I almost never hear of people cooking with beef tallow, even in Primal circles. I hear about lard, duck fat, ghee, butter, olive oil, and avocado oil, but rarely tallow. 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.
Another reason to try tallow: those of you experimenting with the carnivore diet will want to mix up your cooking fats here and there. Each one has a different nutritional profile.
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. Grass-fed and grass-finished is best, but if you can’t find that, look for clean, organic meat. It should be inexpensive. 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.
Using a chef’s knife, trim off any leftover tissue (it will be red or hard) and 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. When I rendered pre-shredded buffalo kidney fat, I went for shredded. So this time, I opted for cubes so I can test both ways. Shredding and cubing both work just fine.
So, after trimming the fat completely and removing all attached muscle meat and bloody tissue (this step is crucial, because meat and blood will only burn and ruin the purity of your tallow), I ended up with small cubes. Tiny bits of red are fine. You’ll end up straining later.
Dry rendering vs. wet rendering method
Here, I could choose to dry-render over the stove in a high quality pot, or 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. I used enameled cast-iron pots and about a pound of cubed fat in each.
Stove top dry render method
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.
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 look for them.
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!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.