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

How to Render Beef Tallow

As 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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
  2. 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
  3. What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this website on a regular basis, this web site is really good and the visitors are truly sharing pleasant thoughts.

    site empires wrote on December 12th, 2012
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. how do you store tallow and for how long?

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

    Tami O wrote on February 15th, 2013
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. Mark
    your Cuisinart needs a cleaning. just saying..=)

    Ingrid wrote on October 16th, 2013
  13. 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
  14. Does anyone know where to get pure rendered lard or tallow without antibiotics, hormones, or other added chemicals in Alameda, CA?

    Peter wrote on November 28th, 2014
  15. Tallow is used in many soap & candle recipes. The guy that talked about using muslin to strain the rendered fat reminded me of cheesecloth!

    How do you think slow cooking in a crock pot would work? I am much more comfortable leaving that for long periods of time than a stove or oven.

    Michelle wrote on August 6th, 2015
    • You can absolutely do it in a slow cooker!! I commented some simple instructions below but if you have problems just look up slow cooker lard/tallow on youtube!

      Jennifer wrote on March 13th, 2016
  16. I have rendered beef fat and it is wonderful for so many uses! What I do is grind the fat in a meat grinder, then add it to a crock pot…the crock pot on low prevents burning and does a lovely job of rendering…I spoon the melted tallow out and sieve it with a simple metal sieve…works great and I love using this product for everything, except maybe toast. =D

    micki7 wrote on August 13th, 2015
  17. Thank you for this information on dry rendering. I’ve rendered beef fat a few times using the water method. Somehow, I must have always ended up with a bit of water left in the batch and it would get mold after a while. This seems like a safer way to do it and avoid any potential contaminants. I strained through a fine sieve first, then re-strained through a clean flour sack cloth. My final product is beautiful clear tallow. I can’t wait to see it when it hardens into a beautiful pure white color. :-)

    Many thanks!
    Dianna

    Dianna wrote on December 11th, 2015
  18. Hi all. You can make tallow super easy in your slow cooker or crock pot. We get the Butcher to mince all our suet and put it into 2 kg (4lb ish) bags so we can freeze it and make up tallow when we want. Just place you suet in your slow cooker with half a cup of water. Cook on low for 12 hours or so (put on at breakfast and do at night). Don’t put a lid on as you want the water to evaporate out, it’s just to help at the start. I put a tea towel over top just to keep the flys out. After 12 hours strain it through muslin cloth. If you think there’s not enough rendered out of the suet after you’ve strained then pop it back on with a touch more water.

    Jennifer wrote on March 13th, 2016
  19. Hey! I have recently started following you and every post of yours inspires me to make stuff on my own. Thanks a lot! It’s a great post.

    dark souls 3 wrote on June 30th, 2016
  20. Well this article that i’ve been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.

    emoji wrote on June 30th, 2016

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