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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jun

How to Render Beef Tallow

fat2As I wrote yesterday’s post, I realized that I’d never actually made my own beef tallow from scratch. I’ve collected plenty of bacon grease in my day, and I’ve made schmaltz and used beef drippings from roasts as cooking fats, but never beef tallow. In fact, I almost never hear about it, even in Primal circles. It’s either lard, duck fat, or ghee getting all the attention. Hey, those are all great, delicious fats, and they deserve their prestige, but I like sticking up for the little guy. I like an underdog. In this case, of course, the little guy comes courtesy of a big cloven-hoofed ungulate.

To render beef tallow, you need to get your hands on some raw beef fat.

It’s called suet, and the best stuff for rendering is going to be solid and firm. Most suet comes from the tissue surrounding the kidneys and the loins, but any hard beef fat will do. What I did was buy steak and roast trimmings from a butcher. It wasn’t grass-fed, unfortunately, but it was from clean, organic meat from a guy who really knew his stuff. It was also incredibly inexpensive (I paid two bucks for around three pounds) and just about the only source of raw beef fat I could find on short notice. If you can find a good butcher that deals with grass-fed meat, I’d imagine buying the fat trimmings is still fairly inexpensive and completely worth the extra effort.

I don’t know whether my batch was suet or not (I suspect there was at least a bit, judging from the thick, hard pieces that felt like cold butter when you sliced into them), and it did look a little ragged and hastily thrown together, but it was still fat. I wasn’t going to let a little uncertainty slow me down, for I was armed with the knowledge that fat can always be rendered.

DSC 0082

I threw my motley crew of beef fat onto the cutting board, grabbed my chef’s knife, and began to cut the fat into cubes. I’d read tons of contradictory information about particle size, with some recipes calling for larger, 1-inch cubes and others claiming finely diced or shredded fat got the best yield. My experience with rendering pre-shredded buffalo kidney fat was painless and easy, so I went for shredded. I figured the more surface area, the better. As I cut more and more and trimmed more and more, however, I realized that tossing a bunch of room temperature fat cubes into the food processor was asking for a congealed mess. The solution? Freeze the cubes.

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So, after trimming the fat completely and removing all attached muscle meat and bloody tissue (see pic of me holding up a speck in my fingers) (this step is crucial, because meat and blood will only burn and ruin the purity of your tallow), I threw the whole lot into the freezer for a couple hours.

DSC 0083

You don’t want completely frozen and you don’t want completely… thawed? You want the middle. You want a texture like sorbet (mmmm, beef sorbet anyone?) or cold butter. After two hours, into the processor they went, and twenty seconds of pulsing got me the shredded (yet still intact) fat I needed.

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This is where I had to make a huge decision. Was I going to do a dry-render over the stove in a high quality pot, or was I going to do a wet-render and get the potentially purest tallow by boiling and then separating fat from water? I’d read about several different ways to render fat, but I chose two that seemed to make the most sense. The wet-render sounded tempting, if a bit messy and time-consuming, but I eventually passed on it. I settled on doing the traditional dry-render over super low heat on the stove top along with an oven render at 250 degrees. For both, I used reinforced cast-iron pots (from Martha Stewart, no less!) and about a pound of shredded fat in each.

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The plan was to cook it long, slow, and low while noting the differences between the two methods and ultimately choosing a “winner.” The stove top fat started rendering almost right away, even with just a tiny flicker of a flame doing the heating. After about 20 minutes, the first sign of “cracklins”began to show: light brown shriveled up pieces of (former) fat bubbling around inside the newly rendered fat. I was initially worried that I was going too fast too soon, but that wasn’t the case. The cracklins were great, and they never burned. The fat remained pure and clear.

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In the oven, things were slow going. I had set the timer for two hours, and an hour into it there was a decent layer of rendered fat accruing. There were no cracklins to be seen, only soggy grayish chunks of fat. An hour and a half into it, cracklins were everywhere – almost as many as in the stovetop pot. Neither pot smoked nor burned; neither source of rendering fat gave off a foul odor (although my dog did set up camp right in front of the oven, no doubt hoping for stray splatters). I was a little worried that I’d mess it up somehow, but I didn’t. Both pots of fat fully rendered without burning. The stove top took about an hour and twenty minute to fully render (1 pound, shredded, over ultra low heat), while the oven pot took closer to two hours at 250 degrees F.

I’d also read that I might have to clarify my tallow – to remove random miniscule bits, flecks of meat, crumbled up cracklin that could mar the purity of the fat. Much to my surprise, there really wasn’t a need for clarification. I used a fine mesh strainer and it was completely sufficient. The result was pure, delicious tallow that turned white in the fridge and was easy to scoop. If you look really closely, you can see some specks at the bottom of the jars, but you’d really have to stare.

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From my experience, both methods work equally well. If you like stay in the kitchen and tend to your dishes, go with the stove top method. As long as you keep an eye on it and keep the fat from sticking to the bottom, your fat will render much faster this way. If you want to go do other stuff while it renders, use the oven method. Other than keeping the heat low and occasionally popping in for a quick stir and scrape, you can pretty much set the clock and forget about the rendering.

Anyone ever use the wet-render method? Got any tips for my next batch of tallow? Let me know!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. We render 20 pounds of beef tallow a week. Done that the last 6 months.

    After much trial and error we found the VERY BEST way (and most tasty) to make it is the following:

    1. Grind the fat in a meat grinder (I use coarse setting). Or cut in small pieces if you don’t have a grinder.

    2. Add to a big pot.

    3. Put pot in the oven at 90 degrees celsius (195 F).

    4. Stir after a few hours.

    4. Keep in the oven for 24 hours (depending on size of batch). Ours is 10 pounds at a time.

    5. Filter the tallow.

    The tallow tastes so much better, when done on relatively low heat and slow rendering. It has a nice beef flavor.

    Highly recommended.

    PER wrote on April 12th, 2011
  2. Accidentally made tallow (sort of) one time and used it for a week. Didn’t know it was even called tallow. I just used my George Foreman for some burgers one night–which is designed to collect fat in a little dish. Since becoming primal, I thought…why let all that fat go to waste? So I used it until it was gone. Awesome stuff!

    Leo wrote on August 5th, 2011
  3. I live in Oregon and we get our beef from my parents-in-law who grow the cattle just for family. I always get all their bones because they don’t know what to do with them. I make a lot of mineral-rich bone broth and the by-product is a lot of beef fat.

    When I make beef bone stock, I skim most of the fat and place it in a jar. Once it hardens, I break it apart to remove the layer of broth at the bottom. I later read that this is basically the “wet rendering” process.

    So I end up with a mineral rich broth and a side of tallow. The proverbial two birds with one stone.

    Sara R wrote on August 22nd, 2011
    • That’s what we do with all the meat we make stock from! I have two bags in the fridge- one of beef tallow and one of chicken fat… whatever that’s called! I’ve started using the fats instead of olive oil, which apparently has a much lower smoke point and should not be used for cooking.

      I didn’t realize I could use it to deep fry- this is going to make our Popplers (… because we’re sort of morbid. They’re really just tiny little chicken nuggets.) even MORE super-delicious than when I cook them in peanut oil!

      Kyoki wrote on January 30th, 2012
  4. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

    zyngachipscheats wrote on September 4th, 2011
  5. So would somebody please post the definitive rendering method. We have just killed a cow and have never rendered before and would like to try our hands.

    Thank you

    Caroline wrote on September 8th, 2011
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    Bruce wrote on September 13th, 2011
  7. I used the fat the rose to the top after making bone broth – there was a really thick layer. After chilling, the bone broth was gelatinous and the fat easily came off the top. I used the fat to brown the meat for beef tips and Mexican shredded beef. It browned really nicely – it was my first time using the fat. I have been buying 1/2 beeves for the past 4 years or so but never thought/knew to ask for the fat. I always ask for the bones and in the past threw out the fat that rose to the top after chilling! Wow – wish I could go back in time! This year I will ask for the suet and fat trimmings.

    NorCalGirlDiver wrote on October 2nd, 2011
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    shelbyville tn dog groomer wrote on December 7th, 2011
  9. I’ve just rendered my first batch of grass fed beef fat and am concerned that I may have over-rendered it. Is this possible? After straining through cheesecloth, the remaining solids were a dark brown, the tallow has the appearance of a latte with extra cream.

    Also, has anyone tried infusing the rendering fat with cloves of garlic or sprigs of fresh herbs adding towards the end of cooking time? Would love to hear back from you more experienced tallow men/women. Thanks so much.

    Camille wrote on December 9th, 2011
  10. I’m going to render for the first time today as I’m a soaper and have heard that beef tallow makes superior shaving soap.

    Just a tip: country butcher shops often just dispose of the fat and other ‘extras’. I get mine for free. They even separated out the kidney fat for me.

    Dana wrote on December 10th, 2011
  11. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your website.

    free psp downloads wrote on February 13th, 2012
  12. How to Render Beef Tallow | Mark's Daily Apple I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are incredible! Thanks! your article about How to Render Beef Tallow | Mark's Daily AppleBest Regards Cindy

    invest liberty reserve wrote on February 13th, 2012
  13. Great post. And the comments gave me lots of ideas. Since I actually have the “Fat” cook book I’m gonna go check that out. I figure since my 5lbs beef fat came from Whole Foods it probably does not have any “toxins” in it. :-p Now I’m off to tallow!

    Diana wrote on March 3rd, 2012
  14. So I just tried this, but…ahem…modified the method slightly. After cooking dice-sized pieces in the crockpot for a while, I got impatient and hit them all with a stick blender. Now I have fat, but it’s yellow with a lot of floaters too small for the strainer. Did I ruin my batch?

    Nelly wrote on March 12th, 2012
  15. “You want a texture like sorbet (mmmm, beef sorbet anyone?)”

    I made lard ice cream once. It was particularly strange.

    Michael wrote on April 15th, 2012
  16. I was using Sally Fallon’s recipe for beef stock yesterday and in the recipe she mentions another recipe which uses the fat from the stock to make tallow. I already planned on using your recipe for the extra fat I picked up from the butcher when grabbing my quarter beef the other day but thought it was nice to have the Nourishing Traditions version to compare. She heats the fat on medium/high heat but this is using the already liquid/strained fat from the stock so this would just be to clarify the tallow that was rendered from cooking the stock. I haven’t tried her method yet but do have the extra fat from the butcher in a saucepan cracklin’ away as I type. I have it on medium/low heat now because low heat wasn’t getting things working fast enough. It has been about an hour and 5 minutes and the fat chunks aren’t browned yet. Maybe I’ll turn the heat up to medium for a bit to speed things up. Thanks for the great instructions!

    Greg wrote on June 23rd, 2012
  17. Hello, Mark! Judging from the picture, those pieces of fat are trimmings rather than true suet. In any case, please see this webpage on the easiest way to render tallow…our “secret” method!:

    http://www.vintagetradition.com/how-to-make-tallow-balm-at-home.php

    Kenneth Gardner wrote on September 5th, 2012
  18. We bought a side of beef, and I rendered about ten pounds of the fat using Mark’s dry method as outlined in his blog post. The result is beautifully white a room temperature, but it is as hard as a brick! I know tallow is used in candles and soap, as well as cooking. But, I thought the rendered tallow would be scoopable or cutable at room temp. Any of you experienced suet renderers have any suggestions?

    Brad Dawkins wrote on October 13th, 2012
  19. If you’re going to render fat into tallow then I feel the best use for it is for making Pemmican. Once you’ve got tallow you’re half way there. Just make some beef jerky, shred it and mix. Of course there are more details to the instructions but that’s all the big steps involved. I made my first batch two months ago with no trouble at all. It’s nutritious, Primal, calorie dense and it keeps for years. I was concerend about the taste and texture after reading reveiws but I liked it right away and have since grown to actually crave it. My wife and kids think it’s ok. I tried plain and a few different seasonings and all were good. Great for back packing.

    Nisseman wrote on October 22nd, 2012
  20. First, thank you for all of the great information on your site! I have rendered beef tallow from suet a few times with WONDERFUL results but this last time it had an odd flavor. It tastes like tallow but with this weird background flavor that I can’t pinpoint. Does winter suet taste different than spring/summer suet? Any other thoughts?

    Tara Leigh wrote on November 19th, 2012
  21. Can you use this tallow for baking cakes or making biscuits?
    Will they not have a meat taste once baked?

    blkpanther wrote on December 6th, 2012
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    site empires wrote on December 12th, 2012
  23. I am set to start rendering tallow from a buffalo I recently “harvested” The front shoulders were made into jerky. The rest is being cut and packaged. I use a large cast iron pan set in the oven. I strain the melted fat through a cloth into a soup pan of water which has a potato sliced in the bottom. Then I simmer the tallow in the soup pan for 30 minutes or so to claify it even more. Sit it outside to cool (today it is 1 above) Take the solid cooled piece off the top and remelt it to put it into a container for storage.

    Bat wrote on December 29th, 2012
  24. Great article, I’ll def. try it. Also got some tips from the comments. Yet, a question: Has anyone tried to render a mix of suets, both from a gresfed cow and a lamb (for example). As I have bits from both, thought of mixing it. You say? thanks

    ayelet wrote on February 12th, 2013
  25. how do you store tallow and for how long?

    Tami O wrote on February 15th, 2013
  26. How & for how long do you store tallow?

    Tami O wrote on February 15th, 2013
  27. I guess I “wet-rendered”. Didn’t know what it was called. But after acquiring a quarter of a grass-fed cow from an organic farmer, I just roasted the bones until brown. Covered them with boiling water in a huge pressure cooker (we have a food business, so that was easy). Cooked it for hours on low, making an incredible bone broth. Afterward, strained and let the brew cool. The fat rose to the top- a good 4 lb. or so of tallow. Whoo-hoo!

    Jennifer Cote wrote on May 31st, 2013
  28. Before I had children I hunted a lot. One of my favorite meats – bear. My favorite tallow – bear. I had jars of it in the kitchen window. I could tell the weather would be changing by the way the tallow looked/changed in the jar!

    MoniqueWS wrote on July 13th, 2013
  29. Proper beef suet is rendered from the fat surrounding the kidneys.
    Fat from other parts of the animal produce what we call lard or dripping which (nice as they are), is not the same thing at all and do not produce the same texture or taste,
    For certain traditional pies, Mince Pies, Pork pies, which require a specific pastry, or for Christmas Pudding, etc ONLY beef kidney suet will do.
    Ask your butcher for beef kidney fat (preferably from an organic farmer that he knows), cut it up into small pieces and very gently heat it in a frying pan. Let it take it’s time. You can not rush it.
    Strain the fat through a fine cloth into a rectangular mould and let it cool to room temperature. Once it has set wrap it in grease proof paper and freeze it. You can cut pieces off as you need them and it will last for many months.
    There are no short cuts to the best.
    PS the little pieces of golden fat that are left in the frying pan go on to the bird table to feed the birds in winter. They love it and you may find some interesting feathered visitors appearing.

    Ian wrote on July 24th, 2013
  30. Hi Mark – I was looking for ideas for using my freshly rendered beef tallow and stumbled upon your site. We have a local farmer (in Vermont) who processes one or two cows in the fall and spring, and I was lucky enough to score all the animal fat at no cost! He would have just buried it. I also found a website that shows how to render the fat in a slow cooker (crockpot). This worked so simply, I can’t believe it! I didn’t clean off any of the bits of meat, and didn’t cut it up at all, but plopped a whole bunch of fat in my crockpot, set it on low, and left it for 24 hours. Voila – skimmed off the clear beef tallow this evening – didn’t even need to be strained. Now what do I do with it? Haven’t eaten fried food in years. Just transitioned to paleo a couple weeks ago, and I’m about to embark on the Whole30

    lori wrote on October 14th, 2013
    • I’ll add it to my list of post ideas. Stay tuned!

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 14th, 2013
  31. Mark
    your Cuisinart needs a cleaning. just saying..=)

    Ingrid wrote on October 16th, 2013
  32. I find that rendering tallow in a pressure cooker saves preparation time and cooking time without any oxidation of the fat. I have to be careful to remove all water before storing as I have had a batch grow mould because I left some water in the container (good lesson). Otherwise easy and fast.

    Glen0 wrote on October 21st, 2013

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