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5 Fats You Should Be Cooking with – but May Not Be


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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 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

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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 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.

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Join the conversation

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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!)

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.