The word fat brings up ideas and images of being unhealthy and being ignored as a staple in the kitchen. Fat has had a bad rap since it is connected to high cholesterol and heart disease. I am writing this blog to clear up some of the recent misconceptions on this important subject of our diet.
Fat is a lipid which is a substance that is not soluble in water and “provides a rich source of energy and structure to cells” (Drummond and Brefere 2010:12). This is evident when we cook stocks or clarify butter and the fat floats to the surface to be skimmed. Fat is an important part of cells and their growth especially during the development stage. With being a non-soluble substance, fat carries vitamins (A, D, E, and K) within the body. As we may know some foods contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) which the body cannot produce for normal growth and development.
In our food, fat adds many different levels of taste and mouth feel. Fat creates aroma, crispness, juiciness, and tenderness (in baked goods). Fat is a key component in the cooking and baking process from oils such as olive, corn, and vegetable to butter and pan drippings. Drippings are the fat that is released when meat cooks which turns into a wonderful pan gravy. These rendered fat drippings can be clarified and stored in the refrigerator for later use to add another layer of mouth feel to the dish. We all have bacon drippings in our refrigerator but beef renders can be stored the same way.
Where is the good fat in our diet? Since the 1960’s, our diet has gone away from animal fats but increased our intake of refined sugars and other carbohydrates. According to Jennifer McLagan (2008), ”diets low in fat, it turns out, leave people hungry, depressed, and prone to weight gain and illness”(8). A good animal fat when used in cooking and in recipes will leave the eater feeling satiated and less prone to over-eating.
Of course, all fats are not equal. Over these ‘healthy’ years, we lowered the intake of animal fats but the total amount of fat has increased. Food scientists have introduced hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats which our bodies have a difficult time processing. This increases our LDL and lowers our HDL levels. All these oils have also changed our omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio by increasing omega-6 and lowering the important omega-3 EFAs. Meat and butter from grass-fed animals contain omega-3.
Since I work at Webster’s PRIME Steakhouse, I will talk about the many different parts in beef’s fat. Beef contains more fat areas than we see on our perfectly grilled rib eye. There is suet which is the fat that surrounds that kidneys which has been erased from our cookbooks and left just for the birds. Bone marrow is very tasty and healthy and has been used for many of millennia to help our ancestors survive. Another fat part of beef is tallow which is render old fat that used to be made into candles. Tallow is a perfect fat for frying because it is stable when heated and slow to turn rancid. (Remember french fries fried in beef fat?). Potatoes absorb less fat fried in beef fat than fried in vegetable oil (McLagan:170). The last fat from beef is the drippings from cooked meat as discussed above.
We at Webster’s use fats to cook in such as butter, corn, olive, and grape seed oils. Our prime beef has the perfect amount of fat to enhance the meaty flavor. In addition, our Waygu cuts have a lovely marbling pattern that melts in your mouth. Our beef tasting plate is the ideal choice for tasting the difference of our grain, grass, and waygu cuts of beef.
Richard J. Steward