How To Make Schmaltz

Schmaltz

If you’ve ever heard the word “schmaltz” before, you likely know someone who’s Jewish. It’s a Yiddish word that actually means “excessive sentimentality in art or music,” which can be applied here but the word is more commonly known in the kitchen as “rendered chicken fat,” or, more simply, chicken grease. Similar to bacon grease, it solidifies when stored in the fridge and melts once heated. It is a very flavorful fat to use in place of vegetable or canola oil and even butter with a medium-high smoke point, but it’s more traditionally used in Jewish dishes such as matzo balls, chicken soup, and kasha varnishkes (bow ties with buckwheat). It only takes two ingredients to make this Jewish delight, making schmaltz easier than learning how to waltz!

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How To Make Schmaltz

Get Fat

Chicken skins and fat in a bowl
Begin with some chicken skins and/or fat (NOTE: see Jeff’s Tips in the recipe card below on how much to use and how to easily obtain this).

Sauté The Skins/Fat For Rendering

Chicken skins and fat in pan
Add the chicken skins/fat to a non-stick pan over medium-low heat, stirring and flipping the skins every few minutes.
Fat rendering from skins and fat in pan
As the chicken fat cooks, it will release it’s fat in liquid form – this is known as rendered fat or “schmaltz” as us Jewish folk call it!

Adding Onion For Flavor

Adding sliced sweet onion to pan
After about 20 minutes of cooking the fat, we’re going to flavor this schmaltz up with some sweet onion.
Sautéing onion and skins in pan
Add the onion to the pot and increase the meat to medium-high.
Sautéing onion and skins in pan as fat continues to render
Sauté as the skins begin to really brown and the onions soften.
Chicken skins shriveled and browned and onions syrupy in pan.
After about another 15 minutes of sautéing the skins and onions, it should look like this! The skins should be shriveled and very crispy and the onions nice and syrupy.
Using tongs to remove the cooked onion and fat to bowl
Using tongs, remove the skins and onions from the pan, shaking off any excess schmaltz so it go back in the pan. Place the skins and onion to a bowl and set aside.

Vaultz Your Schmaltz

Pouring cooled liquid schmaltz into a small mason jar
Once the schmaltz has cooled a bit (about 10-20 minutes), carefully pour it from the pan to a small mason jar.
Schmaltz in mason jar in liquid state
Once the schmaltz is in the jar…
Schmaltz in mason jar in solid state
…it will begin to solidify as it cools (especially in the fridge). You can use it immediately as is or store it in the fridge or freezer for later. You can also use it in its solid state for matzo balls or use it in a skillet for a tasty oil or butter substiture as you would bacon grease, where it will liquify as soon as its heated.

The Leftover Goodies!

Bowl of cooked chicken skins and onion seasoned with salt
As for those crispy chicken skins and syrupy onions? Feel free to sprinkle some salt and pepper over them…
Man trying chicken skin
…and eat them as a crispy, decadently delicious snack!
Man showing jar of schmaltz
So you’ll see that making schmaltz is super simple. And you can use it in Jewish dishes such as matzo balls, chicken soup, and kasha varnishkes (bow ties with buckwheat)!
Man with open arms
That’s schmaltz, folks!
Yield: 4

Schmaltz (Rendered Chicken fat)

Schmaltz (Rendered Chicken fat)

If you've ever heard the word "schmaltz" before, you likely know someone who's Jewish. It's a Yiddish word that actually means "excessive sentimentality in art or music," which can be applied here but the word is more commonly known in the kitchen as "rendered chicken fat," or, more simply, chicken grease. Similar to bacon grease, it solidifies when stored in the fridge and melts once heated. It is a very flavorful fat to use in place of vegetable or canola oil and even butter with a medium-high smoke point, but it's more traditionally used in Jewish dishes such as matzo balls, chicken soup, and kasha varnishkes (bow ties with buckwheat). It only takes two ingredients to make this Jewish delight, making schmaltz easier than learning how to waltz!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • Skins and/or fat from a chicken (see Jeff's Tips)
  • 1 sweet (Vidalia) onion, quartered longways into wedges and then separated

Instructions

  1. Set a non-stick skillet, frying pan, or sauté pan to medium-low heat and add the chicken skins and/or fat. Spread it out so it's covering as much as the pan as possible. Allow it to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often and flipping the skins as they begin to shrivel.
  2. After 20 minutes of letting the chicken fat produce it's liquid, rendered fat (aka "schmaltz") add the onion and increase the heat to medium-high. Allow it to cook for about 15 more minutes, stirring every so often so the onions begins to really soften and brown and the skin begins to get very crispy and browned.
  3. Using tongs, remove the onion and skins to a bowl and set aside (see Jeff's Tips). Let the schmaltz cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes and then pour it into a small mason jar. (NOTE: If there are lots of small browned bits in the schmaltz, you can lay some cheese cloth over the jar to catch any particles from going into the jar).
  4. Place the jarred schmaltz the fridge for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 6 months. Use it in my matzo balls, chicken soup, kasha varnishkes, or any other recipe that requires oil or butter but where you want a richer flavor!

Jeffrey's Tips

Obtaining your chicken skins and/or fat can be done through a variety of ways. You can peel the skins and trim the fat off a whole chicken, thighs and/or legs for immediate use or you can store them in a Ziploc freezer bag to be frozen for the future (just thaw before you cook - you can do this by running the skins/fat under cold water in the sink). You can also likely buy the skins and fat from a butcher for cheap.

I generally find that 2 loosely packed cups of skin/fat will produce about 1/4 cup of schmaltz. So the more you add to the pan, the more schmaltz you'll end up with! Regardless, use 1 onion unless you're using more than 4 cups of fat - which in that case use 2 onions and a larger pan. You'll also obviously likely need to sauté longer since there will be more in the pot to cook. Just keep an eye on it as all stoves and pans vary.

You can also use the skin/fat from any fowl you wish - be it chicken, Cornish hens, duck, turkey, etc.

Feel free to salt the cooked chicken skins and syrupy onions and enjoy as a crispy and outrageously flavorful snack!

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Bonnie Peterson

    Wow! Thank you for this Jeffrey. I haven’t been able to find shmaltz locally and was using Crisco in my matzo balls. I will totally make this from now on.

    I remember my Grandma Lily giving us the Gribenes [fried Skin] and calling it Jewish bacon!

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