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How to Render Duck & Goose Fat

Wild duck fat

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Domestic ducks and geese are the pigs of the air. They lay on thick layers of clean-tasting, delicious fat that is healthier for you than lard — and remember that fresh-rendered lard is healthier for you than butter. Other than fish fat, waterfowl fat is arguably the animal fat that is best for you; it is so low in saturated fat that it’s actually liquid at a warm room temperature.

What about wild birds? I am blessed with ducks and geese that winter in Northern California among the rice fields. It is not uncommon to see pintails or mallard with such a thick layer of white, rice-built fat that they look like little domestic ducks. I cook with it all year long.

Where do you get it? By rendering the fat from your pudgy ducks. Here’s how:

First, you must pluck your birds. Once plucked, the fat is mostly in the body cavity, around the gizzard and in the Pope’s Nose. There is also good fat to be had in the neck skin. What I do is chop up the neck skin, pull out the body cavity fat and the fat around the gizzard and hack the Pope’s Nose into at least two pieces. Wash them all in cold water and put into a small frying pan over medium heat with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

The fat will begin to render out immediately into the water, which, as the water boils, will evaporate — but not before rendering enough fat to allow the bits to continue rendering slowly without scorching.

Once the water boils away, drop the temperature to low and watch the fat, which will be yellow and milky. At some point, about 30 to 45 minutes later, the fat will turn clear. Now you’re ready.

Set up a strainer over a glass container to hold the fat in; I use pint Mason jars. Set a paper towel into the strainer and pour the contents of the pan into it. All the impurities will stay with the paper towel. When the fat is done dripping, about 15 minutes, pour the liquid gold into a container, cover it and keep it in the fridge. It will last a year, and indefinitely in the freezer.

Once you have your fat, use it to cook with. It’s great with potatoes, to cook greens in, to start the pan when you cook a duck breast, and it is indispensable when making duck confit.

More Duck & Goose Recipes

28 responses to “How to Render Duck & Goose Fat”

  1. Tom Bickle

    Great article. I really enjoy your site and blog. One suggestion: noting a few uses for the rendered fat might round out the article more for newbies like me.

    Keep up the great work!

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  4. Lindsay

    Last December I made stock out of wild duck. I skimmed off the fat, and put it in a glass jar in the fridge. We’ve long finished the stock, but the jar of fat is still in the fridge. Is it the same thing as “rendered” fat, or is it different? Can I use it the same way? It still looks/smells the same.

  5. Ben Richey

    Thank you – we are using our duck fat for confit, as well as frying just about anything.

  6. Ephie

    Duck or goose fat is fantastic to saute mushrooms with, roast onions and or root vegetables with.
    It is also great to rub a turkey down with and tuck the chilled fat beneath the skin.
    Rendered chicken fat is great as well.
    The cracklings left behind are delicious.

  7. Chad Low


    I boiled down some whole mallards for a gumbo recipe and it yielded quite a bit of fat. I let it cool down so the fat would set up making it easier to skim off. Can I save the fat that I skimmed off and combine it with the rest of the duck fat that I have been rendering, or would the boiling make it less suitable for saving? Thanks!

  8. Chad Low

    Little salt, little pepper and an onion…

  9. Jared

    Using the water method, I’ve found that running a temperature probe and alarm set at 300°f I get perfect duck cracklings without worrying about how long it takes. Low and slow :)

  10. Doug

    Was cleaning honkers shot yesterday. Most has white fat, but one was almost orange! The fat was a pale orange. These are birds shot in central MN. Ant ideas ab what causes the orange?

  11. Douglas Moran

    Hank: I just shot these on Friday and Sat. It’s mid-late Nov. I don’t know where the goose could have been feeding on freshwater shrimp. I don’t think we have sand fleas in MN, certainly not in the fall/winter. It smells fine, smells like the white fat. I will render it separately and let you know.

  12. Lloyd Reese

    I was always told yellow fat in beef was from feeding out with corn.
    Look for other things with caritan (sp?)in it for a possible answer.

    (RE: yellow fat in geese)

  13. Dorothy

    I am butchering 9 ducks this week. Reading about dry aging. I planned to kill then hang over night but am debating about hanging another day or two. Temp likely to be pretty close to freezing 32. Is that a problem? AND since these are not shot birds but beheaded like my chickens .. Do I gut before hanging or not, what other help can you give me? We skinned the last batch but did not know to keep the fat. these are domestic, mixes, and one mallard.

  14. Darren Gewant

    hi hank –

    “…Orange fat is bad. Probably from the goose eating crustaceans like freshwater shrimp or little crabs or sand fleas. Skin it…”

    can you comment further your method of determining if the fat is “good” or “bad” and whether to skin or not? Also, i read one of your posts where you suggested rendering the popes nose for an indicator. any further notes on this method?


    just got the kindle version of your book!

  15. Aurelija

    last year I washed goose fat before rendering. Then, I rendered it in the pot and put it to the clean empty jam pot. But goose fat, which was washed, got bad smell after longer storage. And the goose fat, which was rendered without water – no :) So, now I never wash it: put it to the cooking pot and use blender to cut it. Then, I turn on the fire on gas cooker and render this “blendered poridge” till it starts to melt. And now there is no bad smell after longer time storage. I will never put water in melting process again :) I use it as hand and face cream in winter time and for baking.

  16. darren


    i just got my first limit Wednesday: 2 spoonies, 3 green winged teal, and 2 sprig!! my freezer is now stuffed (with dove, pigeon, and 20+ duck) and now i am am immersed in your fantastic book and endless tips and tricks on this website – totally overwhelmed!

    my wife is a vegetarian (and therefore i am mostly too), but she will eat meat i have killed. well, at least the salmon and halibut i catch, but getting a duck cooked right and palatable will be a huge challenge, even more so that shooting it in the first place!

    you are doing a HUGE service to all the ducks that are killed each year – keep up the good work.

  17. Justin

    Hank I had about 8 or 9 grey ducks with which I rendered fat two days ago. I used the neck skin, and trimmed the skin off the pope’s nose as well as I could. After about 3 or 4 hours it yielded a little less than a cup of fat once strained (cheesecloth). I wonder if I should have chopped the whole pope’s nose off of each bird and tossed them into the pot as opposed to just the skin. Also the fat did not turn white. More of a golden color, but no strong odor or anything. Would you imagine those gadwall should have yielded more fat?
    BTW I greatly enjoy your articles on this website and just realized you have your own books I can purchase, which I plan to do in short order. Thanks.

  18. shorelunch

    hank have read /studied your HGC book and have had good luck with some of your tips I have my own method for rendering fat after plucking I remove and debone breasts save legs for confit or ?? I then simmer till meat falls off bone I plan to try sugo with a batch or ?. anyway I chill the stock,remove the fat then warm the fat filter and store. I just did this with 2 mallard and 2 geese yelding 16ounces of yellow/white gold.Is this a GOOD METHOD?

  19. jscott

    I just rendered the fat from 6 geese I shot last week. I did it the way you described and turned out well, but after cooling down I was left with a golden layer of liquid fat on the top third of my jar and more of a white cloudy fat on the bottom two-thirds of the jar. Is it all good to use? Did I not let it go long enough/too long? Any thoughts?

  20. Jon Spencer

    I am interested in rendering goose fat to use on leather, not for cooking. Have you ever heard of this? Using it for leather and such was recommended to me by the man who made my leather sheath.
    Thank you, Jon

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