After researching more than 20 fat separators and testing seven of them over the past two years, we think the affordable OXO Good Grips 4 Cup Fat Separator is the best for most people. Its generous 4-cup capacity holds plenty of drippings to make gravy for a holiday feast. The silicone stopper prevents fat from entering the spout and the deep strainer does an excellent job catching solids—like carrots, onions, and herbs—from stock or drippings. Unlike some models we tested, the measurement lines on the side of the pitcher are clearly marked and easy to read.
If you prefer a drain-style fat separator with a finer strainer than our main pick, we recommend getting the OXO Good Grips 4 Cup Trigger Fat Separator. You open the silicone drain tube in the bottom of the pitcher by squeezing a trigger on the handle. This OXO’s wide handle is also comfortable to hold and it doesn’t get hot, even when the pitcher is filled with drippings. Like our main pick, this model has a 4-cup capacity, which is great for making a lot of gravy for holiday dinners. The perforations on the strainer are slightly narrower than those of our main pick, so it will catch smaller solids like whole peppercorns. And again, just like on our main pick, the measurement lines on the side of the container are easy to read.
A fat separator is used to quickly remove excess fat from meat drippings or homemade stocks. Because fat is less dense than water, it will separate from the drippings naturally and rise to the surface. Depending on the model, you either pour the drippings out through a spout on the side or drain them through the bottom of the pitcher. You can discard the separated fat or you can use it as a base for roux to build a sauce or gravy before reincorporating the drippings or stock.
If you think skimming fat from pan drippings using a spoon or ladle is too tedious, you should consider getting a fat separator. We think it’s a useful tool to have on hand for making gravies or sauces several times a year or more. However, if you’re going to use a fat separator only once a year, you can probably do without one. We recommend getting a fat separator only if its convenience is worth it to you.
Because most fat separators have a 4-cup capacity, they’re best for removing fat from pan drippings or small batches of homemade stock. When working with large batches of stock, we think it’s more convenient to pour the stock into a large bowl and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. As the stock cools, fat will naturally rise to the surface and congeal. Then you can scrape it off with a spoon and discard it (or save it for another use).
After researching more than 20 fat separators, we decided to test seven in The Sweethome’s test kitchen. We looked at models ranging from $10 to $30, but because fat separators aren’t likely to get a lot of play in most kitchens, we don’t think you should spend more than $15.
Fat separators are made from either glass or plastic, but we prefer the latter because they’re more durable. Glass models are too much of a liability when you’re working with greasy hands because they can easily slip and shatter.
Fat separators come in two main styles: spout models (with or without a plug) and drain models. Spout models look like a measuring cup with a long spout extending from the base, similar to a watering can. You pour the meat drippings in, allow the fat to rise, and then pour the juices out through the spout. The best spout models have a plug that uses air pressure to prevent any drippings from entering the spout before the fat has a chance to rise to the top. Once the drippings settle, you can unplug the spout and pour the liquid out of the separator with no risk of incorporating fat.
Drain models release drippings through an opening in the base that’s controlled by a trigger on the handle. Once the fat rises to the surface, you open the drain in the base to expel the drippings. You release the trigger to close the drain and keep the fat in the container.
We think fat separators with a 4-cup capacity are best because they can hold enough drippings to prepare gravy for a crowd. Measurements on the side should be easy to read and displayed in cups, ounces, and milliliters.
We looked for fat separators with a wide-mouth opening to make pouring liquids into the container without spilling easier. Many models have a removable strainer that fits over the top to filter food solids from stock or meat drippings. However, we think straining large volumes of liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl before transferring it to a fat separator is easier. A fine-mesh strainer does a better job removing small thyme leaves and whole peppercorns from stock compared with the fat-separator strainers we tested.
In our preliminary round of testing, we used the fat separators to measure a combination of oil and stock to replicate the way drippings from roasted proteins separate from fat. We also tested our finalists by making gravy using the drippings from five roasted turkeys. Because the volume of drippings can affect how well the fat separates in certain models, we tested each contender using both a half cup and 4 cups of drippings.
For spout models, we checked to see if any fat seeped into the spout when pouring. For both spout and drain models, we evaluated how well they poured and if they leaked or dripped. We also tested the strainers to see if their perforations were small enough to catch whole peppercorns. When the fat separators were filled to capacity, we checked to see if the handles became too hot to hold.
Additionally, we washed each fat separator by hand to evaluate how easy they were to clean. We also ran each model through the dishwasher several times to see if the measurement markings faded or if the plastic warped.
We think the OXO Good Grips 4 Cup Fat Separator is the best for most people because it’s easier to use and clean than other models we tested. The silicone plug on this model is very effective at keeping fat from seeping into the drippings. It’s available in 2-cup and 4-cup versions, but we think the latter is best for preparing gravy for a big crowd. This model also has a deep strainer and clearly labeled measurement lines.
The key component to the OXO fat separator is the tight-fitting plug that uses air pressure to prevent any drippings from entering the spout before the fat has a chance to rise to the top. Once the drippings settle, you can unplug the spout and pour the liquid out of the separator with no risk of incorporating fat. Cook’s Illustrated said the plug feature “works well with larger volumes but not when separating smaller amounts of liquid.” In our own tests, we used a half cup of drippings and had no problem keeping the fat out of the spout. That said, depending on the amount of fat in the drippings, occasionally some can work its way into the spout, but it’s minimal.
In our tests, this OXO’s strainer was deep enough to catch large food solids such as carrots, onions, and thyme sprigs. Unlike most of the models we tested, the OXO’s strainer also has a high splash guard that helps to prevent spills and burns. Made from heat-resistant plastic, the OXO’s handle didn’t get hot, even when the pitcher was filled to capacity with hot meat drippings. And the measurement lines are clearly printed in red on the side of the pitcher (in cups, ounces, and milliliters), so you can accurately gauge exactly how much liquid you’re working with.
The main drawback to this model is that the plug is not attached to the spout, so it’s easy to lose. However, because most people won’t use a fat separator on a regular basis, we don’t think keeping track of the plug will be a problem. Also, the perforated holes on the strainer are large enough to let some peppercorns slip through. But a simple solution is to place loose peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth tied with butcher’s twine before adding them to your stock, so you don’t have to worry about straining them later. You can also use a fine-mesh strainer to remove peppercorns or herbs.
Even though this OXO fat separator was one of the easiest models to clean, we still noticed an oily residue on its surface after handwashing it. So, if you wash it by hand, be sure to use hot water and lots of dish soap. In our test kitchen, we forced a soapy paper towel through the spout to clean it, but you could also use a narrow bottle brush.
Like all of OXO’s products, the fat separator is covered by a satisfaction guarantee, which states that you can return it if it becomes defective under normal household use. For returns and replacements, contact the company’s customer service department.
If you’re looking for a drain-style fat separator with a finer strainer, we recommend getting the OXO Good Grips 4 Cup Trigger Fat Separator. The drain on this model is very easy to operate, the wide handle is comfortable to hold, and it doesn’t get hot when the pitcher is filled to capacity with drippings. Like our main pick, the OXO Trigger Fat Separator has a 4-cup capacity, which means it’s large enough for making a lot of gravy for holiday dinners.
The OXO Trigger Fat Separator is easy to use and intuitive to operate. The silicone tube drain remains closed until you squeeze the trigger on the handle to release the drippings. As soon as the drippings are drained, you release the trigger to close the opening, keeping the fat in the bottom of the pitcher.
The perforations on the strainer are smaller than those of our main pick, so they will catch little bits of food, like whole peppercorns, floating in the stock or drippings. That said, the strainer isn’t as deep as the one on our main pick (the other OXO fat separator), so it doesn’t have as much space to collect large solids such as carrots and onions. Like on our main pick, the measurement lines on the side of the pitcher are clearly marked and easy to read.
All of the drain-style fat separators we tested dripped some residual fat from the drain onto the counter after using. However, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker. As a solution, we recommend placing the fat separator on a small plate to collect any residual drippings after using. Also, because the OXO drain model has a lot of grooves on the underside of the container that trap oil, we found it more difficult to clean compared with our main pick.
The Cuisipro 4-cup Fat Separator is solidly built, but the clear embossed measurement lines are more difficult to read than the ones on the OXO models we tested. Also, the Cuisipro didn’t drain in an even stream like our runner-up pick, the OXO Good Grips 4 Cup Trigger Fat Separator.
The Swing-A-Way Easy Release Grease Separator seems cheaply made and the handle felt flimsy. The opening of the cup is also very narrow and the center of the strainer isn’t perforated, which causes a lot of splashback when pouring.
The Bellemain 4-Cup Fat Separator appears to be a knockoff of the OXO spout model we recommend. The Bellemain fat separator wobbles on a flat surface and has measurement lines that are slightly smeared, making them more difficult to read compared with our top pick’s.
The Trudeau Gravy Separator—which Cook’s Illustrated recommended back in 2004—fell out of contention because its spout didn’t have a plug to keep the fat out. Without it, more fat will wind up in the spout and then in your gravy.
The pricey, glass Williams-Sonoma No-Spill Gravy Separator boasts a fine-mesh strainer for eliminating small particles in drippings. But it broke in our tests during handwashing. We even broke the plug in our struggle to remove it.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)