Definition: A culinary term for melting and clarifying hard animal fat for cooking purposes. Rendering can be done by dry heat or wet heat. The fat is slowly cooked until it melts, and is then strained of impurities from the cooking process. (For example, cracklings are the remnants of rendering pork fat.) The rendered fat can be refrigerated or frozen for months.
Medical research reports that rendered animal fat has health benefits. Pork fat or lard is high in monounsaturated fat (like olive oil and canola oil) and has 40% in saturated fat, compared to 70% in butter.
An example of rendering fat with dry heat: score in a cross-hatch pattern the skin and fat layer of a duck breast, taking care to not pierce the meat. Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the scored side of the duck breast in the skillet. As it cooks, the clear fat will begin to pool in the skillet. When the duck breast is fully cooked, the rendered fat can be poured into a canning jar, cooled completely then refrigerated. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 months and in the freezer up to a year.
Wet rendering entails simmering the fat in water, until most of the water evaporates, and then separating the rendered fat from the remaining water, cooling and refrigerating or freezing. This process results in a purer, cleaner fat with a higher smoke point.