Is dripping better than olive oil in the kitchen?

Updated on 26 October 2011 | 0 Comments

The dripping pot was once a stove-side staple until it was ousted by oil.

Next to almost any cooker in the country, within reaching distance of the hob, it's pretty safe to assume you'll find a bottle of olive oil. It's become fundamental to our cooking habits and has often replaced the traditional cooking fats many of our national meals were built upon.

Where’s the dripping pot gone?

During my childhood, it was not olive oil, but the dripping pot that provided the cornerstone to my mother’s kitchen. Those flavours and smells of Sunday's roast dinner would be stretched that little bit further, ebbing into Monday's packed lunches and lingering throughout weekday suppers.

Meaty juices

Dripping generally refers to the mix of meat juices and rendered fat from roasted joints of beef, but can actually be from any meat. The practical everyday use of a dripping pot is not only an economic step towards nose-to-tail eating, but a golden blessing to your kitchen arsenal. From softening onions, roasting potatoes or adding a wide, meaty depth to soups and stews, dripping has a great multitude of uses.

Many uses

Replacing the butter for dripping in a cold roast beef sandwich catapults the ubiquitous sarnie onto an other-worldly plateau. It gains tremendous depth and delivers a promise of what's right and proper with British cuisine.Gravy is a ghost without the addition of proper dripping, it needs that slick of fat combined with the addition of umami rich meat juices, extracted and melded under the intensity of the oven. Traditionally, fish and chips were prepared in dripping, something of a precious rarity today. This medium of fat lends a subtle meatiness to your chippy tea, the smell is intoxicating and in those establishments still using dripping, you’re almost guaranteed to find a queue right out the door.

Classic bread and dripping

Bread and dripping was the empty threat of dinner when misbehaving as a child, but nowadays I yearn for a slice of brown bread smeared in that balance of shimmering fat and rich jellied juices from the weekends roast. It provides ultimate comfort and perfect restoration on bitterly cold Autumn days.

The Pigs, a pub in Edgefield, Norfolk, serve this British favourite under the name ‘Dirty beef dripping’, one of their most popular menu items. “We serve it in a dish with sea salt and stacks of toast,” explains Chef-landlord Tim Abbott. “As the dripping’s setting we swirl a spoon through it, so the brown jelly and white fat kind of marble together. It tastes bloody good, especially with a pint.”

So can the dripping pot regain its place next to the omnipresent bottle of olive oil, or are we sentenced to another few decades of its over-enthusiastic consumption? Do you keep your dripping, and if so, how best do you put it to use?

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