5 Fats You Should Be Cooking with - but May Not Be | Chris Kresser
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5 Fats You Should Be Cooking with – but May Not Be

by Chris Kresser

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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.

86 Comments

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  1. EVCoconut oil has no competitor,the benefits in antifungal etc make the difference for me and I love the flavour. The reason why people have health problems is not fats its Grains and sugar. Thats the poison people eat everyday.
    i used to get bloating from bread cereal and anything iwth flour. The only grain I currentnly eat if you can call it that is rice.
    I read mostly spinachs and vegetables tuna lemon apples salmon turkey and chicken ocasionaly…I eat honey or maple syrup as sweetener. And no matter how many say that egg yolks are good bacon and so on…I believe pork is not healthy. I dont feel good after eating it,I have yet to try it from grass fed organic farmers but those of you eating pork should think twice and wonder why so many religions avoid it. On the other hand I use tallow on my skin and is the best mousturizer ever.
    Dead meat should be eaten in moderation and fats should come from coconut oil alone.You can add maybe ghee or lard for flavouring but I would keep it to halt tspoon or 1,
    I think all that crazyness around EVOO is wrong,Im spanish and I have no reason to go against EVOO,its praised here as liquid gold but I stay away form it.ghee is better option but if I ave to choose EVCO is the king. Guys leave that pork alone trust me,eat turkey or grass fed cow meat without the fat. Dont touch sugar or grains and youll get to 100.Im 35 and people dont believe me they think Im 25 or less.No wrinkles 6 pack.
    fresh vegetables,fruits with not much sugar in it,quality meat ocasionally,tuna and salmon. Dont abuse egg yolk,add 1 yolk for 3 whites,you get the flavour and vitamins but dont store all that fat directly to your belly. get your energy from lemon,nuts…avoid diary and if you drink milk drink it lactose free. Sugar ,grains(bread corn etc) and diary should be avoid or reduce to minimum if you really want the perfect health, you are not a bird,and you are an adult.You dont need grains or milk. And remember there is not white sugar hangin on the trees.If you eat sugar should be ffrom a natural source,fruits o rhoney. Follow what I said and you will live forever. chick peas aare another thing you should eat almost everyday and green smothies of spinachs appples and lemon. Ok Im out

  2. What about for those on the Mediterranean Paleo diet? Do they use saturated fats to cook but less of it, or do they use something like avocado or macadamia instead? I know EVO is good too, but I’m specifically looking for a blander tasting oil. Any thoughts?

    • What a load of nonsense! this group need to go bck to their Bio-chemistry classes. They are still living the nonsense of the Keys hypothesis. Dietary long chain Saturated fats are transported to muscle and fat tissue directly from the gut via the Thoracic Lymph duct, by CHYLOMICRONS (which have nothing to do with LDL) Excess sugars from carbohydrate are turned into PALMITIC ACID by lipogenesis in the liver and transported by LDL to muscle and adipose tissue for storage. This death dealing Palmitic Acid they warn about is the primary fat produced by the liver and is also a major component of “Breast Milk”. So they must be suggesting that our body is hell bent on killing us and our offspring! I also wish they would refrain from banging on about Bad “Cholesterol” which is a complete misrepresentation of the real problem causing atheroschlerosis.

  3. Coconut oil:
    1) has to be cold-pressed to preserve its magical powers, BUT
    2) it’s totally stable and safe for frying.

    Can anyone resolve this?

    • It isn’t so much what refining takes away from virgin CO, but rather what it often adds (chemicals!) I happily use organic refined CO for deep frying and cooking stuff I don’t want tasting like coconut. I use virgin CO for fish, shrimp, sometimes chicken.

  4. In the 50’s my Gran and Grandad had a fish n chip shop at a English sea side resort. It was very difficult to get cooking oil in those days in enough quantity. My Grandad was a Belgian so he solved the problem by getting a supply of rendered horse fat (popular in Belgium) and mixing it with the regular oil. Not sure this was entirely legal and the customers did not know. They queued for fish and chips for half a block from morning until late at night and the fish and chips were rated the best in England. I can still remember the crowds.

  5. I don’t know. I’ve changed my opinion on the Paleo Diet and using coconut oil and animal fat, because now, after eating an incredibly healthy, organic Paleo diet my cholesterol has sky rocketed to 300 with very high LDL levels and I’m not too happy about that. Prior to my change in diet, my levels were normal. Goodbye coconut oil and animal fat!

    • Read “The Great Cholesterol Myth — Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease (Bowden and Sinatra). Apparently, research that has aimed to prove that high cholesterol in the blood leads to heart disease has failed to do so. Furthermore, there seems to be no link between dietary fat and blood cholesterol. These guys seem to have gone thru’ the literature, studies and research pretty exhaustively. One more thing: research now shows that there are good components of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and bad components HDL (the “good” cholesterol). In other words, the “traditional” way of evaluating cholesterol is oversimplified. You gotta wonder, why did heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes rates began to soar when we took saturated fats out of our diets decades ago?

      • Yessss. No one talks about this! If these fats are so terrible, why are people so much sicker now that those fats are disappearing off the shelves!?

  6. Actually, I have been to the french fry museum in Brugges, Belgium and french fries used to be fried in horse fat. Now, in Belgium, they predominately use beef tallow though at authentic frites places.

  7. I remember the way McDonalds French Fries tasted back in the 1960’s. They were at the time the most awesome fries you could get, just about anywhere. Their secret? Well for one thing, they used to cook them in lard. Cooking your French Fries in Duck Fat is even better and better for you. Duck fat is readily available at places like Whole Foods or Fairway and reasonable in price as well. For a higher end ‘gourmet’ Duck fat, you can try a place called D’Artagnon online as they are the suppliers for Michelin star restaurants and others around the world. Expensive, but the finest quality. Have fun and watch the faces of your friends and family when you serve them fresh French Fries cooked in Duck Fat. Don’t forget to cook your French Fries twice (and blanch them first). I use Jacques Pepin’s technique available for viewing on YouTube. Just search YouTube with the following: KQED: Essential Pepin Shorts, French Fries

  8. 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.

      • Johnny, I do believe David meant the word funny in another way than you took it… funny can also mean ironic. I have been widowed twice and would strongly suggest you abstain from judging another’s grief based on their verbiage. He makes a good point and you are missing it because you want to judge him. Is your mind closed or your heart that you are so quick to judge?

    • Hear! Hear! I eat lots of butter, animal fat and coconut oil. I’m trim and healthy at 63. I gain weight when I eat bread (the “healthy” complex carbohydrate)! Our brains need cholesterol; it’s what they’re mainly made of.

    • Of course, your brother might have carried a genetic difference. What is good for one person, may not be good for another. That’s the mysterious, difficult element of medicine.

    • Teach me your ways O grand wizard! 😉 I mean that in the best possible way!

      I was raised on as little fat as possible, no salt added to anything, zero dairy, little meat etc. and I’ve been sick most of my life. Now that I have added in loads of butter, coconut oil and meat along with a mostly paleo diet, my health is changing. I’ve never felt so good!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • I did not know where the spoof came from but most people seemed to think it was a joke. Well it has come back to bite them now that the fat truth is coming out?

      I fortunately have not fallen for the low fat propoganda and just carry on as our ancesters used to, eating REAL food as God created it.

  11. 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

  12. 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!

    • 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    • 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.

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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 🙂

    • 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.

  28. 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).

  29. 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 🙂

  30. 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?

  31. 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.

  32. 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!)

  33. 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.

  34. 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…

  35. 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?

    • 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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