I like to make homemade stocks and soups. Sometimes there is a thick layer of fat floating on the surface after they are made. What is the best way to remove this?--Karen
Depending on the amount of time and energy you have, there are several ways to remove the fat. One method is to use a ladle to skim it off. To do this, submerge the ladle, tilted at a slight angle until the rim is just above the level of the liquid. Now skim the ladle along the surface, leading with the low edge of the rim. With practice, you will be able to skim the floating fat off of the liquid and into the ladle. When you use this technique, you will always end up removing some of the stock also so don't worry if your technique isn't perfect. I have seen most of the fat removed this way, but have never been able to do more than an adequate job myself.
If time permits and you have the refrigerator space, the easiest method of all is to cool the stock or soup to room temperature (see How Long Can Cooked Food Be Left Out for how to do this) and then refrigerate it overnight. As it cools, the fat will harden into a solid layer that can be easily lifted off with a spoon.
If you don't have the time to wait, you can still use the method from the How Long Can Cooked Food be Left Out posting to cool the soup or stock down enough so that the fat thicken and is easier to skim. This is a sort of half way method between the other two above.
You can also try a gravy separator. Basically, this is like a measuring cup with a spout that comes out of the bottom. You fill it with the liquid, leave it sit until the fat rises to the top, and then pour off the liquid from underneath, out the spout. The fat will remain in the separator. Like skimming, this method is less than perfect, but is fairly easy, if somewhat time consuming, as you may need to work in batches for a large pot of stock or soup.
After an initial skim, you can also use a fat mop. This is a brush made of nylon fibers that will attract fat molecules but not water molecules. It works well for picking up the last globs of fat, but not for the entire job as it needs to be cleaned out quite often. While it works well, I found my fat mop to be too much trouble and not easy to get really clean between uses. After searching for ages to find one, I threw my fat mop out within a month for fear of causing food contamination.
Also, look in the comments for April's suggestion to use plastic ice cubes. Another good idea!