Animal fats, once long forgotten in favor of margarine and vegetable oils have come back in a big way. You can now find jars of tallow and duck fat on the shelves of many grocery stores across the United States. But how do these animal fats differ? And is one superior for cooking and health than another? In Duck Fat vs Tallow, which comes out on top?
What is Duck Fat?
Duck fat, sometimes called schmaltz, is a semi solid at room temperature animal fat derived from the fat of ducks. It is shelf stable at room temperature and adds an exquisite richness to any food. Duck fat is usually yellow in color and comes in a jar, though I’ve seen some duck fat in a spray can.
What is Beef Tallow?
Tallow is just beef fat that has been rendered. The raw fat found around the loins and kidneys of cattle is called suet, and that suet gets melted, simmered and strained to form tallow. Unlike suet, tallow has a long shelf life, and does not require refrigeration. Tallow ranges from white to more yellow in color depending on the source and is stored in a jar as a solid.
Both fats are traditional, foundational fats that are the basis of many ancestral cuisines, and are a healthy source of dietary fat.
Duck Fat vs Tallow Comparison
Smoke point is simply the temperature when the fat will start to smoke and burn. It is not advisable to use fats at temperatures past their smoke point, as it will usually produce a burnt and off taste. When fats surpass their smoke point, they generally will not be as healthy as the fats have been broken down by the heat.
Duck fat has a smoke point of around 375°F .
Beef tallow has a smoke point of 400°F . This high temperature makes tallow perfect for deep frying.
Both fats are flavorful and distinct. Duck fat has a distinct duck flavor, but it’s definitely not overpowering. Duck fat is famous for making amazing roast potatoes. It not a fat that is good to use in baking.
Tallow very familiar beef fat flavor that is definitely not considered “neutral.” It’s the same flavor as if you were to bite into a piece of fat on a steak. Tallow definitely has a beef flavor, although I don’t think it is incredibly overpowering. I actually notice that beef tallow smells more beefy as it cooks than it actually tastes. That being said, it should definitely only be used in savory foods.
Duck fat is perfect for roasting, searing and frying. You can even use it to make mayo and salad dressings, and make deliciously rich popcorn. It mostly is used to sear and roast vegetables, though.
Tallow really shines when frying and roasting, especially when wanting to add a meaty richness to a vegetable dish. It’s no wonder that McDonald’s fries were originally fried in tallow until they were pressured into ditching saturated fats. Tallow makes fries addictingly crispy and flavorful, and adds great depth to roasted vegetables. Tallow is also great for pan frying leaner cuts of beef in order to add some flavor back in.
Duck fat doesn’t have the vitamin content or antioxidants that tallow and other fats have. In this area, tallow has a superior nutrition profile.
Although the vitamin content will vary, tallow is a great source of vitamin D, Vitamin E, and trace amounts of selenium, all of which are rarely found in food .
Duck fat’s fat profile is actually similar to that of olive oil. Duck fat contains 35.7% saturated fat, 50.5% monounsaturated fat and 13.7% polyunsaturated fat .
Tallow is mostly composed of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Per a 12.8 g tablespoon, tallow has 6.4 g of saturated fat, and 5.4 g of monounsaturated fat . It is very low in polyunsaturated fats. The fat makeup however will vary depending on what the cow ate. For example, a mostly grass-fed cow will have a better, healthier omega fat ratio than a feedlot cow’s fat.
Duck Fat vs Beef Tallow: The Importance of Sourcing
It’s important to source duck fat from ducks that live free-range and pastured and are fed organic, non-GMO feed. Your best bet is trying to find local farms who raise their animals with these practices. However, if you cannot find that near you, some good brands are Epic and Fat Works.
Again, like duck fat, the quality of life of the cow that you source the fat from is very important. It is best to get the beef suet from a 100% grass-fed, organic local farm and render it yourself. Though I know this is not always possible, some brands I’d recommend are Fat Works, Epic, and US Wellness Meats. If you’re looking for high-quality tallow for skincare, Vintage Tradition is a great brand carrying scented and unscented balms.
Duck Fat vs Beef Tallow Verdict
Both of these animal fats are similar in their uses and culinary effect. The main difference between them is their nutrition profile. I would say that well-sourced tallow is healthier than duck fat because it has more fat-soluable vitamins and a better fat ratio than duck fat. I also believe it is harder to find very high quality (pastured, organic, non-GMO) duck fat than it is to find high-quality beef fat. That being said, they are both tasty, welcome additions to any modern, traditionally inspired diet.