Reducing the Fat in Meats


Many of the tastiest meats -- bacon, salami, ground beef -- pack a hefty fat punch. Worse, the fats are the nasty saturated kind that raise your bad cholesterol. What can you do to continue to enjoy these flavorful meats without sending your calorie count soaring?

First, always consider buying leaner versions of traditionally fat-laden meats. Chicken and turkey sausages, turkey bacon, turkey pepperoni, ground poultry, super-lean ground beef, and vegetarian "meats" all offer easy alternatives that are lower in fat and calories.

But what if cost is a concern for you? Unfortunately, buying leaner meats often means paying more. For some reason, fat is less expensive than protein . . . a contributor to the obesity crisis, perhaps?

You can use a few simple techniques to render fat out of your meats before consuming them. You'll also concentrate the flavor of cured meats by eliminating the excess fat, and your recipes will turn out less greasy. No more pools of oil to blot off the pizza!

For regular bacon, start by choosing normal, thin slices over trendy thick-cut strips. Next, try cooking the bacon in a 350-degree oven on a rack set over a foil-covered baking sheet. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to crisp up, and the fat will drain away into the foil as the meat cooks. Additionally, Alton Brown of Good Eats recommends starting the bacon in a cold oven to encourage more fat to render out. Finally, pat the bacon with paper towels to absorb any additional grease.

For pepperoni and salami, follow the advice of America's Test Kitchen: Arrange the slices or strips on a plate lined with paper towels. Microwave the meat for 30 to 90 seconds (depending on the thickness and number of pieces) to render the fat onto the towels. Alternatively, put the meat in a cold, dry skillet, and then apply medium-low heat until most of the fat renders out. Pat the pieces dry with paper towel and use the pepperoni or salami as planned in your recipe.

The Hillbilly Housewife offers a clever technique for reducing the fat content in that cheapest of the cheap meats, 70-percent-fat ground beef: Cook the ground beef in a skillet to render out the fat, drain it, and then rinse it. Rinsing off the meat with hot water eliminates the fat still clinging to the meat, leaving you with super-lean protein.

If you're interested in seeing some evidence of your fat savings, consider draining your meats over a fat jar. Not only will you save your pipes from greasy buildup, you'll have a visual reminder of how much fat is not circulating in your arteries.

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