Two Ways To Render Tallow: Crockpot or Stovetop

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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!

Rendering Tallow…

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…

fat to render
This is what the fat looks like when it comes back from the butcher. It’s vacuum packed in plastic to keep it from getting freezer burn. I had to let it mostly thaw out in the fridge overnight before I could start cooking it down. You do want it to remain partially frozen so that it’s easier to cut into chunks. Cut the fat into 1-2″ pieces so that it melts down more quickly.

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.

rendering fat crockpot
I decided to try rendering in the crockpot and the stovetop to see if there was any difference, or if I had a preference for one or the other.

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.

rendering fat stovetop
My large stockpot held about 6 lbs of fat. Again, I didn’t add any water to the pot, just filled it up and turned the heat to medium. It took a long time to cook down. I left it on low overnight, and turned it back up the next day to continue melting.

rendering fat crockpot
Here’s what the crockpot looked like as the fat was melting down.

rendering fat
And here’s the tallow rendering in the stockpot.

rendering straining
When most of the fat has turned to liquid, strain it through a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer to get every bit of solid pieces out.

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.

Here’s what the tallow looked like before it cooled. I was worried because it was such a dark golden color, and all of the pictures I’d seen of tallow were white.

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.

I was thrilled the next day when I checked on my tallow and it had solidified and turned a beautiful creamy white. From about 11 lbs of fat I ended up with 4 quarts of tallow.

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.

Have you ever rendered tallow? What’s your favorite way to use it?

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14 thoughts on “Two Ways To Render Tallow: Crockpot or Stovetop”

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  2. Do you find that tallow leaves a waxy film on food? I haven’t found a food use for tallow yet that I like. I wish it were a better substitute for lard, not that I don’t like lard, but sometimes beef fat is easier to come by. We haven’t tried using it in baked goods yet. Maybe if the fat were incorporated in things it wouldn’t leave that greasy-waxy film.

  3. I’ve rendered pig fat on the stovetop. I imagine the crockpot would take some of the smokiness out of the process. I will definitely try that method next time.

  4. I rendered tallow a few years ago. My husband said if I ever wanted to do it again I’d need to do it outside πŸ™‚ it did smell really strong and unpleasant. I used some to make bread but the flavor was so strong even then that I couldn’t bring myself to cook with it again. I much prefer cooking with lard. But I’m still glad I didit. Such a neat process watching it change from yucky chunks of fatty meat to usable fat. I’d loveto try it with other meats.

  5. Hi Kendra, Did you know that you can render lard in the microwave? I think that I remember that you got rid of yours but you can always use someone elses πŸ™‚ I have the butcher grind it otherwise small chunks like you. Start to finish in an afternoon!
    Just fill a large bowl with your fat chunks. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of baking soda. (This makes it white as snow) Microwave on high until all the fat is melted. All the fibers and any wierd stuff will float on top. then strain and can. To be extra safe I always waterbath mine for 15 to 20 minutes. it stores great for years. Any jars that look “iffy” after a few years I use for soap or just hang on to for soap or candles later. I have jars that I sealed 15 years ago that still haven’t lost their seal. But I don’t think I’d eat it, ha! Thanks for all your hard work. Oh, and Kenny says hi.

  6. When we get a whole beef, it doesn’t come with the fat, but it does come with the bones. I make a really big pot or two of beef broth to can. I include also the short ribs because they have been just too fatty for our liking for meat. I also include make a chuck steak or two for flavor. After the broth is done cooking, I strain out the bones and meat and set the broth outside (I make sure it’s a cold day before I start the whole process) so the fat solidifies on top.

    Next I pull off the fat and scrape the bottom if there’s gunk on it. Then I do add it with some water to “wash” it. I repeat the setting outside process. I also save other beef fat from cooking if something has been particularly fatty.

    I don’t use it for cooking, but we did make soap last year. It smelled better than my grandma’s used to πŸ™‚

  7. I think I read that from a book I have about making soap. Anyway, food for thought about the leftovers of your cooked fat, I took mine and roll in a little peanut butter to make balls and then hung out for the birds to eat. They loved it. Course I’m sure the dog did as well. Just a thought!

  8. A few years ago, I rendered a bunch of beef fat for making soap. I did my research on how to and it instructed me to wash the oil after I rendered it down from fat to oil. I followed the process you did up to the point of putting it in jars, then returned it to a pot and for every part of oil, I used 2 parts of water. I cooked it like this for about 2 more hours. Then poured the oil and left over water into a glass bowl, placed in the fridge and left it overnight. Next morning, the tallow was so pretty and white. Tallow to top and water on bottom was dumped. I scraped off bottom of tallow to remove any left over particles that came through my cheesecloth. Yours looks great so not sure if the washing is necessary. You can do chicken fat and pork fat like this too, although I never have. I never knew you could use this fat for cooking and such. Nice to know and I have plenty of tallow still left. Thanks for the information. Amazing how useful basic scraps that most folks toss are to some of us.


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