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Using eggshells to skim fat?

I've been reading a memoir by a woman who worked as a cook's helper in the early 1900s. She explains that the cook would put egg shells in the stock and then whisk vigorously. (She doesn't say how finely broken up the shells were.) This would be done for a clear stock to be served as a consomme. It was then this helper's job to carefully skim all the fat from the surface. Does anyone know the purpose served by the eggshells? Apparently they help fat rise to the surface of a liquid? She definitely was not using the eggshells themselves to scoop fat off the surface - they were being whisked into the liquid. Thanks!

Answer »
SallyBroff added about 2 years ago

I thought it was an egg white mixedintothe stock.

mbergner added about 2 years ago

I have done the following before; with patience it works well.
Defatting and Clarifying

To get most of the fat out of a stock, you can simply chill it. The fat will harden and float on top of the stock where it can be scooped off easily. One can also use a fat separator, which are like a big measuring cup with a siphon from the bottom, which allows you to pour the stock out while trapping the fat.

To completely clarify stock, use the following method:

Beat egg whites to soft peaks, one for each quart/liter of stock.
Crumple the eggs-shells and mix them through the egg whites.
Stir the mixture in to the stock and bring it to a simmer, do not let it boil. The egg-whites will coagulate, rise, and take any particles and cloudiness out of the stock.
Keep a close eye on the simmer (push the coagulated egg-whites to the side a bit to see) and let it simmer for about ten minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for another ten minutes.
Finally, sieve the stock again through a tea towel.

Pegeen added about 2 years ago

Thanks Sally. But she makes a point of saying that the cook "put in the eggshells, not the eggs themselves..." FYI it's a memoir vs. cookbook: "Below Stairs," 1968 by Margaret Powell. Apparently the 1970s BBC series "Upstairs, Downstairs" was based on this book (and then more recently, "Downton Abbey").

Pegeen added about 2 years ago

mbergner - Very interesting. Thank you! The egg whites & shells must be a similar technique to the one SallyBroff referred to. And sieving the stock through a tea towel sounds appropriate to this book. (No wonder they needed servants.)

Waffle3
ChefOno added about 2 years ago
Voted the Best Answer!

The method mbergner describes may be performed with egg whites alone, just not as effectively. It's not about separating the fat but about clarification of the stock, removing the fine particles which make it appear cloudy. As the proteins from the whites and shells coagulate, they bind with the impurities, thus clarifying the liquid. The resulting mass forms a "raft" from which the technique derives its name.

Waffle3
ChefOno added about 2 years ago

Crud! I meant "may be performed with egg shells alone".

Pegeen added about 2 years ago

ChefOno, what is the name of the technique? Thank you.

nutcakes added about 2 years ago

It is called forming a raft. Often meat is used as well, maybe more for flavor.

Waffle3
ChefOno added about 2 years ago

Yes, the meat adds flavor (to replace some of what is lost during clarification) and also aids in the process. Mirepoix is also a common invitee to the party for flavor augmentation.

Pegeen added about 2 years ago

CO, thanks - re "egg shells alone"

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