If you need to remove the fat from gravy, sauce, pan juices, or broth and you don't own a fat separator, there are several tricks you can use.
When making gravy or other sauces, the drippings or other ingredients often contain a lot of fat. While this adds a lot of flavor, it's too much for the final product—and it's certainly not healthy. So, the best way to make flavorful gravies and sauces that are lean is to remove the fat before serving. Fat separators make this easy to do, but not having one doesn't mean you're stuck not being able to remove the unwanted fat.
If You Have Time
Pour the liquid you need to de-fat into a bowl, allow it to cool a bit, then stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The fat will rise to the top of the bowl and form a hard skin. Just scoop the skin off, and you're good to go.
If You Need It Now
Let the liquid sit for a few minutes so the fat has time to separate and rise to the top. Then, use a turkey baster to suck out the fat. If you don’t have a turkey baster, use a spoon. It’s not as precise, but it’ll get the job done. Another approach is to insert the turkey baster deep enough into the liquid so all you are drawing out is the defatted liquid. You then can deposit it into another container.
You also can use a large, heavy-duty freezer bag. After the liquid has cooled for a few minutes, transfer it to the freezer bag and wait for the fat to rise to the top. Once it has, snip off a bottom corner of the freezer bag and drain the defatted liquid into another container. Note that this method won't work for stews or other dishes that have chunky vegetables or meats in them.
Put the fat into a disposable container and allow it to harden, then toss it in the trash. Do not pour fat down the drain because it will clog your plumbing.
What is a Fat Separator Anyway?
A fat separator looks like a pitcher or watering can with a long pouring spout. The best models have a lid with holes that act as a strainer. When you pour broth or other liquids over the lid, it catches all the large veggies and other things that you’re trying to strain out. The liquid goes through the holes, into the fat separator. The fat rises to the top of the liquid within a few minutes, and the fat separator is designed so the fat is higher than the pouring spout, which comes out of the bottom of the container. When you tilt the fat separator to pour, the de-fatted liquid comes out, but not the fat.
Just pour until you've gotten most of the liquid out, then dispose of the fat.
If you find yourself needing to strain fat often, it’s a worthwhile tool to own. Otherwise, the alternative defatting tricks should work just fine.