I've been asked a few times now where I get my fats. I use many different kinds, primarily saturated animal fats, since those are the best for your body and best for cooking, but I try to use a variety and am learning to include coconut oil in my diet more. If you still think saturated fats will increase your waistline, I encourage you to read the book "Eat Fat, Lose Fat." and read what the Weston A. Price foundation says about fats. Fats are essential for energy, digesting, satiety, and lower the glycemic index of foods. They make up every cell of your body, so why not make sure you body is made up of good, strong fats? Here is a list of the fats I use, where I get them, and what they work best for.
I save every last drop of drippings when I make bacon. I usually cook up about a lb of nitrate free farm fresh bacon each month, and the drippings are usually enough for the month. Try to find a pig source where the pigs are farm raised and pastured. Happy, well fed pigs make more nutritious (and better tasting!) meat.
Good for: sautéing veggies, meat, fish, flavoring veggies with bacon flavor.
Keep in fridge, fairly soft right out of fridge.
I don't have any lard at the moment, but will have some soon! My mom and I will be distilling some lard from pork fat that we are buying from a local farmer. You only need to simmer it in water all day, and then strain out the rich fat and let it cool. Be careful purchasing lard already prepared, it is often hydrogenated to make it more shelf stable.
Good for: frying, baking, sautéing, etc. Nice neutral flavor and very heat stable. Also excellent to add to beans when mashing them.
Keep in fridge, soft after a few minutes in room temp.
A lot like Lard, only from beef fat. It used to be the frying fat of choice at McDonalds before the whole "saturated fat is evil!" scam came about. I save the fat whenever I cook beef, the rind from steaks, the big chunks on roasts, or the drippings from ground beef (if there are any, grass fed is pretty lean.) Simmer in a pot of water for several hours, strain, and refrigerate, the fat will rise to the top and can be kept in the fridge.
Good for: adding to soups, baking with meat and vegetables, frying, gravy.
Keep in fridge, will be hard until closer to room temp.
I usually don't have any of this in my fridge, as whatever fat sits on top of my chicken stock I use with my soups and drink with my broth. The fat helps you assimilate more of the minerals and nutrients in the stock - so why would I remove it? Well, sometimes there is a lot more fat than I need, and then I'll scoop it off the top when the stock & fat are cold, and store it in the fridge for future use.
Good for: adding to soups that need more fat and flavor, sautéing, adding to beans when mashing, flavoring potato-like dishes or chicken dishes that have little fat on their own.
Keep in fridge, softens when warmed.
Oh, how I love butter. When grains return to my diet I will be slathering my bread in butter. For now, I slather my eggs in butter (a wonderful combination for digestion.) I also try to add lots of butter (or another fat) to any vegetables I eat, since fats help you digest greens, and greens help you digest fats! I used to use generic store butter, and while that is certainly better than margarine, it is usually made from leftover whey and is very low in nutrients - that is why it is so pale. If I had access to as much cream as I wanted, I would certainly make my own butter. It is really easy, and you can even let the cream sit out for half a day so you can have cultured butter! For now, I found a source for grass fed cultured butter made from the cream, that is pasteurized (cooked) but is at least not ultra-pasteurized, and tastes wonderful. It is a rich yellow color and I find that I'm happy to use a lot less than store butter.
Good for: slathering on everything, baking, frying, etc.
Keep in fridge (or freezer if longer than a couple months), softens after a few minutes in room temp.
Forgot to mention ghee as well! - ghee is clarified butter and has virtually no milk proteins or sugars in it. Often people unable to tolerate dairy handle ghee just fine. You can make your own ghee fairly easily, but you can get excellent ghee from Pure Indian Foods.
Palm shortening/ Palm kernel oil
Mild neutral flavor, and very inexpensive. This is what I use now for pretty much all my baking when flavor is not needed (cookies and brownies are richer with butter, for sure.) I get it through Tropical Traditions (when they have their half-price or free shipping sales) and it lasts me for a good half of the year. High in saturated fat so good for lots of uses and doesn't need to stay in the fridge.
Good for: pan frying, baking, etc.
Keep in cool cabinet, soft at room temp.
I'm learning to use more of this in my dishes. Coconut is a natural detoxifier and has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties, so I'm working my way gradually with it. It also adds a slight coconut flavor to certain dishes, which can be delicious if you like the coconut flavor. I don't personally, but I don't notice it in stir-fries or in flavorful dishes. A lot of people also use it for skin - from deodorant to natural sunscreen, I'm learning to do that as well. Be sure to find cold pressed and organic, this is often over-processed as well. Tropical Traditions carries good quality coconut oil for fairly inexpensive.
Good for: baking, any kind of frying, binding for granola, smoothies, skin.
Keep in cool cabinet, or fridge. Softens when heated, very hard below about 80º.
I try to minimize cooking with this wonderful oil, is it is high in monounsaturated fats, which are very good in moderate amounts, but more easily damaged by cooking. I use it plenty in other dishes though. Be sure to buy cold pressed extra virgin. Be sure to test your bottle - it should turn completely solid after a couple days in the fridge, there are a lot of misslabeled bottles out there. It should be in a dark bottle and be richly colored and cloudy.
Good for: salad dressings, pesto & other sauces, some baking.
Keep in cabinet, use within two months of opening.
This mom also has good tips on cooking with fats.