I'm looking for advice on how to render animal fat on the stove top. I've done it two times now, the first time with lard, and the second time with duck fat, and my problem is that I can never tell if it's "done." I've started off with diced skin, added water, and cooked it down until the fat is rendered and the water is gone. Recipes I've followed said that you can tell that it's done when pieces of skin float to the surface and are pale in color. However, I've never noticed any difference in floating properties of the skin, probably because there's so much skin that there's not a lot of room to float around. Plus, as soon as it starts to heat up, the skin turns pale, way before the rendering is complete.
When I rendered lard for the first time, I went way too long and I scorched the fat. It solidified into pure white, but there is most definitely a pork flavor to it. Fine for savory dishes. Then yesterday I rendered duck fat. I was terrified of scorching this, and I was trying to tell if it was done, but didn't know what to check for. So after rendering on low heat for two hours (with 3.5 pounds of skin), I finally poured it off. However, I wasn't really sure if it was pure fat, or if there was still water in there. I ended up with about 2.5 cups of duck fat.
Left it overnight, and this morning I could see two distinct layers in the duck fat. So now I'm quite sure that there's water in it still, and now I'm nervous that it'll be unstable and will go bad more quickly. And I'd like to eventually make confit with it, so I don't know if it's usable now -- or if I should just put it back in the pot to simmer some more to get rid of the last of the water. Without scorching and ruining the precious, precious duck fat.
Am I making this process harder than it is?
That said, last night I had a bit of duck fat smeared on a piece of toast, and it was highly addicting! There's just something about duck fat.
One pound of fat came from a bird that I cut up myself, and the other 2.5 pounds of fat came from a restaurant -- I found a restaurant in town that serves duck, so I asked them to set aside the fat for me (they concluded that I must be in a French club). They gave it to me for free this time, but said that in the future they'd charge me $3 a pound. I'm trying to decide if this is a good deal or not.
Two pictures. One of the pot just before I poured off and strained the fat. The second of what the jar of fat looks like this morning.