Beef tallow is a delicious, healthy fat. It’s saturated and made from beef suet (raw cow fat). If you happen to be buying a part of a grass-fed cow (we buy a whole one every so often), request a bag of suet along with it. You can even ask a local farmer to get you some next time he butchers a cow. Once you have the suet, you have to render it to get tallow.
That leads to some consternation for many, as it did for me initially. Just how do you render this stuff?! It really is not complicated at all, but it does take time. You will get greasy, and your house will smell funny for a while, but it’s so worth it! Have you ever had fries cooked in beef tallow? It’s what McDonald’s used to use 20 years ago. Beef tallow made their fries so delicious. Sadly, they switched due to “heart health.” Now, they add beef flavoring, trans fats, and MSG in an attempt to make up for what’s missing, ironically making their fries less heart-healthy than ever.
I digress. Suffice it to say, beef tallow is something you’d like to have around. It has a strong flavor, so it’s not a fat you’d want to use in everything (lard is much more neutral), but it is still excellent. Let’s get to how to render beef tallow.
How to Render Beef Tallow
Ingredients & Materials:
- A large stock pot (mine was 8 quarts)
- A cutting board
- A sharp knife
- Glass bowls
- A wooden spoon
Step 1: Cut the suet into 1″ cubes.
Step 2: Carefully remove any leftover muscle meat or blood vessels (you don’t want these parts in the pot, so cut around them and throw them to animals or in the trash).
Step 3: Once your fat is cut, fill your pot with it before placing the pot on the stove, uncovered, over very low heat (you want it to melt, not burn). After a while, the fat will start to melt. There will be partially melted chunks that are greenish-yellow.
Step 4: Keep stirring your pot every 20 – 30 minutes so that more and more of the chunks get to the bottom and start melting. After a couple of hours, your fat will have cooked down some, and you’ll have mostly partially melted chunks and lots of liquid fat.
Step 5: Start pouring off some of the liquid fat. Get a glass bowl (please, no plastic; it could melt the plastic and certainly leach harmful chemicals out. Fat and heat are the two things that cause the most leaching, so putting this in plastic is a big no-no!) and a sieve and pour the fat through it carefully.
Step 6: Return your pot to the stove and keep stirring it. Over the next couple of hours, you’ll keep stirring and pouring off melted fat. Eventually, you’ll get down to maybe 15-20% of the volume you originally had, and the bits won’t seem to melt anymore. This is normal. Your fat will not completely melt. These leftover bits are called “cracklins,” and they are edible! Keep cooking until these bits are nice and crispy. You may not want to pour off the last bit of liquid fat, especially if it has tiny browned bits. It will make your tallow gritty and weird.
The cracklins are good to eat, so go ahead and toss a little sea salt on them and have a snack! Remember: cracklins are pure fat, so you won’t want to eat too many (hard on the tummy!).
Step 7: Allow your fat to cool. It’ll turn from that greenish-yellow color back to a creamy-white color when it solidifies. Put a lid on it and store it in your pantry for about a month or in your freezer indefinitely.
That’s it! That’s not so hard, is it? It does take about 5 hours or so from start to finish, but other than cutting the fat, it’s not much hands-on time. I got about 25 cups of one fat piece, which will last months. So, considering how long it will last, that’s really not too bad!
Also, note that this method renders any type of fat — lard, lamb, duck fat, etc. Any raw fat can be rendered the exact same way.