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Three Ways to Separate and Skim Fat

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2010

We prefer to use a gravy separator to remove fat from liquid, but here are three alternative methods if you don't have one on hand.

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A pitcher-style fat separator can be an indispensable tool. Our favorite, the Trudeau Gravy Separator with Integrated Strainer, has a sharply angled spout that allows the liquid portion of a stock or gravy to flow through, leaving behind the less-dense fat. But what if you don’t have one, or need to defat a chunky stew? Forget about placing a lettuce leaf or paper towel on the surface to absorb fat. Both techniques are messy and require fresh replacements every few strokes. Here are three far more effective methods, in order of preference.

TOOLMETHODBEST FOR
Cooking Spoon Allow liquid to settle for about 10 minutes and use wide, shallow (1- to 2-ounce) spoon to skim fat from surface and deposit in another container. A tedious method, but it works very well.

Stock, gravy, stew
Zipper-lock bag Fill heavy-duty zipper-lock bag with cooled liquid; allow fat to rise. Snip small hole in corner of bag and allow liquid to flow into another container. Pinch bag before fat flows out. Don’t use this method with chunky stew or chili.

Stock
Bulb Baster Plunge tip of baster into liquid beneath fat; draw liquid into baster. Deposit defatted liquid in another container.

Stock, gravy