The Healthy Cook’s Guide to Animal Fat

November 16, 2015 Sidney Fry, MS, RD

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We were so excited about our chicken-skin discovery that we began to wonder if we could manipulate other fattier meats to render down into leaner, less-calorie-dense cuts. We went a little overboard, cooking and testing a smorgasbord of the fattiest cuts—ribs, chicken wings, pork shoulder—certain that we would discover a revelation in how to prepare saturated-fat-filled meat in a lighter way. But no matter how we cooked them to render the most fat—steaming, roasting, grilling—all still had crazy-high total fat numbers in our lab analyses (for example, 28g total fat in just 3.5 ounces of pork ribs, and a day’s worth of saturated fat).

You can trim excess fat before cooking and drain rendered fat during the process, but there’s still no way (short of an expensive lab analysis) of knowing exactly how much is left in the meat. That’s OK when meat is used as more of a flavor booster. It becomes a problem when meat takes center stage, as it does for most Americans, who eat three times more meat than the global average. Plant-based fats, on the other hand, are not only higher in heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, but they are also more consistent. And there’s no guessing game with plant-based fats: A tablespoon of oil will always have 14g fat, as will an ounce of almonds; that number doesn’t ever change.

While we were a bit disappointed with our lab results, we discovered something else: You can’t control the total amount of fat in animal protein—it will always vary no matter what your cooking method is. But what you can do is prepare fattier, flavor-packed cuts in a smarter way. In our Rib-Eye Steakhouse Salad, we take one supermarket-sized rib-eye steak and use it as an accent to boost a giant salad of mushrooms and leafy greens to serve four people. There’s even room for a little cheese. Another tip: Trim the fat and gristle after cooking; our test revealed a 64% total fat loss when we removed the visible fat from the grilled steaks.

The Takeaway: Move high-fat cuts of meat from the center of the plate, and use smaller bits to boost a plate packed with fresh produce.

More Fat Facts:


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