5 fats you should be cooking with – but may not be

February 17, 2011 in Food & Nutrition | 35 comments

Picture of lard advertisementIn 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 <0.1g of PUFA.

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.

What are you favorite uses for these fats? Let us know in the comments section.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob February 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

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.


Mart February 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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!


Diane @ Balanced Bites February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Woo hoo! Love it. People may enjoy my post on this topic as well that includes a PDF to print/hang on the fridge with the same/similar info.


Chris, if you have any changes you’d make to my chart, let me know :)


chriskresser February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm

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.


Jenna B. February 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Where do you get duck fat and leaf lard?


MAS February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Tallow thoughts? I rendered some using a Crock Pot from 100% grass fed cattle. I think Robb Wolf stated he slightly preferred tallow to leaf lard.


chriskresser February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

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.


Diane @ Balanced Bites February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Okay, I’ll update it- I thought I had it on the “never to heat” list but maybe not?


Mendy February 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Diane, may I share your chart?


chriskresser February 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm

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.


Tiffany February 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

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.


Tyler Link February 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

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?


Mike February 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

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…


Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen February 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm

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.


Mike February 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm

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!)


chriskresser February 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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.


Todd Hargrove February 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm


I agree on the potatoes in duck fat. I made this recently and it blew me away. Its like cheating.


Clifton February 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

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?


chriskresser February 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I think the expeller-pressed version is fine, and I know some prefer it.


Diane @ Balanced Bites February 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm

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 :)


Joe February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

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).


Karel February 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

What is your opinion about goose fat?


chriskresser February 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Goose fat is even more saturated than duck fat. It’s great. But even harder to find than duck fat.


Paul April 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm

hmm … that sucks!

In most european Countries it’s available in every supermarket and very cheap.
For Germany, look out for “Laru”. It comes in many variations. I can’t believe it’s hard to find in other parts of the world. too bad

http://www.laru.de/assets/images/Ganseschmalz_u.Ganse.jpg … delicious
Sometimes the fat is yellow. I suppose it’s because of the pasture.


Tim Lundeen February 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

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 :-)


laura February 19, 2011 at 9:15 am

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.


John Walker March 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

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.



Lisa @ Real Food Digest March 20, 2011 at 5:11 pm

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.




David Evans April 4, 2011 at 7:22 am

I’ve never really liked the taste of vegetables until I started to cook them in a mixture of tallow, lard and butter.

I only cook this way because of the extra bioavailability of vegetable nutrients when they are cooked in fat http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2011/02/higher-nutrient-bioavailability-with.html

As well as the health benefits of cooking vegetables with fat they now also taste delicious.


Diane @ Balanced Bites June 4, 2011 at 7:41 am

I bought duck fat last weekend… still haven’t cooked with it yet! It should keep okay for a while in the fridge I assume (and hope!).


Jeff Kiefer June 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Would be interested in your thoughts on this study show linoleic acid not associated with increase AA production.


Jos July 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm

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.


kyle July 21, 2011 at 4:23 am


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?



Richard Nelson August 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm

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


Rogue Dietitian August 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

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.


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