The slow cooker is a useful kitchen appliance which can help to achieve hassle-free meals at home, but convenience shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice health and taste. A common result of cooking soups, stews and casseroles in a slow cooker is a layer of fat that settles on the top of the food, and this can lead to a greasy and unpleasant dish.
To improve flavor and reduce your calorie intake, there is a range of ways you can remove fat from the slow cooker meal before you serve it. These include using a large metal spoon to skim the fat off the top, cooling the meal in the refrigerator so that the fat solidifies and can be removed in one piece, and using plastic wrap to attract fat out of the slow cooker.
Here we take a closer look at how to skim fat from slow cooker meals, and whether there’s any benefit in leaving some of the fat behind.
Should Fat be Skimmed from Slow Cooker Meals?
If you’ve ever cooked a soup, casserole, or stew in a slow cooker, you’ve probably noticed that fat and grease will gather on the surface of the dish towards the end of the cooking process. This is a culmination of any oil you have used in the recipe and the natural fats that are released from cuts of meat during cooking.
Whether or not you choose to remove these fats is down to personal preference. Skimming the fat from the meal will reduce your fat intake when eating the meal, which is important if you’re trying to eat healthily. It can also result in a smoother consistency for the food, which won’t be broken up by droplets of grease. The look of the dish will also be improved when the fat is removed, which could be a consideration if you want to impress the guests you’re serving.
However, removing all of the fat isn’t always preferable. The fat which is released from meat during cooking can add a lot of flavor to a dish, and it also helps to moisten meats and prevent them from drying out. Due to this, you might decide to leave some of the fat in the slow cooker meal and just remove the excess.
How to Discard Fat from Meals
If you’re removing fat from your meals you need to know how to properly dispose of it. Never pour hot fat down the drain or your sink, because when it cools down it will solidify and block your pipes.
Instead, pour it into a jar and wait for it to solidify, then spoon it into the trash can. Don’t compost fat, because it is slow to break down, and attracts rodents. Some meat fats can be stored in a tub and saved for later use, for example, use chicken fat instead of butter on toast or in jacket potatoes.
Best Ways to Remove Fat from Slow Cooker Meals
The most popular way to skim fat from a slow cooker meal is using a large metal spoon. A spoon which is fairly shallow will work best, such as a serving spoon that you might use to dish out mashed potatoes. To use this method, wait until your meal is fully cooked, and at this point, the fat should be floating on the top of the dish in the slow cooker.
You can use your large metal spoon to gently dip beneath the surface and skim away the droplets of fat or grease. This is considered the most convenient method to remove fat from slow cooker dishes because it only takes a minute or so, and you can go right ahead and serve the dish immediately afterward.
If you aren’t planning on serving your slow cooker meal right away, then using a refrigerator to remove the fat from the meal is a really great hack. This works well for meals which you are making in advance and plan to reheat later, or for batch cooking. Once the meal is cooked, set the dish in the refrigerator and leave it overnight.
The next day, when you return to the dish you will see that the fat has solidified in a layer on top of the food. This will make it easy to remove. When there’s a lot of fat it may have completely congealed together so you can remove the entire solid piece of fat at once. If the fat is in solidified droplets, these can be fished out using a large spoon.
Once the fat has all been removed, you can reheat the meal ready to eat, or portion it out into smaller containers for homemade ready meals you can take to work or pop into the microwave when you need a quick meal.
This method is more preventative and involves removing the fatty bits from meat before you add them to the slow cooker. For example, if you are adding bacon to the slow cooker, slice off the rinds of fat with a sharp knife first. One of the reasons many people use slow cookers is that they make cheap cuts of meat tender and delicious, and typically it is the fattier parts of meat which are the cheapest.
If you don’t want your dish to be overly fatty, cut away around half of the fat and leave the rest remaining on the cuts of meat. The fat is actually needed to add flavor and help to break down the meat for a better texture. Using cuts of meat which are too lean in the slow cooker can result in meals which lack taste.
If you have droplets of fat swirling around in your soup or casserole, then ice cubes can be used to attract the fat and then remove it quite easily. There are a few ways to use ice cubes to do this. One way is to drop a few ice cubes into the slow cooker meal, and watch as the fat is drawn towards the ice.
The fat will stick to the ice and harden, and you can then fish out the ice cubes using a slotted spoon and discard them along with the attached fat. Alternatively, wrap a few ice cubes up in a cheesecloth bag and dip this into the dish.
The fat will once again be drawn to the cold cubes and you can lift the bag out of the slow cooker, taking the unwanted fat with it. If the ice cubes have lowered the temperature of your meal, let it sit in the slow cooker for a little longer to warm through.
If you don’t have any large metal spoons or ice cubes available, you can use plastic wrap to skim fat from a slow cooker meal. Scrunch up a piece of plastic wrap in your hand and lay it on the surface of your dish, then quickly remove it.
Fat and grease are attracted to the plastic wrap, and can be thrown into the trash with the used piece of plastic wrap. This can be quite a messy method to use and it won’t skim away all of the fat, but it’s useful if you just want to remove a small amount of fat in a hurry.