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This recipe is great if you’re looking to add surprising, all-natural flavor to dishes. Chicken schmaltz is easy to make with just a couple cups of chicken skins, and it will add depth to your soups, stews, biscuits and pie crusts that will remind you of eating at grandma’s house.
What is chicken schmaltz
Chicken schmaltz is more than a fun word to say. It’s a delectable cooking fat made from rendered poultry fat that’s used in baking, stews, soups and anywhere else you would add cooking oil or lard.
The concentrated umami flavor is like liquid gold.
Today, we can all run to the grocery store and pull a bottle of cooking oil or olive oil off the shelf. But civilization was much different not that long ago. Instead, if home cooks wanted to cook with fat, they made rendered-down drippings from whatever animal fat they had on hand.
Rendered pork fat is called lard. Rendered beef fat is called tallow. And rendered poultry fat is referred to as schmaltz.
Schmaltz is said to have originated in Jewish communities in Europe and is derived from the German word schmelzen, which means to melt. To learn more about the history of this Jewish cooking staple and an authentic Jewish recipe, I recommend reading Cooking Jewish Culture.
My recipe for chicken schmaltz is slightly different than most traditional Jewish recipes, because I don’t cook the fat with onions. This recipe is for pure liquid chicken fat.
One of the awesome byproducts of making schmaltz is gribenes. These are the crispy bits of chicken fat that remain after you strain off the liquid. I prefer to leave the chicken skins a little larger, so they eat like chips. You can also dice the skins so the bites are smaller.
If you like pork chicharrones, you’re going to love these!
In order to make chicken schmaltz and gribenes, you need a couple cups of chicken skins or chicken fat.
I realize not everyone does BBQ competitions. The good news is, you can skip the scraping and just peel the chicken skins off the thighs. Then, give those a rough chop.
You can use skins from any part of the chicken, but I find they’re easier to peel off of thighs, and I like boneless, skinless thighs for making grilled chicken lumpia.
Added bonus: If you remove the skins and bones from chicken thighs yourself, you’ll pay less per pound than butchered boneless, skinless thighs.
Substitutions: You don’t just have to stick to chicken. Schmaltz can also be made with turkey or goose fat.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to cook schmaltz and gribenes
- STEP ONE: Place the chicken skin and chicken fat in a medium sauce pan on the stove over low heat. Let the fat simmer for 2 hours. Throughout the process, the fat will render from the skins and the skins will become fried and crispy. It’s ready once the liquid almost fully submerges the skins and they’re extra crispy.
- STEP TWO: Pour the rendered fat through a strainer into a pitcher or bowl to collect the gribenes (the crispy chicken bits) and to strain the schmaltz.
- STEP THREE: Pour the strained schmaltz into mason jars to store.
How to serve gribenes
One of the best treats you get when you make chicken schmaltz is the gribenes. The crispy bits of fried chicken fat taste like the outer coating of extra crispy fried chicken from KFC.
While they’re still a little warm, sprinkle them with a pinch of kosher salt. Then enjoy. If you’re on a keto diet, they really cure that crunchy umami craving. But remember, they are all fat, so enjoy in moderation.
How to use schmaltz
Now that you have a jar of schmaltz, you get to add the most amazing flavor to dishes. Use it just like you would oil or butter.
If you store the schmaltz in the refrigerator, it will harden, so place it on the counter at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you want to use it. Then, scoop a little bit out for your recipe.
Spoon a little into a pan for fried eggs. Use it instead of olive oil to sauté veggies. Add a dollop to sauces or soups to add richness. You can even spread it on toast and then layer on some sliced avocado and a pinch of salt.
If you like to bake, mix schmaltz into your baked recipes that call for vegetable shortening. You can use it in Homemade Biscuits or even Pie Crust, especially if that crust is for pot pie. It’s traditionally used to make matzo balls and chicken soup, but can also be incorporated into dumplings for an amazing pot of chicken and dumplings.
If you have leftover gribenes, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, but they probably won’t last that long.
Leftover schmaltz can be kept in an airtight container, like a jar. I store it in the refrigerator and try to use it within 2-3 months. You can also freeze it indefinitely.
You’ll know if it’s gone bad when you open it. If it has a rancid, bitter aroma, you’ve waited too long to use it and should throw it away.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Use chicken fat or chicken skins from thighs
- Simmer over low heat to fully render the fat
- Don’t toss the crispy bits; the gribenes are delicious
Frequently Asked Questions
Schmaltz is made from rendered poultry fat. One health benefit is that it’s natural and not processed like vegetable shortening. But unlike cooking oils like olive oil or canola oil, schmaltz is a saturated fat. Therefore, it should be eaten in moderation.
Yes. Schmaltz can be made from rendered chicken fat. But it can also be made from other poultry like goose.
The safest way to store schmaltz is in the refrigerator or freezer. It will last for several months in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer.
If you plan to use it often, keep it in the fridge. Then, when you’re ready to use it, let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes to bring it back to room temperature, or zap it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds to soften.
Recipes that can be made with schmaltz
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Chicken Schmaltz and Gribenes
- 2 cups chicken skins or fat
- Prep skins: Remove the chicken skins from any part of the chicken and chop into pieces*.
- Render: Place the skins in a medium sauce pan over low heat and simmer for about 2 hours.
- Strain: Once the fat is rendered and the remaining pieces of fat are crispy, pour the liquid through a strainer into a pitcher.
- Jar: Pour the strained liquid into a jar. Let cool to room temperature. Then, cover and store in the refrigerator.
- Gribenes: Salt the leftover crispy bits, which are called gribenes, and eat right away or save in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.