Whether you’re looking for a more natural (and delicious!) fat for cooking with, or want to make candles, lotions or soaps, in this post we’ll go over how to make tallow from beef fat.
What is Tallow?
Tallow is simply beef (or lamb) fat that has had the impurities removed.
When you find fat during the butchering process, you’ll find it generally under the skin and around the kidneys. When you remove this fat, you can often get bits of meat, silver skin, and organs still attached to it.
Heating it up slowly turns the fat (which has a lower boiling point) to liquid while the impurities remain solid. Then you can easily scoop the solids out. (Also called cracklings and often fried up in the fat and eaten as a snack!)
This process is called rendering.
Tallow became a household term with the paleo movement. The paleo movement shone light on the wisdom of eating like our ancestors.
More recently, ancestral eating and simply just a conscious realization that humans have not adapted as fast as our food system has, and that things like vegetable oils and margarines are not as healthy as they would like us to believe, have led people to look at other options.
And I tell you what – home grown potatoes, fried in tallow? There’s nothing like it.
Tallow has also traditionally been used to make soaps and candles.
Pioneers would create lye out of wood ashes and water, mix it with tallow and they had a very inexpensive, effective soap.
Candles were simply tallow, melted down around a wick and poured into any vessel that could contain it.
Tallow vs. Lard
If tallow is the rendered beef fat used in cooking, lard is the rendered fat from pigs.
On cows, you’ll generally only harvest the fat around the kidneys, whereas on a pig you can also harvest the fat under the skin (known as backfat).
In a side-by-side comparison you may be able to taste the “pork-i-ness” in lard and the cow-ness in tallow.
How to Make Tallow
To make tallow, you must warm beef fat or suet up gently just to the point where the fat liquifies, but the meat and other tissues do not. Then you can strain the solid bits out and you’re left with pure fat.
We buy our beef suet from our local farmer, but try butcher shops nearby if you don’t have a local beef farmer.
To facilitate this, you need to cut your suet into very small pieces and heat it very gently.
Some blogs I read recommended using a food processor to cut your suet into very small pieces, but I found this to be more of a pain that it was worth.
It heated up and clogged up the food processor and even cleaning the food processor after using it was a pain, so I simply cut it into small pieces by hand.
I heat mine in my instant pot on the slow cook setting. Even the low setting on other crockpots burnt my tallow. Burnt tallow will not solidify at room temperature and will have a “cooked” smell to it.
If you burn your tallow, you can always mix it with bird seed and make homemade suet blocks for the wild birds.
Once you believe all of the fat has liquified, run it through a fine sieve.
And of course, enjoy!