Fat separators allow you to easily skim fat off liquids for gravy or soup. Which one is best?
Last Updated May 1, 2021. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 18: Three-Cup Chicken and Smashed Cucumbers
Since we last named a winner, readers reported that the Cuisipro Fat Separator cracked and leaked during use. When we first tested this model we also noticed some superficial cracking, but the performance was not affected. Recently a new product, the OXO Good Grips Good Gravy Fat Separator–4 Cup, entered the market; it has the same bottom-draining style as our winner. We tested the new model next to our old winner. We still recommend our old favorite—this time around, it didn't crack or leak. (For better longevity, we recommend washing it on the top rack of the dishwasher, as the manufacturer suggests.) But we like the OXO model even better; it has clear measurement markings, a finer strainer, and a tight release valve that makes it even easier to control the flow of liquid. It is our new winner.
In the test kitchen, we often refrigerate stocks overnight so we can skim off the hardened fat the next morning. But if you’re making gravy or soup on a shorter timetable, you can use a fat separator to defat stocks and pan juices almost immediately. To find a favorite, we tested six 4-cup models (including our prior winner from Trudeau) priced from $11.99 to $33.95, using them to strain aromatics and separate fat from both 2-quart and 1-cup volumes of stock.
There are two types of separators—pitchers and bottom-drainers; we tested four of the former and two of the latter. With both types, you pour your stock or sauce into the separator through a built-in strainer at the top and wait a few minutes for the fat to rise to the top of the liquid. If you’re using a pitcher, you then pour off the liquid from a spout set into the base. If you’re using a bottom-drainer, you pull a lever set in the handle to release a plug at the bottom of the separator, allowing the liquid to drain out. Either way, the fat is left behind in the separator.
In our testing, we found that the two bottom-drainers we tested were generally more efficient than the pitchers at decanting both large and small volumes of liquid while keeping fat out. With the pitchers, some fat usually entered their pour spouts from the get-go, and as the liquid drained down to the last ¼ cup, it was harder to prevent fat from exiting, too. Bottom-drainers didn’t have this problem; because the fat stayed on top of the liquid, all we had to do was keep an eye on it and stop releasing the liquid when the fat got close to the bottom of the canister.
Defatting ability aside, certain models were just easier to use. Large-mouthed strainers provided us with bigger targets to hit when pouring stock and mirepoix from an unwieldy roasting pan. Strainers with sides taller than 1 inch acted as splash guards and helped keep solids in. And strainers with lots of little holes allowed stock to drain quickly into the separators without letting through any small aromatics. In addition, we preferred separators with large handles that were comfortable for testers of all hand sizes to grip.
A previous testing of fat separators showed us that a 4-cup capacity was the best size, giving users the flexibility to defat both large and small volumes of stock. Despite their manufacturers’ claims, however, several of the models we tested couldn’t actually hold 4 cups of liquid without overflowing. Two of the models had inaccurate measurement lines, and others had measurement lines that were too light to read. Few of the separators were easy to clean by hand; we needed fine bottle brushes to clean the pitche...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.