Animal fats are referred to as saturated fats for the simple reason that they contain, as a percentage, more saturated fats than vegetable oils. In cooler climates – particularly those of northern Europe – saturated animal fats are solid at room temperature not liquid. A saturated fat is a more stable fat meaning that it is less likely to go rancid when exposed to light, oxygen and heat and thus is suitable for frying, roasting and baking.
All of the traditional animal fats listed below have been used by populations since time immemorial, unless religious belief required them to abstain from eating one particular animal. In kosher food, for example, the pig is not eaten hence lard is forbidden but goose fat has always been a prized ingredient. In India the Hindu never eats suet and tallow drippings from rendered beef – but they are happy to eat ghee (derived from butter).
To the list of animal fats should also be added the oils that derive from fish. For those populations living close to seas, lakes and rivers the rich oily fats from fish formed a vital part of their nutrient requirements. Oily fish fat – found mostly in pelagic fish (referring to fish that require large amounts of energy to swim in shallow as well as deep waters) is rich in the essential fatty acid omega-3. Fish oil, unless in supplement form, is rarely sold or used from a bottle.
Following the general principle “tried by time, tested by generations” Master in the Kitchen recommends use of these traditional animal fats in preparing dishes . Not only do they taste better, they will give more satisfactory results to the final dish. Best of all they are packed with natural (not synthetic) beneficial nutrients that the body will welcome – not reject.
Our bodies are pretty good at telling us when too much natural fat is being consumed and when too little. Use of animal fats in a dish will undoubtedly make the eater feel satiated much quicker than if they were to eat their way through packets of food prepared by an invisible industrial cook relying on low-cost fake ingredients. Going beyond that would, indeed, be gluttonous.
All of the animal fats listed below are traditional fats and can thus be described as real food. They are used in the recipes and readers should rely, where possible, on these fats whilst avoiding the new fake fats set out further on.