Use up leftover turkey fat for a zero-waste Thanksgiving. 

By Maria Yagoda
November 19, 2019
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With the no-waste cooking movement at its peak, chefs have dreamt up all sorts of ways to extend this logic to dessert, incorporating leftover scraps into recipes rather than tossing them in the trash.

At Anthony Wells' Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, pastry chef Lindsay Sipress makes a popular maple cream pie with duck fat crust, using leftover fat from a duck dish. The rendered duck fat lends the pie an umami undertone, while upholding the crust's structural integrity, exactly as a fat should.

"Animal fats are much softer than butter, so they add a nice, delicate textural component," Sipress says. "In the case of the maple cream tart, the duck fat adds the perfect soft, salty, savory layer to balance that sweet, sticky, chewy filling."

With pie season upon us, we chatted with Sipress about how to incorporate leftover animal fat into our favorite desserts. 

Don't skip the butter entirely 

Sipress recommends replacing "up to (but no more than) 50% of the butter in a pie crust recipe," adding more or less based on just how richly you want that animal fat flavor to come through. (Here are 34 of our favorite Thanksgiving pies and tarts.)

Juniper & Ivy

"Since animal fat makes your crust softer, you’ll still need the butter to maintain the structure, particularly with shaped crusts and lattices," she says. "And, of course, you don’t want to lose the integrity of butter’s already amazing flavor."

Turkey fat works, but takes longer

Because turkey is a leaner bird than duck, it takes a bit longer to render the fat from the skin, though the process is the same. As Sipress puts it, "it will be a greater labor of love with less bang for your buck."

If you don't feel like rendering duck fat yourself, it's easy to purchase jars of it online.

To buy: Rougie Duck Fat for $14.02 at amazon.com 

Avoid certain animal fats

"Be choosy about what animal fat you’re using, and how much of it," she says. "Stay away from beef or lamb, as they’re stronger in flavor and could make things taste gamey. And stick to the no more than 50% rule."

Of course, don't forget to harness the power of animal fats for your savory dishes, too—namely, stuffing. Consider sautéeing your bread cubes in bacon drippings or duck fat for extra flavor, moisture, and texture. 

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