Test Kitchen tips: Skimming fat

Test Kitchen tips: Skimming fat
Osso buco.
(Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

As you cook stocks, soups and stews, or slowly braise the evening’s dinner, you’re bound to notice fat rise to the surface of the pot or pan.

There are several ways to remove unwanted fat:

  • Use a ladle or spoon to gently skim the fat from the surface of the liquid. Make sure the heat is low enough under the pot or pan that the liquid is only barely bubbling, if at all. Simmering and boiling liquids will make it difficult for the fat to form on the surface.
  • Chill the liquid: If you’re making a stock, strain the stock, then chill it in the refrigerator. The fat will rise to the surface and thicken, where it can be easily scooped off.
  • If you have only a small amount of fat, gently dip a paper towel into the pot or pan of hot liquid, skimming it over the fat. The fat should adhere to the towel.
  • You can also purchase a fat separator. It looks like a measuring cup with a spout at one end. Pour the liquid into the separator; the fat will rise to the top, and can be poured off.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you’d like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at



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Osso buco


Total time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: For the best presentation, tie a piece of string around each veal shank to hold the meat to the bone throughout the cooking time. Cipollini, sometimes called wild onions, are small onion-like bulbs, available in the produce sections of well-stocked markets.

2 ounces pancetta, cut into thin strips

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

8 whole cipollini, trimmed and peeled

1 cup diced onion


1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered

4 (12-ounce to 1-pound) veal shanks for osso buco

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cups veal stock

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1. Saute the pancetta in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat in a braising pan (or a large, heavy-bottomed ovenproof pan) until the pancetta is crispy and the fat is rendered, about 15 minutes. Remove the crisp pancetta from the pan and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan and add the cipollini. Cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.

3. Add the diced onion, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

4. Pat the veal shanks dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with the fennel seeds, fleur de sel and cracked pepper and rub the spices in. Roll the meat in the flour to coat.

5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter in the same pot. Add the veal and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

6. When the veal is well browned, return the reserved pancetta, cooked vegetables and cipollini to the pot. Pour in the wine. Blend the tomato paste with a little of the stock and pour in along with the remaining stock. Add the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

7. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and put it on the middle rack of a 325-degree oven. Cook until the veal is fork tender, about 2 hours.

8. To serve, carefully transfer the meat from the pot to a serving platter and keep warm. Skim off any excess fat from the top of the sauce. Place the pot back on a burner and, over medium heat, bring the sauce and vegetables to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the meat and arrange the vegetables alongside. Pour any additional sauce into a gravy boat. Serve with lemon risotto.

Each serving: 946 calories; 103 grams protein; 39 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 36 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 369 mg. cholesterol; 767 mg. sodium.

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