There’s an old saying, “When life gives you ducks, make duck fat.”
This liquid gold is the preferred cooking medium at D’Artagnan, as it is in Southwest France. Way back in 1985, when Ariane founded the company, she knew that duck fat was a product that Americans needed. Even if they didn’t know it themselves yet.
The first and most obvious reason is because it’s incredibly tasty. Duck fat offers a rich, silky mouth feel that transforms whatever it touches, without an overpowering flavor. But make no mistake, it has a flavor all its own. If you haven’t tried potatoes roasted or fried in duck fat … you haven’t lived. This is the stuff our ancestors used before industrialized seed and vegetable oils came along. And we are happy to see that our obsession with duck fat is beginning to catch on.
Chefs love it because of the high smoke point; duck fat can be cooked at high temperatures without smoking or altering its flavor. And unlike butter or olive oil, duck fat can be recycled. For convenience, duck fat stores in the freezer for quite a long time. So be sure to keep a tub at all times, and be ready for any duck fat emergency.
Duck Fat and Health
Before you object to duck fat as an unhealthy option, and reach for the margarine or vegetable oil, read on. According to Sharon Tyler Herbst, author of “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” some researchers believe that hydrogenated oils may actually be more damaging than regular saturated fats. The founding studies on saturated fat have been questioned a lot in recent years. In 2002 Gary Taubes investigated in a New York Times article, “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” And Time magazine ran a cover story in 2014, “Eat Butter: Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” Even Prevention magazine is getting on the fat is good for you train.
So the second reason you should eat more duck fat is because it’s actually good for you. With one simple ingredient: the fat rendered from a duck, this is fat as it should be. Duck fat contains 33% saturated fat and 62% unsaturated fat, 13.7% of which is polyunsaturated fat, containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids. This makes it comparable in ratio to olive oil, with 75% monounsaturated fat, 13% saturated fat, 10% Omega-6 and 2% Omega-3.
While this is not a recommendation that duck fat replace every other fat or oil in the kitchen, it certainly does encourage the use of duck fat without guilt.
The French Paradox
Long a mystery to the United States, the French paradox is the term given to the puzzling fact that the French are thinner, with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than Americans, even though they enjoy a diet full of animal fats, cheese, and butter. Some theorize that the reasons for this might include the French tendency to serve smaller portions and to drink lots of antioxidant-rich red wine. But in recent years, the researchers have looked more closely at the consumption of duck fat. Especially in the Southwest region of France, where duck is the de rigueur fat, and the incidence of cardiovascular disease is about half that of the rest of France, already less than half that of the United States.
So the French, who eat the most duck fat (and foie gras), have the least trouble with their tickers. This is old news in Gascony, the land of duck and foie gras, as this 1991 article about the studies of a French scientist in the New York Times explains.