As the name implies, goose fat comes from geese which are notoriously rich and fatty birds. However, using goose fat in cooking isn’t as unhealthy as it may first sound and in many cases, it’s preferable to other fats such as butter.
There is evidence dating back to 2500 BC showing that the ancient Egyptians kept geese for food, a practice which gradually spread to the Mediterranean and by 500AD the keeping of geese had become an established practice of European peasants’ lives mainly because they cost little to keep, grew quickly and produced meat and lots of spare fat, the consumption of which was an important feature to
- keeping warm in the days before central heating and
- as a good source of energy to sustain peasants who did hard manual labour.
It could even have been used in lamps much like tallow.
By the 18th Century, large flocks of geese were being reared in the UK for commercial purposes, providing meat, fat, feathers and ink quills.
Although the French have always used goose fat for culinary purposes, particularly in dishes such as Confit and Cassoulet, during the early 20th century in England, goose fat became better known for medicinal uses including being rubbed on the chest as a remedy for colds, as a cure for sore throats and as a relief for chapped hands.
However, in 1958 Elizabeth David flagged it as a culinary ingredient when she wrote an article in House & Garden in which she described how to cook a Goose and save the fat for frying. Even then, it was only towards the very end of the 20th century that its popularity rose sharply in the UK, mainly due to some celebrity chef or other plugging it. Thankfully, today it is widely available in supermarkets and many butchers.
Nutritional values of goose fat
As with all fats, goose fat is relatively high in calories at around 115 calories per tablespoon, however it contains fewer saturated fats than butter or lard, is higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and is also rich in Oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) which is believed to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Obtaining, buying and storing goose fat
In order to make your own goose fat you will need to roast a goose. As mentioned earlier, geese are very fatty birds, so even one goose will provide you with plenty of goose fat for later use.
Goose fat has a very long shelf-life of 12 months or more in tins or if kept in sterilised jars and refrigerated.
You’ll find goose fat in stores in tins or most often in jars in the chilled foods cabinet, possibly near to butters and spreads. Although it may seem a little expensive, it is well worth buying because, so long as it’s relatively clear and free of bits, after use, it can be poured back into the jar, refrigerated and re-used. It will keep for 2-3 months – plenty of time to experiment with it.
Cooking with goose fat
Goose fat is solid at temperatures below 16 °C/61 °F but fairly liquid at room temperature. It has a high smoke point which enables foods can be cooked at a much higher temperature without the fat burning, making it ideal for sautéing, frying and roasting. Although you could deep fry with it, its cost makes it uneconomical and it’s best used for shallow frying and roasting.
Everyday uses for goose fat include:
- Sauté potatoes
- Frying onions
- On toast (instead of butter)
- Fried bread
- Fried eggs and omelettes
- Scrambled eggs
- Roasting vegetables
- Duck and goose confit
- Roasting poultry