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A fat separator is a useful kitchen tool that helps separate fat from meat or poultry drippings to make gravy and other sauces, or to assist when you're straining homemade stock. They’re very helpful for home chefs, especially around the holidays. However, not all fat separators are created equally.
The most important thing to look for when buying one is that it's easy to use. To figure out the top models, I tested a few popular models in my home kitchen. I put it through a few rounds of tests, assessing its ease of use, its effectiveness, and how easy it was to clean and store after.
It’s also important to know that if you are using a fat separator for the first time, it may take a few tries to get the hang of it. But once you do, it’s certainly worth the reward. To help you narrow down your choices, here are the best fat separators to have in your kitchen.
Best Overall: OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Gravy Fat Separator
What We Love: Easy to use, doubles as a measuring cup, dishwasher safe
What We Don’t Love: Mechanism is breakable
Bottom release fat separators are the easiest type to use and the OXO Good Grips Good 4-Cup Gravy Fat Separator is no exception. It's an updated version of the classic design, just squeeze the handle and the silicone valve opens. It separates the liquid and fat very quickly, and the lid's built-in strainer helps to save a few minutes off prep time.
Does your kitchen have limited storage space? That’s another reason to add this to your kitchen. Since bottom-release fat separators don't have spouts, they take up less space in both the cabinet and dishwasher. Best of all, since this has measurements cups, ounces, and milliliters, it can do double duty as a regular measuring cup. During testing, I found these to be clearly marked and easy to measure. There was also no splashing when I opened the valve and the handle was incredibly comfortable to use, if you find yourself having to make multiple batches of gravy. Overall, I was very impressed with this because it was truly idiot-proof, smartly designed, and allows for easy clean-up.
"I wouldn't have thought it possible to fall in love with a fat separator, but this one from OXO has won me over. It makes the chore of separating fat from stock easy, mess-free, and even—dare I say—fun?! It's silly, but I love squeezing the handle and watching the liquid drain out!" — Emma Christensen, Associate General Manager
Material: Triton plastic, nylon, silicone, stainless steel | Capacity: 4 cups | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Budget: OXO Good Grips 2-Cup Fat Separator
What We Love: Comes with a stopper, durable
What We Don’t Love: May need more than one attempt to separate the liquid
Made of BPA-free plastic, the OXO Good Grips 2-Cup Fat Separator is light and durable, feeling almost weightless as you pour. OXO designed the silicone lid to also act as a strainer, and there are easy-to-read measurement markings in cups, ounces, and milliliters. When I tested this, I found that it gets the job done but, to ensure the liquid and oil separate out perfectly, you may need to start and stop pouring more than once. Besides that, I was impressed at how easy and fast it was to separate out the fat.
When you’re finished, just rinse it out with a little bit of soap and water. It cleans very easily in the dishwasher without too much pre-rinsing. One unique feature of this product is that it comes with a stopper. This helps lock in the flavor and prevent liquids from spilling during transportation as well as while storing.
Material: Triton plastic, nylon, polypropylene, silicone | Capacity: 2 cups | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Ladle: Williams Sonoma Signature Stainless Steel Fat Skimming Ladle
What We Love: Multiuse product, attractive aesthetic, durable
What We Don’t Love: Not good for large amounts of liquid, pricey
The Williams Sonoma Signature Stainless Steel Fat Skimming Ladle is an ideal fat separator for soups and stews. It works by restraining the fat in the larger bowl, while a pour spout in the small section allows the clarified broth to be returned to the pot. When I tested this, I found that it easily and quickly separates out the fat and its attractive, contemporary design can also function as a serving piece.
But its smaller size is limiting. This is the right choice if you are trying to skim a bit of fat from a recipe. While you could technically use it for larger batches, this isn’t the most practical option for that purpose as there’s also no way to measure out a precise amount.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 4 ounces | Length: 13 inches | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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Best Extra Large: Frieling Gravy Separator
What We Love: Easy-to-read measurements, high-quality strainer top
What We Don’t Love: Not easy to clean
The Frieling Gravy Separator is a great extra-large gravy separator for those big batches. It has measurements marked in cups, milliliters, and ounces, and it’s incredibly convenient to use, once you get the hang of it. When I tested it separating out the fat and water did require a little bit of work. After pouring for a few seconds, I needed to change the angle of my hand to separate the oil and water in the container before pouring it through the spout again.
This fat separator also scores points for the best strainer top. Made of metal with a silicone band, it stays on securely as you pour. The only issue I ended up noticing is that this fat separator isn’t the easiest to clean. It needs a good amount of pre-washing before going into the dishwasher or it will stay dirty. So, I recommend cleaning the spout with a small bottle brush first, if you have one. Then put it in the dishwasher.
Material: Glass, nylon, stainless steel, silicone | Capacity: 4 cups | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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Best Glass: Fox Run Gravy/Fat Separator
What We Love: Clearly marked measurements, easy to clean
What We Don’t Love: The silicone top feels slightly flimsy
The Fox Run Brands Gravy Separator is extremely easy to use. The fat and water separate quickly, with very little fat seeping through. If you’ve never used a fat separator before or are making gravy for the first time, this product won’t disappoint.
Just note that it has a large handle and a wide spout, and will take up quite a bit of space in your kitchen cabinet as well as in the dishwasher. However, because the silicone top is very small, it’s easy to squeeze into the dishwasher for cleaning. It’s also very light, making it easy to separate out larger, heavier batches.
Material: Glass, silicone | Capacity: 4 cups | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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A large capacity and smart design are why the OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Gravy Fat Separator is tops on our list. If you're looking for something smaller and slightly more affordable, the OXO Good Grips 2-Cup Fat Separator won't disappoint.
What Are the Other Options?
Regency Heavy Cheesecloth: If you're really looking for a low-budget option, you might want to try cheesecloth as an easy way to separate out fat and solids. I tested this too, to see if it was comparable to our budget pick, and I really don't recommend it. The cheesecloth only caught some of the oil and could only work for a small amount. You'd still have some fat seep through, leaving you with cloudy, and possibly greasy, results.
How We Tested
Our tester and writer Amanda Lauren sifted through dozens of highly-rated fat separators, closely looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information, to choose her top picks. We then purchased these products for Amanda so she could put them to the test in her home kitchen. After measuring for accuracy, she filled each with a mixture of hot water and oil, similar to an unskimmed broth or meat droppings. She assessed how easy or difficult it was to separate the water and oil, and how comfortable the separator would be when filled with hot broth. Afterward, she also assessed how easy or difficult it was to clean and store the product.
After testing, Amanda submitted feedback about what she liked and didn’t like about each product and rated each one on the following features: Design, Measurement Accuracy, Effectiveness, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying a Fat Separator
Fat separators are made in glass and hard plastic. The glass models tend to hold heat more than plastic models, so you may want to exercise extra caution when handling them. Since glass can also break and shatter, it’s best to choose one made of borosilicate glass, which can handle temperature changes.
Plastic models are more durable than glass, but it’s essential to check the maximum recommended temperature since you don’t want the plastic to melt. You might also experience cloudiness or damage if the separator is put in the dishwasher.
Most of the fat separators on the market hold up to 4 cups of liquid. However, there are some as small as 1.5 cups. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it just depends on what your needs are. If you know you'll be straining large batches of stock or using it for frequent large holiday gatherings, it won't hurt to go bigger. No matter what size you go with, it’s best to choose a fat separator that has cups, ounces, and milliliters marked.
Pitcher Neck vs. Bottom Drain
According to chef and food blogger Leigh Anderson, pitcher neck fat separators should last you for decades, but they are imperfect. "If you're not precise with your pouring, some fat can slip through the spout and mix with the stock," she says.
Bottom drain fat separators are more accurate. "No tipping or pouring means you're less likely to have any fat and broth mixing together," she says. "Because of the extra mechanical elements, a bottom-draining fat separator may need to be replaced after a few years as the parts wear down from regular use and washing."
How do you use a fat separator?
"Unless your fat skimmer has a built-in strainer, you will need to first strain out any bones and aromatics from your stock," explains Anderson. "Next, slowly pour the strained stock into the fat separator. Wait 10-15 minutes for gravity to do its thing. When you see a clear line between stock and fat you can begin to slowly and steadily pour the broth into another container, leaving behind the fat. Be careful not to jostle the fat skimmer too much or you risk the fat and stock mixing together."
What do you do with the skimmed fat?
Anderson warns against pouring the skimmed fat down the sink. "Just like leftover fryer oil or bacon grease, skimmed fat must be disposed of in the trash. The best way to do this is to let the fat cool until it's solid and then dispose of it in a trash can," she says. "For a small amount of fat, you can simply wipe it out of the separator with a paper towel and then toss it in the trash. If you have an excessive amount of fat, say a half a cup or more, pour the fat into a disposable container like an old jar or can and then toss the whole container in the trash."
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Amanda Lauren is a freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles about home and lifestyle. She believes that any holiday meal is a great excuse to buy yourself a new fat separator.
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