How To Render Beef Tallow?

Beef tallow is one of our favorite rendered fats. It is simple to render, has a delicious flavor, and is useful both inside and outside of the kitchen. Learn how to make beef tallow in this tutorial.

We strive to eat nose-to-tail when we harvest an animal. That means that in our culinary endeavors, we render a variety of fats, such as lard, schmaltz, and even deer tallow. Beef fat is no exception.

I told the butcher shop we wanted the fat when we bought a steer this past spring, and they couldn’t get rid of it quickly enough. They gave us more leaf fat than our steer’s worth. It was a time-consuming process to render down the five gallons of grass-fed beef tallow that we had, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Even though it isn’t done as frequently as it once was, making your own beef tallow is actually quite simple. Contrary to popular belief, traditional fats like tallow are healthy.

Utilizing the entire animal rather than just the convenient parts shows respect for the animal and has many advantages over the hydrogenated vegetable oils that are prevalent in modern cooking and baking.

How to Render Beef Tallow
  1. Add the beef fat to a stock pot. Gather the beef fat in a large stock pot, and heat to a low simmer. …
  2. Slowly simmer to render the beef fat. During the cook time, you will notice the fat slowly starts to render and cook. …
  3. Strain. Straining is important. …
  4. Use or store. You can use this immediately.

Need an entertaining conversation starter with your non-homesteading friends?

Try mentioning that you rendered beef tallow last week…. They’ll probably react with shock, disgust, confusion, or blank looks because they have no idea what you’re talking about.

What is Beef Tallow?

Tallow is merely rendered (cooked down) beef fat that has been purified of impurities.

Rendered beef or sheep fat is called tallow.

Rendered chicken fat is called schmaltz.

Rendered butter (aka clarified butter) is called ghee.

Tallow is a conventional fat that has been used for centuries, but when vegetable oils first appeared, it felt out of date. But it’s rapidly regaining popularity due to homesteading and interest in more conventional diets. Hallelujah. And I believe that it is a homesteading skill that everyone should possess.

(By the way, if you’d like to learn more Heritage cooking skills from me, make sure you check out my Heritage Cooking Crash Course…).

The Benefits of Beef Tallow

  • Conjugated-linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid found in tallow, has been shown in studies to aid in accelerating fat loss. (Source).
  • It’s abundant in skin-beneficial vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Compared to processed vegetable oils, it is more stable and has a high smoke point.
  • Tallow can be produced, harvested, and rendered in your kitchen. Consequently, it becomes a more viable, regional choice for cooking fats.

The Health Benefits of Tallow:

How to Use Beef Tallow

Oh man, where do I even start?

Using beef tallow to make homemade French fries is by far my preferred method. (Did you know that before they got “healthy” and switched to hydrogenated vegetable oils, McDonald’s used to fry their French fries in tallow? ).

Tallow, however, is a fantastic choice for any type of frying or sautéing.

Though I find that I use tallow for non-food projects just as much as I do for ones that involve food. Due to its availability (in my freezer!) and low cost, tallow is my preferred ingredient for making homemade tallow soap and mason jar candles.

How to Find Beef Fat to Render into Tallow

The cow’s “leaf fat,” or the mass of fat found around the kidneys, is the type of tallow that we prefer. Leaf fat produces a cleaner, milder tasting tallow.

When butchering oneself, the leaf fat will be in a large mass around the kidneys. It feels somewhat waxy and has a coating that resembles cellophane. The majority of the meat was cut up, so it was relatively simple to remove the entire she-bang from the carcass. I then threw it into a bucket to be chilled until the following day.

I just ask them to save the leaf fat for me when we take our steers to the neighborhood butcher. When we pick up our finished beef, they usually kindly oblige, and I end up with a bag of frozen fat chunks.

Call your local butcher shop even if you don’t raise your own beef. For a small fee, they might be willing to save the leaf fat from another animal for you. (Don’t be surprised if you get some raised eyebrows; it’s not exactly an item that’s highly sought after in most places.)

How to Render Tallow

You will need:

  • Quality beef fat (also known as suet)-
  • A large stock pot OR slow cooker
  • Clean glass jars for storage (wide mouth work best)
  • Cheesecloth or improvised cheesecloth alternative

Instructions:

When you butcher the animal yourself, the kidneys will have a large mass of leaf fat on them. It feels somewhat waxy and has a coating that resembles cellophane. The entire she-bang came out of the carcass fairly easily, and I put it in a bucket to be chilled until the following day.

Tallow rendering is not difficult, but it can take some time. According to my research, there appear to be two approaches: wet rendering (where you add water to the pot) and dry rendering (where there is no water). (I decided to use the dry method because it seemed to be easier and there is less worry about the fat turning rancid.

First things first, you’ll need to trim the beef fat. Starting with cold fat is a great idea because it is SO MUCH easier to manage. When I started working with mine after cooling it overnight, it had the consistency of cold butter. Perfect.

Slice it into manageable pieces and remove any remaining meat, blood, gristle, or other objects that you may find.

I had to do much less trimming because I used the leaf fat from the kidney area rather than fat from another part of the animal. The only significant trimming I had to do was remove the kidneys from the middle of the fat mass.

The leaf fat is wrapped in an odd kind of “cellophane.” Even though I did my best, I was unable to remove every single piece. Just do the best you can; the rest will be cooked out during the rendering process.

(Your fat most likely will not be this yellow. Dairy cows, like Jerseys and Guernseys, have bright yellow fat. ).

Once everything has been trimmed, process the fat in a food processor (again, MUCH easier if it is cold!) until it resembles ground meat. Although you can simply chop the fat into small pieces if you don’t have a processor, shredding it speeds up the rendering process.

Place the shredded fat in a large stockpot or a slow cooker. Begin melting it at very low heat. You absolutely DO NOT want to burn it, even though it will take some time.

Now, it’s just a waiting game. Depending on how much fat you are rendering, it may take several hours. It took 5 to 6 hours for my 6-quart crockpot to render that much food. When you remember, check the fat occasionally for burning and stir it.

The “impurities” will rise to the top as the fat slowly starts to melt as it renders.

How To Render Beef Tallow?

When there is clear liquid at the bottom and crispy bits floating on top, you’ll know it’s finished.

Through cheesecloth, fabric, or a strainer with fine mesh, pass the tallow. Although you might want to place your cheesecloth inside a colander to make the straining process easier, you will definitely need something more than a colander in this situation since you want to get rid of all of the “floaties.”

How To Render Beef Tallow?

Alternatively, pour the liquid fat into baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Allow it to harden completely. Tallow made from beef-breed animal fat (such as that from an Angus or Hereford) should become creamy white as it cools.

Hardened tallow from a dairy breed will probably be bright yellow in color. Neither one is better or worse–just different.

How To Render Beef Tallow?

If you use pans, you can cut the tallow into bars once it has hardened. Many people keep their tallow in their pantries at room temperature, but I usually keep mine in the refrigerator. It may be frozen if you’re interested in even longer storage.

Your rendered tallow should keep well in the freezer and refrigerator. (Mine has lasted well over a year).

What’s the best temperature for rendering tallow?

Avoid the temptation to speed up the process because it is simple to burn the rendering fat, which will produce a strong, unpleasant aftertaste.

How do I render tallow on my stove?

The procedure is exactly the same as using a slow cooker; just make sure to keep the burner on LOW and check it frequently to ensure that you aren’t burning it.

Does tallow have a gross taste or smell when you use it?

Our tallow has a flavor that I’ve found to be incredibly mild, albeit occasionally slightly beefy (in a good way). However, be aware that the tallow’s rendering process produces an unpleasant odor. Thankfully, that aroma isn’t carried over into the finished product.

It’s REALLY hard to get my finished tallow out of the jars. Help!

Tallow is much harder than lard, in my experience, and it’s nearly impossible to remove it from a mason jar when it’s cold. Typically, for storage purposes, I prefer to pour my liquid tallow into bars.

Can I reuse my tallow after frying?

Yes, I do! After using my tallow to fry potatoes or anything else, I strain it and put it back in the jar for later use.

Can I use this same method to render my own lard?

Yes. Lard can also be rendered using the exact same technique.

I don’t want to mess with rendering tallow myself. Where can I buy it?

Tallow and lard can be difficult to find, especially in traditional grocery stores, which is a problem. Avoid the common lard you’ll find in the majority of traditional grocery stores, as it’s typically hydrogenated and equally unhealthy as vegetable shortenings.

Fortunately, there are a handful of companies who have popped up in recent years who are manufacturing high-quality, grass-fed beef tallow. I suggest trying Ancestral Supplements Beef Tallow or Epic Grassfed Tallow. (affiliate links)

Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #33 on the topic Three Fats You’ll Never Find in my Kitchen (and what I use instead) HERE.

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