How to Render Tallow

The fat from grass-fed cattle is coveted (by nutrient-savvy consumers), due to its rich content of health-promoting nutrients.

Among the most notable nutrients: the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), which are only available in abundance in the meat, fat, milk and eggs of pastured livestock.

(The exception is that natto, a fermented soy product, also contains high levels of a form of vitamin K… but how much of that do you eat on a regular basis?! Furthermore, the form of vitamin K in grassfed meats and fats is more bioavailable than in natto. Therefore: more fatty meat, please!)

The more an animal (such as a cow) eats lush grasses and other greens, the deeper the colour of their milk, butter and fat. The golden colour is testament to the nutrients in the plants being converted to vitamin K2 by the microbes in the rumen, becoming some of the most needed nutrients for good health.

This is something that isn’t seen in grain-fed animals; it’s a special part of grass-fed livestock.

Two type of beef fat: solid on the left, and soft on the right. Both can be rendered into tallow.

Two type of beef fat: solid on the left, and soft on the right. Both can be rendered into tallow.

To get the most use of the beef fat, it needs to be rendered into tallow.

“Beef fat” is the raw fat that is cut away from the meat.

“Tallow” is the purified beef fat; the result of cooking it at a low temperature to separate the liquid from the solid parts of the fat. In essence, this multiplies its uses, and gives it a longer shelf life.

Side note: tallow is the name for the rendered fat from any ruminant, such as cattle, goats, lambs, deer, etc.

There are basically 3 types of beef fat: solid, soft, and suet. The suet is found around the kidney area, and the hard and soft fats cover the meat. Any fat can be rendered into tallow, but the fats can also be rendered separately for different uses.

Check out how to use them here.

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METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 - 300F.

  2. Cut the fat into small pieces. Ideally, the fat should be in pieces that are in 1-inch cubes or smaller.

    Alternately, the fat can be processed through a grinder to break up the fat into very small pieces. This is only recommended if you have a large grinder (for large quantities of fat) or a small quantity of fat (to run through a small grinder).

  3. .Place the fat in a deep pan. The pan can be filled to the rim, but the fat should not be heaped above the top of the pan

  4. Roast the fat for about half an hour, then gently stir it so that it cooks evenly.

  5. Roast the fat for about another 30 - 60 minutes (the timing depends on the quantity in your pan), and by this time, there should be liquid fat in the bottom of the pan.

    Carefully pour off this fat (or use a ladle), reserving some fat in the pan.

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  1. After another 30 - 60 minutes, pour off the remainder of the liquid. The fat is completely rendered when the original chunks are about 1/2 to 1/4 their original size, and no more liquid can be pressed out of them. They will likely be medium to dark brown at this stage. If you’re processing a lot of fat in a large pan, this could take up to 4 - 5 hours in total.

  2. When the liquid fat is hot, pour it through a fine mesh strainer into your chosen containers (such as: jars, bread pans, muffin tins, etc). Set them aside to cool, and then transfer them to storage.

  3. If you’ve poured the tallow into bread pans, chill the tallow thoroughly, then turn the pans upside down to release the tallow. Package the blocks tightly in air-tight packages to freeze.

  4. Reserve the cracklings for future use.

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USE & STORAGE

There are so many delicious ways to use tallow, it’s worthy of its own blog post.

Tallow can be kept for weeks in the refrigerator, months (or up to 2 years) in the freezer, and for up to a week at room temperature. It will keep the best in air-tight packaging, and by using clean utensils when dipping into it.

Tallow is harder than butter at room temperature, and will need to be chipped / cut off the block when it’s chilled. For this reason, I prefer to store mine in blocks instead of jars — there’s less chance of a jar breaking, when trying to chip out some tallow!

Have you made tallow before? Leave your comments (and questions) below!


Deanna van den Dries