The Complete Guide to Rendering Beef Fat at Home

Rendering beef fat into tallow at home is a great way to get more value from the meat you buy. Making your own beef tallow can seem intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. In this complete guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about rendering beef fat and making tallow from scratch.

What is Beef Tallow?

Beef tallow is a rendered form of beef fat. To make tallow, beef fat trimmings are slowly cooked to extract and purify the fat. The liquid fat is then strained and cooled into a solid form.

Tallow has historically been used for many purposes including cooking, candle making, soap making and more. These days, rendered beef fat is most commonly used in cooking to add rich flavor. Using tallow is also a more sustainable approach to meat preparation since you utilize more of the animal.

You may have heard the rumor that McDonald’s french fries were better back in the day because they were cooked in tallow instead of vegetable oil. There’s likely some truth to this urban legend! The beefy flavor of tallow makes an excellent cooking fat.

Benefits of Making Your Own Tallow

There are several advantages to rendering your own beef fat instead of buying pre-made tallow:

  • Cost savings – You can get more value from the meat you buy rather than throwing away extra fat
  • Customization – You control the quality and flavor rather than relying on store-bought
  • Responsible usage – Rendering your own tallow helps reduce waste from meat production
  • Long shelf life – Homemade tallow can last for months in the fridge or freezer
  • Versatility – Use tallow for cooking, baking, frying and more

Of course, the number one benefit of homemade tallow is the delicious beefy flavor it adds to any dish!

How to Choose Beef Fat for Tallow

The first step in making beef tallow is choosing high quality beef fat. Look for fat trimmings from high quality grass-fed or pasture-raised beef. Some of the best beef cuts to source fat from include:

  • Brisket trimmings
  • Chuck roasts
  • Ribeyes
  • Tenderloin

Avoid using low quality feedlot beef fat as it will have an inferior flavor. Also, don’t use fat trimmed off the exterior of the carcass as it may have dirt or hair. Focus on white interior fat closest to the muscle.

For the whitest, most neutral tallow, choose fat from around the kidneys and loins. Fattier cuts like brisket will produce tallow with a more beefy flavor.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Rendering tallow is a relatively simple process, though it does take some time. Here is an overview of the steps:

1. Cut the fat

  • Cut the raw beef fat into 1-2 inch cubes. This increases the surface area for faster rendering.

2. Simmer the fat

  • Add the cubed fat to a heavy saucepan or stock pot. Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook over medium-low heat for 1-2 hours until most of the fat has melted and the crispy bits are lightly browned.
  • Avoid letting the temperature get too hot or the fat will brown and take on a burnt flavor. Maintain a light simmer.

3. Strain the tallow

  • Pour the hot liquid tallow through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove any solids.
  • For clearest results, strain a second time through a coffee filter.

4. Store the tallow

  • Pour the filtered tallow into jars, allow to cool, then refrigerate. It will become solid white at room temperature.
  • Keep homemade tallow refrigerated for up to 3 months or frozen for up to a year.

Tips for the Best Results

Follow these tips to successfully render high quality beef tallow at home:

  • Simmer low and slow – Keep temps between 200-250°F for cleanest flavor.
  • Stir frequently – This prevents browning and even rendering.
  • Strain twice – Use cheesecloth and/or coffee filters to remove all impurities.
  • Avoid direct heat – Cook in a double boiler or bain marie instead of direct stove top heat.
  • Render large batches – Fill your pot to get more tallow in one go.
  • Use wide mouthed jars – Makes it easier to remove the solid tallow.
  • Store in fridge – Keeps tallow from going rancid at room temp.

Uses for Homemade Beef Tallow

Once you’ve created your own beautiful home-rendered beef fat, what do you do with it? Beef tallow can be used for all types of cooking and frying:

  • Roast potatoes – Crispiest, beefiest roast potatoes ever!
  • Frying eggs – Adds rich flavor to fried eggs.
  • Sauteing veggies – Great for cooking hearty greens like kale.
  • Cast iron cooking – Season your cast iron with a coating of tallow.
  • Deep frying – Use tallow for frying chicken, french fries, doughnuts, etc.
  • Searing steaks – Adds nutty beefy flavor when pan-searing.
  • Pie crusts – Creates the flakiest, most buttery crust.
  • Spread on bread – Tallow is tasty on toast just like butter.

You’ll find that beef tallow is quite versatile in the kitchen. Feel free to substitute it for oil, butter or other fats in any recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does tallow last?

Properly rendered and stored beef tallow can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 months. It can also be frozen for up to a year. Keep it sealed in an airtight jar to maximize freshness.

Can you reuse tallow?

Yes, you can strain and reheat leftover tallow multiple times. Reheating will help remove any impurities from previous uses. Freshly rendered tallow has the best flavor though.

What’s the difference between tallow and lard?

Lard is rendered pork fat while tallow comes from beef. They both have a long shelf life and can be used for cooking in similar ways. The flavor profile differs depending on whether you want a porky or beefy taste.

Is tallow healthy?

Like any animal fat, tallow is high in saturated fat so it should be consumed in moderation. However, as cooking fats go, tallow from grass-fed beef contains beneficial nutrients like vitamins K & E, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and more. Pasture-raised tallow is generally considered healthier than vegetable oils.

Can you cook tallow too hot?

Yes, overheating tallow can cause it to smoke or take on a burnt flavor. For the best results, keep temperatures between 200°F and 275°F. Slow rendering retains a clean, mild beefy flavor.

The Bottom Line

Rendering your own tallow may sound intimidating, but following this simple process will yield delicious homemade beef fat you can use in all types of cooking. Not only does it add incredible flavor, but you’ll also reduce waste and get more value from the meat you buy.

With a little time and effort, rendering beef tallow is an extremely rewarding craft. Once you’ve mastered the steps, you’ll never buy store-bought tallow again! The beefy richness and creamy texture of fresh homemade tallow is unmatched.

How To Render Beef Fat – Beef Tallow


How do you render down beef fat?

Place the fat into your pan, then add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about half an inch. Place the pan over a medium flame, until the water starts to boil, then turn heat down to low. Cook gently for 1-2 hours, stirring every so often until most of the fat has rendered.

How long can you render beef fat?

When you are cooking down the fat, there will be some meat that will not render out. Don’t expect the pot to be completely melted. The slower the fat is cooked, the whiter and more neutral-smelling it will be. You can cook it low for two hours, or even at a slightly lower temperature for 6-8 hours.

Do you use water to render beef fat?

Step 1: Start with the raw pork (left) and beef (right) fat. Put a small amount of water at the bottom of the pot you are using to render the fat (around 1/4th of an inch). Just enough to cover the bottom. This prevents the fat from browning as we begin to heat it up.

What temperature does beef fat render?

We want to cook the fat to 230°F (110°C). This temperature ensures that we’ve cooked a good deal of the water out of the fatty bits, but isn’t so high that we’ve started to crisp and brown them, thus tainting the oil with denatured proteins.

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