5 fats you should be cooking with – but may not be

lard

In a recent article I wrote on my other blog, 9 Steps to Perfect Health – #1: Nourish Your Body, I explained that saturated (SFA) and monounsaturated fats (MFA) are the preferred fuel source of the body. Another important benefit of LCSFA, and to a lesser degree MFA, is that they are stable at high temperatures and thus the safest fats to cook with.

With this in mind, here’s a list of my favorite cooking fats. Not just because they’re safe to cook with, but because they taste so good.

Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter, and it’s popular in Indian cooking. Because the milk solids have been removed, it’s very low in lactose and is almost entirely fat – mostly saturated. I tend to use ghee to brown meat and sautee garlic and onions when I make soups or stews, and I sometimes scramble my eggs in it. A tablespoon of ghee contains 8g SFA, 3.7g MFA fat and 0.5g PUFA.

Coconut oil

Along with ghee, coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with because it’s almost entirely saturated. In fact, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the so-called medical authorities, we know better. In addition to being a great fuel source for the body, coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in mother’s milk that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Coconut oil has 4g of SFA, 0.3g of MFA and

Leaf lard

No self-respecting French chef would ever be without lard. Leaf lard is obtained from the visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidney and loin, and is considered the highest grade of lard because it has little pork flavor. This is why it’s prized in baking, where it’s used to make flaky, moist pie crusts, croissants and other non-Paleo delights. Lard is an incredibly versatile fat. I use mostly to roast vegetables. Unlike olive oil, vegetables roasted in lard do not get soggy or greasy. They stay crisp and almost dry, with a wonderful flavor. This surprises people because they think of lard as “greasy”. Not so. A tablespoon of lard has about 6g MFA, 5g SFA and 1.6g PUFA.

Duck fat

Let me just say this, if you’ve never had potatoes roasted or fried in duck fat, you haven’t had French fries. I mean that literally. Duck fat was what folks in Europe used to make the original French fries before industrial seed oils came along. Once you taste potatoes – or any vegetables – roasted or fried in duck fat, you’ll know why. A tablespoon of duck fat has 6 g MFA, 4 g LCSFA and 1.6 g PUFA.

Butter

Butter has a lower smoke point than the fats listed above, which makes it less suitable for high temperature cooking. However, it’s a great fat to use on top of fish or meat in the oven, or in stews or slow-cooked meals at lower temperatures. “Butter makes everything better” is exactly right. A tablespoon of butter contains 7.2g of SFA, 2.9g of MFA and 0.4g of PUFA.

What are you favorite uses for these fats? Let us know in the comments section.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Rob says

    I have been using coconut oil for about 6 weeks and have nothing but good results with it.
    I also use Avocado oil on occasion as well.

  2. says

    Hi Chris,

    Great post!
    I’m very happy things like these get known by more and more people. Together we can make the world a lot healthier!

  3. chriskresser says

    Diane: I love your chart. The only thing I might remove is flax oil. It’s certainly not harmful in small quantities, but it’s toxic when cooked with (most people know this – right?) and since less than 0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA, it’s contribution to reducing the n-6 ratio is minimal. I’m for reducing our consumption of PUFA to the greatest extent possible.

  4. chriskresser says

    Jenna: you can render your own, or buy from local farmers. If you’re in the Bay Area, Fatted Calf has both.

    MAS: tallow is great from a nutritional standpoint. I just don’t like it as much as lard and duck fat myself.

  5. chriskresser says

    Diane: I just like to educate people on the poor conversion of ALA to DHA, and steer them away from flax and plant oils toward eating fish regularly. I know you know this – but this is why I’m not a big fan of promoting flax oil.

  6. says

    Love it! I use all except duck fat. I just haven’t gotten my hands on any. The more I study health, the more I realize the importance of animal fats in our diet. Coconut oil is wonderful and all, but we really need animal fat. Leaf lard from a pastured pig will have close to 1,000 IU of vit D. Ghee made from grass fed cows cream is rich in many nutrients but is especially wonderful because its a great source of K2.

  7. says

    There is a famous hot dog place here in Chicago called Hot Doug’s that cooks its french fries in duck fat. In fact, I was just watching No Reservations the other day when they visited Hot Doug’s and I asked myself “I wonder if this is healthy? Is it just the industrial seed oils that make french fries bad for you?” So, I offer you the same question: are french fries cooked in duck fat unhealthy?

    • esther says

      Hi Tyler,
      With french fries cooked in cheap oils, not only are you getting what youre thinking but in addition to that you are also looking at the toxic cooking method of creating a carcinogen called acrylamide. Its an end result in high cooking temperatures, the oil and the potato. And you dont want to down too many commercial potatoes as they use heavily sprayed crops, often cook old green potatoes full of solanine, which is also not a fan of your liver. Never use a potato whose green tint on the skin has gone into the vegetable fibers. Throw green potatoes away.

  8. Mike says

    My number one fat is tallow. By preference I use the fat skimmed from my weekly beef stock, which is very flavorful and excellent if you want a beef flavor (which I usually do). But I often run out and am forced to render fat directly. For this I often use CAFO beef trimmings which I get very cheaply from the butcher. I’ve taken to rendering it in large quantities of water which keeps it very fresh and pure, and also provides some additional broth. That’s what we use for french fries in our house, though we use ghee or lard when it runs out.

    Duck fat is a little harder to come by, and my stomach doesn’t tolerate it as well as tallow. I’m planning to get some lard and make duck confit with it soon, so after that I’ll have a mixture of lard and duck fat…

  9. says

    I cook almost solely with animal fats…there are jars of ghee, duck fat, schmaltz (chicken fat), tallow, and lard in my fridge or on my counter. Sometimes bacon fat. I use coconut oil for baking mostly and with dishes where the flavor works, like with shrimp, Thai recipes, etc. Coconut oil is relatively expensive and comes from rather far away, whereas most animal fats are virtually free/included in the price of local raised meat that I’m buying anyway.

    Just fried breakfast potatoes in duck fat this morning. Totally yum.

  10. Mike says

    I should have mentioned more of the things I use the fats for:

    Ghee: frying eggs and caramelizing Brussels sprouts

    Tallow: Browning meat and caramelizing root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips and radishes… also cranberries!)

  11. chriskresser says

    Are potatoes fried in duck fat healthy? I say yes! Duck fat does have some n-6 PUFA in it, though, so best to be somewhat moderate with it. i.e. use 1-2 TBS instead of 1/4 cup.

  12. Clifton says

    Regarding coconut oil: Any reason that extra virgin is superior to this expeller pressed version http://www.jarrow.com/product/211/Coconut_Oil ? This expeller pressed version is kind of awesome because it doesn’t have any coconut flavor-which is nice because, while I do like coconut, sometimes the coconut taste of EVCO contrasts with things I wanna cook it in. You tried it?

  13. says

    For sure. The chart I made wasn’t to promote anything in particular but rather to provide a scale on which to base how to best use the fats and oils if people choose to do so. I haven’t posted on the topic recently but I will do so and clarify once again that I not only never cook with unsaturated fats but that I also rarely, if ever, use something like flax oil in my own diet.

    Thanks for this post- it’s great and very culinary of you :)

  14. Joe says

    Where can I buy duck fat? If I need to get it from the butcher and render it myself, which cut do I ask the butcher for? I recently rendered lard from Leaf Lard from the butcher and it was totally easy. The few friends I’ve spoken to about it were shocked, saying it’s unhealthy, so I am glad to read your blogs and info and have enough common sense to know better. It’s fun to learn tasty ways of healthier eating which contrast with the SAD (Standard American Diet) way most people eat (and become obese).

    • Mike GG says

      Growing up in Yorkshire, UK, goose grease as it was known was very common. Goose was a popular Christmas or New Year roast and produced a phenomenal amount of fat that was used in cooking, but mostly amongst poor people. My grandmother used to queue for it during the Great Depression as they could not afford dripping, butter or lard. A popular cold cure was goose grease and camphor rubbed into the chest to promote clearing of the lungs.

  15. Tim Lundeen says

    It looks like the decimal point is off on the duck fat PUFA number, it should be more like 1.6g/T of PUFA, etc.

    Good post, thanks :-)

  16. laura says

    The Fatted Calf sells goose fat not too expensively. It was about 9.00 for 1lb. Whenever anyone I know does a goose I always show up jar in hand:) For duck fat I usually get a whole duck and remove and render the skin in water in the oven. Makes tasty broth too.

  17. John Walker says

    As it happens, french-fries have nothing to do with France, They are named for the way the potato is cut – or ‘Frenched’.

    And in the UK French-Fries (Or chips as we know them) were originally cooked in ‘dripping’ (Beef fat) before the misinformed and misguided, backed by the Animal Rights Movement, spread the ‘gospel’ about seed oils.

    I love the taste of Duck, so I should like my chips fried in Duck fat. I wonder if like beef fat, it leaves a lovely coating of fat on the palate. :)

    And at last I found a place where few will laugh at me because I counsel the hunter-gatherer ideas. They might not have lived as long as us, but they were healthy. I should imagine they died from far more accidental means than we do, or they couldn’t escape a predator. Maybe our predators are the motor-car and lunatic drivers.

    JW

  18. says

    Hi Chris,
    I didn’t realize you had 2 blogs – I’m loving your “9 Steps to Perfect Health” at the Healthy Skeptic blog.

    I discovered this while researching a recent post I published simplifying all this information using fats and oils, what can be heated, what’s best unheated, what to avoid and putting it in a user-friendly chart. I couldn’t find a good one to share so decided to make my own. I would love your feedback if you have the time to check it out.

    http://www.realfooddigest.com/2011/03/complete-guide-to-fats-and-oils/

    Lisa

  19. says

    I use either coconut oil or avocado oil and sometimes macadamia nut oil for high heat cooking point – never tried lard b4 cause I don’t have any local pastured raised pigs around where I live and neither do duck fat.

  20. kyle says

    Chris,

    I run a wellness program for a local fire department. Do you have any recommendations on adding specific blood tests to our lab work to give a better idea of general wellness. We do a standard panel (lipid, CBC, Heavy Metal, etc). I assume you would add 25 Hydroxy-Vitamen D & CRP…any others?

    Thanks!

  21. Richard Nelson says

    Hi Chris- Is lard from pigs fed 100% grain (organic) not desirable to consume given the omega 6 profile?
    Thanks, Richard

  22. says

    Good article! The fat in butter doesn’t have a low smoke point though (just as ghee doesn’t); butter contains milk proteins which is what browns/burns if you’re not careful. The proteins are also what give butter a superior browning ability as the proteins aid in Maillard Reaction.

    My favorite fat for all-purpose cooking would be bacon drippings. Especially when it has little specks of bacon in it. Mmmmmmm. I use it exclusively for eggs, onions, and greens. I haven’t ever tried (or seen) leaf lard and would love to try it sometime.

    @Kyle — I would *definitely* do a VAP Cholesterol profile as it gives a breakdown of lipoproteins (LDL patterning, apo(b), etc) and is profoundly more useful than just LDL/HDL/TC. Also, we like to do C-peptide as it’s a better indication of insulin status than just A1C and fasting glucose.

  23. Mira says

    What about Hemp oil? I got some a while ago and haven’t really used it for anything. Is it safe to use? I haven’t seen it on any list either way.

  24. TyAnne says

    Great info on here. I love it! Where can I buy duck and leaf lard? I found some pork rendered lard at the local latin market, but that was it.

  25. Kevin says

    After reading this article I went to the Butcher at my neighborhood grocery store and asked for leaf lard or duck fat. You should have seen the looks on their faces. :) They called there supplier and they couldn’t even get it for me. UT might not be the best place to find these. Any good websites I could order it from?

  26. Peggy says

    If anyone still reads this article, I’m also looking for some leaf lard or a place to buy the correct type of fat so I can render it myself. I know that the lard they sell in tubs in the grocery stores is not good for you but I cannot find anyplace to buy either the already made lard or the fat to render it myself. I will order it online if anyone knows of an online site which carries it.

    I live in the Puget Sound region (near Tacoma and Seattle, Washington) in case anyone knows of a butcher where I can buy it.

    • Alex says

      Peggy,

      Butcher Boys in Puyallup has some. I would think any local butcher shop that you can purchase a cow/pig by the whole/half/quarter would have some leftover. Rendering it yourself is so easy! I can mine afterwards. It’ll keep like that for ages.

  27. Michel Sabbagh says

    My favorite cooking fat is lard. I use it to cook my eggs, bacon and pancakes. It makes everything taste better and has an amazing mouthfeel. Simply put, animal fats are ALWAYS going to be better for you than vegetable oils.

  28. Gabrielle says

    Hi Chris,

    How much fat should u consume a day without putting on weight. If I am eating half an avocado and have a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil a day as well as eating eggs is this too much saturated fats in one day

  29. says

    Thanks for all the great information! fatworksfoods.com sells grass fed tallow, duck fat and lard out of Portland, and you can have it shipped to you. Their facebook page has a lot of great recipes and information, too.

  30. Cherie says

    After reading about olive oils being mixed with other oils like canola, soybean, etc., I don’t know which organic EVOO might be safe! Chris, can you please help!

    • Jesse says

      An incredibly reputable company, that I’ve been ordering many products from for quite awhile, is Tropical Traditions. Many of the Real Food bloggers will also recommend this. I love their Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They also sell some of the best quality coconut oil. They describe the process that their coconut oil goes through, compared to others. I hope this info is helpful to you! https://secure.ttpurchase.com/418913ED-D983-8C00-22E94EF4742B68DA

  31. Dunia says

    Hi Chris,

    I wonder what your thoughts are about cooking with food grade cocoa butter. Its fatty acid profile looks ideal for cooking. It does have a pronounced taste that does not necessary “fit” in all recipes, but so does coconut oil in my opinion….

    Thanks,

    Dunia

  32. Mike GG says

    Sorry to rain on parade somewhat but that “They are happy because they eat lard” from the so called Lard Information Council was a spoof posted on the Active Low Carber Forum, of which I am a member, a few years ago by an English forum member.

    Having said that, I’ve just had a lovely dinner of lamb neck chop stew with turnips, celery, onions and carrots with a side of stir fried cabbage and bacon with duck fat. I also make my own ghee from grass fed butter, using a slow cooker/crockpot.

  33. Lucia says

    Eggs, fried or scrambled in butter. Once the butter froths or bubbles, throw the eggs in, turn off the stove immediately, but don’t remove from heated plate. If frying; cover the pan until the eggs are cooked to your satisfaction. No need to turn over. If the butter has gone beyond the bubbly stage and has browned, then discard, and run the pan under cold water, as it’s too hot. Start again. Because your eggs will taste nasty if cooked in burnt butter.

  34. David A. says

    I’ve been using all of the above oils for as long as I can remember, and I’m 68. In fact, I just had some eggs (real range free, organic–brand name, “The Country Hen”) , cooked in so much Lard, (on a cast iron griddle), that it looked as though they were swimming in Lard. Then what I like to do, is as the eggs are slowly cooking, I will spoon the Lard over the eggs, instead of turning.

    I had some bacon, an English muffin smothered with so much (grass fed), butter, that the butter was pooling on my dish, I of course wiped that liquid gold up along with the egg yoke.

    I love cooking in Duck Fat, Ghee, and Coconut oil also, however, nothing beats eggs cooked in Lard!

    I also had a cup of organic coffee, and I only…only use heavy cream in my coffee, in fact, when I use milk, I only use 1/2 and 1/2 as my regular milk, as it reminds me of the way milk used to be when I was growing up, nice and creamy.

    I laugh when people say that saturated fat is bad for you, my brother used to say that to me, he said that I was going to die of a heart attack if I kept on eating so much saturated fat. You see, he listened to the doctors back then, (the 70′s/80′s), and only used margarine, no egg yokes, lo fat milk, vegetable oils, etc, and he died of a massive heart attack at the young age of 57!

    Our mother who also used to use saturated fat as I do, lived in her own apartment, did her own cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc, up until the week she died,….. at the age of 102!
    I’m 68, take zero medications, (not even an aspirin), I’m healthy, very little gray hair, my mind is as sharp as a tack..etc., etc.
    So all you saturated fat naysayers, try and learn instead of being parrots.

  35. says

    What should someone with FH cook with? I know olive oil is good, but not for cooking. I need to drastically cut down on saturated fats.

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