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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.

I cook with it all year long. 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. In my experience, only wigeon and snow geese tend to be lean. These need extra fat when cooking. 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 of smaller ducks (I keep the necks of larger ducks for other uses), 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-low heat with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

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

Take your time, and turn the pieces periodically until they are crispy and brown. Can you eat them? Sure, but the skin gets pretty tough in this preparation. Take the bits out, skim any impurities and let the fat cool slightly. I typically pour everything through cheesecloth.

Afterwards pour it into a container, cover it and keep it in the fridge. It will last a year.

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17 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.

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