendering away – clear liquid

Onions added to make the Schmaltz

Onions added to make the Schmaltz

Schmaltz and gribenes ready to be strained

Schmaltz and gribenes – ready to be strained!

Gribenes - Chicken & Onion goodness to use on a variety of items

Gribenes – Chicken & Onion goodness to use on a variety of items.

Straining the Schmaltz from the Gribenes

Straining the Schmaltz from the Gribenes

Straining the Schmaltz for a second time for clarity

Straining the Schmaltz for a second time for clarity

The Schmaltz!

The Schmaltz!

Schmaltz Recipe – Cooking with Mike…


  • 1 pound chicken skin and fat (from about two chickens), finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ C. water or as needed


  1. Chop the skin and fat well, which is easiest when it is frozen or partially frozen. The finer the chop, the more efficiently it will render.
  2. Put the chicken skin in a medium saucepan (nonstick, if you have one) with just enough water to cover. On high heat, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cook slowly to render fat. Stir occasionally. This will take anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours, depending on how much skin and fat you have and the heat of your burner. Stir to make sure it does not stick or burn.
  3. Do not let the fat get too hot and turn brown; you want a light, clear, clean schmaltz. Once the water and the moisture in the fat has cooked off, the fat temperature can rise above 212 F / 100 C and the browning can begin.
  4. When the chicken skin is golden brown and plenty of the fat has been rendered, add the chopped onions. Continue to cook until the skin and onions are well browned. Stir more frequently, as the protein will REALLY want to stick to the pot (some of that is unavoidable).
  5. Be careful not to overcook the fat; it should remain clear and yellow, not brown with an overly roasted flavor.
  6. The schmaltz is done when the fat is clear but not browned, the onion is cooked through and melted, and the chicken skin is dark golden brown. The gribenes should be crispy-chewy.
  7. Strain the schmaltz from the skin and onions through a fine mesh strainer. If you want very clear fat, line the strainer with a cheesecloth (or strain a second time as we did). Allow it to cool and then transfer to a container, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is volatile and will diminish in flavor if left too long in the fridge; freeze any that you will not be using in a day or two.
  8. To freeze: store in a container with plastic wrap pressed down on to the surface, cover with a lid or a second layer of plastic wrap, and then wrap in foil if you plan to store it for a long time; this will prevent other flavors from infiltrating the schmaltz, and the foil will keep light from damaging it. Another option is to freeze in 1½ cup mason jars with rubber seals.
  9. Save the gribenes (the onions and skin) as well. Dry excess fat on a paper towl and store covered in the fridge for up to a week; these bits are great as a snack, on salad, on scrambled eggs, et cetera. You can also freeze the gribenes if you would like.


Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe – Cooking with Mike…

Easy Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe

Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe Prep

This Cauliflower Leek Soup recipe has the distinct honor of being the first post of the new cooking series on my blog!

My husband Mike & I have long talked about doing a “Cooking With Mike” series. He cooks, I take photos, and we share it all with you. I turned it in to a resolution for the new year – every weekend (well, every weekend that we are both in Houston), we spend time together in the kitchen cooking and photographing recipes. We’re still working the kinks out of the system, so while we cooked this the first weekend of the year, I am just now posting it here on the blog. Don’t worry though, I will be catching up soon!

On to cooking – the Cauliflower Leek Soup recipe – just click here! When I started doing 4 Hour Body 13 months ago, I gave up potatoes. The down side to that was no more potato leek soup. Mike decided to try to make it with cauliflower instead, and I discovered it tastes just as delicious, all while being Paleo / 4 Hour Body friendly!

Cauliflower and leeks for making soup

I should probably admit that until I met Mike, I didn’t even know what a leek was, other than being some weird thing I saw on the menu from time to time. Ah, the life of being a picky eater. He has definitely made me more adventuresome when it comes to food!

Who Doesn't Love BACON?

And who doesn’t love Bacon? Oh, wait, I didn’t until a year ago. Well, I used to, but then I stopped. I still can only eat it if it is really crispy!

Cutting leeks to prepare them to be washed.

Cutting leeks to prepare them to be washed.

When preparing your leeks, you want to cut them in half in one direction, but not all the way through at the base. Then turn and repeat for the other half (essentially cutting them in to quarters), again, not cutting all the way through the base – as Mike shows in the bottom photo. This will keep them together while you soak them to get them clean, making it easier to cut them for the soup.

Leeks - Ready for the Cauliflower Leek Soup

Chopping for the Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe

Leeks - Ready to go in the Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe!

Removing the core of the cauliflower

Breaking Down Cauliflower for cooking cauliflower leek soup

Cutting the cauliflower for our cauliflower leek soup

Cauliflower, ready for Cauliflower Leek Soup

While he was breaking down the cauliflower and cutting it, the leeks were sweating in the pot behind him, getting nice and soft and all of the water out of them so that we could add the cauliflower and the (still frozen) chicken stock, in case you are a vegan you can find an alternative for the chicken stock at

The leeks are done when they have sweated out, are very soft, are not browned, and are about half their original volume.

Sweating the leeks - cauliflower leek soup

Cauliflower Leek Soup - cooking

Testing the cauliflower to make sure it is done cooking

Cauliflower Leek Soup in the Vitamix

Cauliflower Leek Soup in the Vitamix

We used our new Vitamix Professional Series 200 Blender [affiliate link] to blend our soup, but we discussed afterwards that it makes it so smooth and creamy, it is too smooth for me. (I have texture issues.) Mike’s tips to work around that if you like your soup a little more “hearty” like I do is to either hold back 25% of the soup and blend that in separately at the end, not quite so smooth, or to use a stick blender. He was THRILLED with how smooth the soup came out putting it all in at once, and said that that was the classic texture. Just so you know you have options!

Update January, 2014: We are so excited to be included in the Meal Planning Magic 25 Simple Soup Recipes for National Soup Month list! Many great ones there to check out as well!

Easy Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe - topped with bacon

Easy Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe

Cauliflower Leek Soup Recipe

Yield: 4-6 Servings


  • 4 strips of bacon, cut into ½” pieces
  • 3 leeks, trimmed and washed
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 4 C chicken stock
  • ½ C heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


  1. In a pot over medium-low heat, cook the bacon pieces until golden brown and fat has rendered. Remove bacon pieces with slotted spoon and reserve.
  2. Halve the leeks and chop roughly into pieces about ½” wide.
  3. Turn heat to medium-high. Add leeks to pot, scatter over 1 tsp. kosher salt, stir, and cover pot. Let leeks sweat for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir to scrape up brown bacon bits from bottom of pot.
  4. Core the cauliflower and separate the florets.
  5. Once leeks are done, add cauliflower and stock to pot and bring it to a boil.
  6. Turn heat to medium-low. Cover pot and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer soup to blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until smooth. (May use a stick blender if you prefer.) For additional notes on this step, see the Cook's Notes.
  8. Stir or blend in cream, then taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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