Tallow? What’s Tallow?
Before I get into the “how to”, let me first answer a question many of you are likely pondering at this moment.
Tallow is another name for rendered beef fat. Rendering tallow is the process of taking the hard fat from the cow, mainly from around the kidneys and loin area, and turning it into a shelf-stable fat that you can cook with, add to animal feed, or even make soap and candles. At room temperature it is a solid, and can be stored without refrigeration for extended periods of time.
What’s It Good For?
Tallow is a very stable fat, perfect for frying. Traditional cultures value tallow for its health benefits (it’s one of the good fats for your body).
I use it when I fry eggs, turkey bacon, and chicken sausage. I just put a tbsp or so in the pan as it heats up, to help these foods cook without sticking to the pan. I also use tallow to season my cast iron pans, and to keep them greased after each washing. If you do any deep frying… I came across a hush puppies recipe I wanna try… tallow is a perfect fat to use for that as well.
Where Can I Get Beef Fat?
Every year we buy beef in bulk from a farmer friend who sends his steers to the butcher for processing. They trim the fat from each cut of meat, and package it separately. I always request the fat from our portion of the order.
If you don’t have access to a farmer, the meat section at the grocery store might have some fat laying around that they wouldn’t mind letting you have. Doesn’t hurt to ask!
I rendered beef tallow for the first time last week. I’ve had a little over 10 lbs of fat sitting around in the bottom of our freezer from the last time we bought 1/4 cow from our farmer friend, which I’ve been needing to process. We’ll have another order of beef coming to us in about a month, so I’ve been working my way through the freezer, trying to make room for the new meat.
It sounds a little intimidating at first, but rendering fat is super easy. Basically you’re just melting it down, straining off the impurities, and storing it up for cooking, soapmaking, or candles.
Here’s a little pictorial…
Some people recommend that you cut off any meat from the fat before melting it down, and other people say not to bother because the meat will just cook off. I went with the middle ground and cut off meat if there seemed to be an excessive amount on the fat, leaving the minor stuff alone.
My crockpot held 5 lbs of fat. I didn’t add any water to it, just dumped the fat right in. I set it on low and let it cook overnight.
I put the leftover fat back in the crockpot for another day and was able to get almost another quart of tallow from it. The meat that remained was cooked, and although it’s safe for you to eat I chose to feed it to the dog- it was still pretty fatty.
I put the lids and rings on the jars while they were still hot, so that the lids would seal. Not something you have to do, but I felt like it might help preserve it a little better that way. You definitely want to store tallow in an airtight container to keep it from spoiling.
It has a pungent odor, which isn’t very pleasant at all, honestly. I’m hoping that’s normal and not an indication that it might be spoiling already. If you keep tallow in the fridge it will last longer, though it doesn’t require refrigeration. I’ve got most of my jars sitting in my canning pantry, since I don’t have room in the chest fridge for them. I suppose if they start to spoil before I can cook with them, I’ll use them for another project like soap or candles.
Which Method Do I Prefer?
Since the rending process continued through the night and into the next day, the Crockpot ended up being my favorite rendering method. The stovetop worked just fine, but I don’t like leaving the burner on over night for safety reasons. Next time I render fat, I’ll throw it all in the crockpot. Although, once we go off-grid I’ll have to start rendering over a wood cook stove or a fire like they did back in the day. A post for a future time.
Anyways, those are just my observations.