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 traditional fat.
Tallow is an excellent source of conjugated-linoleic acid (CLA), one of the fatty acids believed to have numerous health benefits. Some of these benefits include fighting cancer, aiding in weight loss, and lowering the chances of getting type 2 diabetes. However these benefits are only found in rendered tallow from a grass-fed cow.
And I tell you what – home grown potato french fries, fried in tallow? There’s nothing like it.
We request our tallow from the local butcher when we order a side of beef but if you don’t buy a side at a time, your local beef farmer and/or butcher may still sell you raw suet.
Tallow vs. Lard
If tallow is the rendered beef fat used in cooking, lard is the rendered pork 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
The rendering process is a simple process. To make liquid 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.
If your stove top is a bit finicky, a great way to get that low temperature is to put your delicious tallow in a large bowl, overtop of a large stock pot. Add water to the bottom of the pot and create a double broiler.
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 slow cooker ran on too high temperatures and 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.
To strain it you can run the rendered fat through a thin metal strainer, cheese cloth or through a paper towel into a mason jar or other airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator.
What Can You Do With Tallow
Tallow can be used as a substitute for butter, olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. It’s high smoke point makes it ideal for frying meat and vegetables.
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. Modern days, you can mix your tallow soap with essential oils using my how to make soap post.
Tallow candles are simply tallow, melted down around a wick and poured into any vessel that could contain it.
You can also make tallow balm for another natural beauty product. Because the best tallow has fatty acids in a similar proportion to human skin, it is easily absorbed and has been used for treating rashes, burns and other skin conditions. Check out my post on old wives tales for more ideas.
Historically tallow has also been used as a lubricant in machinery, and to soften leather.
And of course, enjoy!