How To Cook With Beef Tallow

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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided that cooking with animal fat is not the worst thing you can do. So I won’t bother going into an explanation of how trans fat from hydrogenated vegetable oil is the real killer. But I will point out that there are several people who will explain it all in great detail.

So, now you’re interested in how to do it. If you don’t already have some frier-ready tallow, rendering your own is cheap and (fairly) easy.

Rendering suet into tallow

Start with three pounds of suet. You can get it from your local butcher. They probably won’t have it at the grocery store.

You would think from looking at it that this would be a flabby, sticky, greasy, nasty mess. It’s actually very dry, stiff and waxy. You don’t want to handle it too much or it can start to melt. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to start cutting and it should be fine.

Dice everything into pieces about a half-inch square and put it all in a deep pan.

The one in the pictures is an 11-inch pan. Three pounds of suet filled this pan about two inches deep.

Fill the pan with enough water to just barely cover all the suet.

If you compare the photo above to the previous one you might think it looks much more than “barely covered”. You would be right. Suet floats. Fill slowly and pay attention.

Put over high heat until the water starts boiling, then turn down to medium. Cook until the water is boiled away then turn heat to low. By this point you should have lumps of mostly-rendered suet floating in hot liquid fat.

Set a second large pan or pot next to the first, and place a colander in it. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the colander, or line it with cheesecloth. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the floating suet out and into a potato ricer.

If you haven’t seen one of these before, it’s just like a garlic press but much larger. It will take quite a few loads to get everything through the ricer. Squeeze the suet out into the colander, then scrape the remains out of the ricer, also into the colander.

Once you’ve processed all the chunks through the ricer, press the fat through the colander with the back of a spoon. Remove the paper towel and all the scraps left in it and dispose of them. Put a clean paper towel in the colander and pour the fat from the first pan through it.

NOTE: You’ll be working with extremely hot fat, which can cause serious burns. Don’t try to do anything else at the same time … like take pictures. Yep, I took a break from shooting pictures. I didn’t want a repeat of the tempura flounder incident. Next time I do suet I’ll get help with the camera work.

Re-using tallow

If you’re re-using tallow, you should have stored it in a wide-mouth container, not something with a narrow opening. Otherwise you’ll have to melt it in the container to get it out. As you can see in the next photo, I kept mine in two small bowls.

A half-minute in the microwave softened up the edge of the tallow just enough to slip out of the bowls.

With the frying pan over medium heat, the tallow started melting down within a minute or two.

Cooking with tallow

Tallow has a smoke point of about 420°. About the only cooking fat you’re likely to find at your local grocery store with a higher smoke point is pure olive oil — not extra virgin — or olive pomace oil. But olive oil is about twice as susceptible to rancidity, so you can’t re-use it the way you can with tallow.

Try to stay well below the smoke point. About 350° if you want to put a thermometer in it. Without the thermometer, you’ll know you’re getting too hot when it starts to look like water boiling. You want it more like this …

… than like this.

Set up the stovetop so that you don’t have to reach across the hot oil for anything.

You don’t want to be reaching across the pan when the tempura pops.

If you’re using a batter, like in the onion ring photo above, bits of it will keep coming loose from the food. Try to keep fishing them out as you go. If you leave bits of batter in until they burn, they can cause the entire batch of oil to go rancid.

Filtering and storing

When you’re done frying, you need to filter the oil before storing it. If you’ve cooked something with a flavorful coating, put a slice of potato in the oil for about five minutes after you take it off the heat. The potato will absorb most of the flavor out of the oil.

While the oil is still hot, set a metal colander over the bowl you’ll be storing in.

There are probably some plastic colanders that would stand up to this, but I’m not going to try it.

I have the colander at an angle so I can get the edge of the pan inside when I pour. The paper towel is a simple filter to catch all the bits of batter that were too small to pick out while you were cooking.

Carefully pour all the oil through the paper towel.

Using a silicone or wooden spatula, scrape as much of the oil out of the pan as possible. Anything you leave behind will harden like candle wax and be harder to clean. Scrape quickly, as the tallow in the paper towel will start to harden almost immediately.

Remove the colander and let it drip into the bowl …

… then lift the paper towel out by the corners and let that drip into the bowl also.

Let the tallow cool until it is hard and white, cover tightly with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid, and store in a cool dark place until the next time you need it.

Comments

  1. Thank You so very much! I have been reading Nurishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and discovered the benefits of animal fats and meats in our diets! Hydrogenated oils kill! I can’t wait to render the suet I just bought!

  2. Huge fan of Sally Fallon. If you haven’t already checked her out, look for Mary Enig’s stuff online. In particular The Oiling Of America, which she co-wrote with Fallon.

  3. I do not use water to render my tallow, I simply grind in in a meat grinder. And then, I put in in an enameled iron dutch oven, over low heat, and in about a half hour, all the fat seperates from whatever else is attached to it. I then use a ladel and pour it through a fine strainer into a heat resistant bowl. And then, put in containers and into the refrigerator. Whatever is left over, can be used for great dog food. I have been deep fat frying with this stuff for the last 2 years, and if you want to taste great food, this is the way to go. And by the way, deep frying with beef tallow is lot healthier than using vegetable oils. Do some homework on it, and you will see for yourself.

  4. Oh wow, I have a meat grinder now. Thanks for the great suggestion. And I’ll definitely try it without the water next time. My dog is going to thank you for the last suggestion. What do you mix it with? Or do you just pour it over his dry food?

    By the way I completely agree about the health issue. I’m a big fan of Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey guys, I have a suggestion to get fat from bone broth making. When I roast beef bones in a pyrex, I save and strain the drippings in the pans. I get about a pint of tallow for 3 lbs of marrow bones. I take a 4″ spring of rosemary, bruise it with a knife handle and place it in a widemouth glass jar with 6 black peppercorns. Por in the leted tallow and let cool. Store in fridge and use for shallow fried breads, eggs, etc. AWESOME.

  6. Anon, I’ll give that a try next time I have some bones left.

  7. Joseph Croft says:

    Drew,
    I’ve rendered my own tallow with a method I thought was a lot easier.
    After dicing up the suet, I put it in the freezer for a few minutes, then ran it through a meat grinder. This step eliminates the need to horse-around with the potato ricer at the end!
    Also, after bringing the ground suet and water mixture to a boil, I put a lid on it, and let it simmer on low heat for a good couple of hours. This extra cooking time really seamed to help break-down the suet nicely.

  8. Joseph, thanks for the tip. I didn’t have the meat grinder last time I did this, but I do now. And I’ve got some more suet in the freezer I’ve been waiting to render.

  9. Rendered 50 pounds of Elk fat and Buffalo fat this weekend. The Elk tallow hardened as expected, but the Buffalo tallow is only semi-hard (for lack of a better term). Cooked the buffalo tallow a second, then third time, and the texture hardened a slight but, but it is still not nearly as hard as I expected it to be. Have rendered Buffalo fat previously, and it hardened as expected.

    Any ideas on why this batch will not completely harden?

    Drew, if you want to try the Buffalo tallow, let me know, and I’ll send you some from the first batch. Can send some of the Elk tallow alaso.

    BR/ Jim

    • I saw your post – I would like to buy buffalo tallow if you are in a position to sell it.
      Thank you
      Lorie Stauffer

    • I just cut up a 22lb boneless beef chuck. Some will be canned. The rest will be frozen for pot roast/shredded beef. After the butchering, I had a couple of pounds of fat/connective tissue-tendon/bits of meat. Threw it into a roaster and cooked it at 400º F for a couple of hours till it was very brown, and a lot of fat had rendered off. Last night I poured it all into a stock pot and put a couple of quarts of water over it and simmered all night. This morning I added some water, strained all of the crackling-stuff out, skimmed the very clear fat into a quart jar (I got about 3 cups of clean fat) and tast-tested the nice, dark brown, beefy, aromatic broth with a pinch of salt. It was absolutely wonderful; I canned it all up in my pressure canner.

      I am going to try your onion ring recipe, fried in the beef fat. Sound delicious!

  10. Jim, I wish I could help on the consistency question, but I’ve never had that happen. And all the references I can find online are talking about making soap or candles, not cooking with it.

    I told my wife what you said about sending us some and she said, “OH MY GOD! When can he get it here? I want to do fries.” So I guess I’ll take you up on that offer.

    Email me and I’ll send you my address.

  11. Anonymous says:

    So, I'm a little confused about the picture of the fries cooked in tallow…it's not supposed to look like that?? Are you saying it needs to be hot enough to cook the fries, but not boiling? Thanks for your help!

  12. Anon, there should be bubbles coming out from the fries, but it shouldn't be boiling where the fries aren't. It's probably best to use a thermometer and know that you've got the fat at 350° than to try to guess.

  13. Anonymous says:

    My guess is that rendered fat that isn't hard probably has a higher proportion of unsaturated fats. The fats of grass-fed animals are softer than grain-fed animals. Grass-fed butter, for example, is softer than butter from grain-fed cows. Nonetheless, my one experiment with rendering suet from a grass-fed beef yielded hard fat. I will be doing more so will test this result.

    bon appetit, Ann

  14. The hardness of the tallow has to do with what part of the animal the rendered fat came from.

  15. Michael, that makes sense. I know with pork it's the leaf lard (from around the kidneys) that's preferred for cooking. Which part from beef yields the best tallow for deep frying?

  16. Hello all! I was wondering, if anybody's ever made mayonnaise w/ tallow? We love our mayo so much, but I am trying to eliminate all the free-radical oils(veggie oils) in our house. Thanks!

  17. Sarah, tallow is pretty hard at room temperature. (Unless your room is in Arizona in July.) If you wanted to use an animal fat for your mayo you'd probably be better off with lard or, like I plan on doing, bacon fat. See my previous post where someone sent me a bacon mayonnaise recipe.

    Personally, I've been making our mayo with olive oil for about the past year. Usually olive pomace oil, because it has almost no flavor of its own. If the mayo is going to go into a dressing, like ranch, I'll use the extra virgin.

    • Question for make your own deodorant folks…..If tallow stays hard at room temperature would it be good to add to deodorant? Summers mean my diy deodorant must be kept in the fridge or it melts. I don’t like to add bees wax as its hard to come by locally and cheaply. I need my wax for my floors and candles. So….if I replaced some coconut oil with tallow do you think it’d work and stay more solid?

      Thanks!
      Honey

      • Honey, I haven’t tried it, but I can assure you tallow is hard enough. Only question I’d have is whether it would start to smell like beef when it warms up on you. Filter it really well and this would probably work.

  18. Gerita Smith says:

    where can i just purchase some beef tallow, like at what grocery store

  19. Gerita, you probably won’t find it at the grocery store. If you have a butcher locally, try them. If they butcher their own beef from full sides they may have it. If not, they can order it for your.

    I can get to the West Side Market, where there are at least two butchers who regularly have tallow. But the butcher at the end of my street can also get it for me, as long as I’m willing to take five pounds or so. You can keep most of that in your freezer, and not need to buy more for a long time.

  20. dulcimerpete says:

    I see you started with 3 lbs of fat. What was your yield of rendered tallow?

    Thanks.

  21. I didn’t weigh it, but it was nearly 10 cups total. Enough to make about an inch-and-a-half deep in my 11-inch pan.

  22. Love this blog! I love doing as much as I can the old-fashioned way! Stumbled on your blog while researching some things for my soap making. I’ve never used tallow for soap but understand it’s wonderful for soap… gotta try it soon! Thanks for sharing!
    Pam… from http://pams-soap-kitchen.blogspot.com/

  23. Pam, I’ve got a question for you. Someone once asked what they can make with all the fat that a roast turkey gives up. I haven’t seen anything that it’s traditionally used for — like schmaltz for chicken fat, lard for pork or tallow for beef. Someone else suggested using it to make candles.

    So how about it? Can you make candles using the fat from a roast turkey?

  24. Hello Drew!

    Just discovered this thread (and your blog) because I am wondering about the tallow left over from making Nourishing Traditions beef bone broth. After making the broth, I cooled it in the fridge and the fat rose and hardened. I removed it and it’s a nice white brick. I guess this is tallow! Can I just wash it off and use it to cook? Or do I have to process it again?

    Thanks so much! Am glad I found your blog.

    Dawn

  25. Dawn, you’re exactly right. Just give it a good rinse and you’re done.

    Please let me know when you use it, I’d love to run an update where I point out what you can do after the bone broth.

  26. Great tips, thanks! I recently started exploring “traditional foods” (in the vein of Sally Fallon, WAPF, etc) and a friend gave me some tallow she had rendered from local grassfed beef. I know how to use lard, but have no experience with tallow, so thanks! Now I want to go fry up some potatoes, lol!

  27. Tom Sherratt says:

    I have been rendering Beef Tallow for years now, and use the enameled iron dutch oven. I get it from a local meat butcher, and have him run it thru his hamburger grinder. Works very well. I usually get around 50 lb.s (very inexpensive) and it will render approx. 4 to 5 gallon of beef lard.

  28. I was wondering if you have to store it in the fridge and how long does it stay good for? I am wanting to start using tallow vs. other oils.

  29. Sheila, if you render it properly it’s just about eternal. This is what people used to use to preserve other foods before we had refrigeration. I’ve checked mine on the hottest days in the summer and it was still pretty hard.

    Just make sure you filter it really well. If it goes bad, it will be because you had bits of meat left in it that are exposed to air and go rancid.

  30. Mel Marshan says:

    Hi,
    I just wanted to know besides roasting or frying potatoes in the tallow what else are you doing with it? Producing gallons makes me think there are many secret cooking uses for it!

  31. There’s not really gallons of it. But the magic of tallow — and the reason restaurant used to use it for deep frying (before the mis-informed health police got to them) — is that you can keep filtering and re-using it for a ridiculously long time.

  32. heather burmeister says:

    So I am a fat LOVER and love gamey stuff and organ meats and all that so I was really surprised that when i rendered suet for the first time it smelled truly vile. All my other freinds with a paleo bent to their diets thought it was vile as well. I used grass fed suet and it smelled perfectly fine before cooking. I dry rendered it in a crockpot and it went fine, yeilded a deep yellow beautiful looking fat but it smelled and tasted disgusting, like the goatiest goat meat or something like that. I promise you I’m not squeamish about animally tastes and others found it terrible too so i’m pretty sure that it truly objectively is vile. After reading everyone raving about it-I can’t help but think that I did something wrong-does it need a second render perhaps after the cracklins are gone? I don’t understand. The bone broth method yeilds a heavenly tallow, the greatest, but i was looking for a greater yeild of fat so i tried suet-i am so disappointed-any ideas?

    • Bill Haney says:

      Heather, my tallow was vile, too, when I rendered it with water. The odor was ammoniacal so I discarded it. I have not had the odor problem with fat rendered without water. Good luck.

      • Bill I just thought of something. Is it possible your water was the problem? Because when you render it you’re cooking off all the water, concentrating all the impurities that were in it when you started.

  33. How do you clean up tallow? It is like wax and I am worried that I will clog my dish disposal. Is there any beef tallow eating enzymes out there? How did they clean this up in the olden days?

  34. Cheri, in the olden days they didn’t have disposals. :-)

    You’re right, though, that you shouldn’t put this down the drain. Because cleanup can be a pain, it’s best to do it while the tallow is still melted.

    Once it hardens, if it’s somewhere you can’t re-melt it, scrape it up with a plastic spatula, or metal if it’s on something that won’t scratch like a glass-top stove. If it’s clean, remelt and strain it. Otherwise throw it in the trash.

    For spills on fabric — tablecloth, rug, etc. — put a disposable towel over it and iron on medium heat until it melts and is sucked up into the towel.

  35. So, after the tallow hardens, can I use it the same as lard in making Tamales, pie crusts etc.?

  36. No Jeff, tallow will be way too hard for that. Tallow is just for frying in. You’ll still need the lard for making Tamales and pie crust.

    This same basic recipe will work for rendering your own lard.

  37. Great, thanks!

  38. I was hoping for a alternative to Pork, but an alternative to processed shorting as well. So the beef kidney fat just hardens more than Pork lard?

  39. Pork leaf lard is from around the kidneys. The fat I’ve used for tallow comes from all over. I’ve never heard anyone say that any particular location is better for sourcing your tallow.

  40. Thanks!

  41. I just found this blog and am enjoying reading. Just moved to country and started buying all natural grass fed beef. A quarter last year, this year a half. The rancher is a retired chef from Napa CA, French trained (and also by his French grandmas). This time I went to the ranch for the kill to take some otherwise wasted parts. Kidney suet, liver, tongue, etc. Best liver and tongue ever. The rancher had talked about how wonderful it was to cook with rendered kidney suet – best fat on the beef, he says. He cooks with it, not just deep frying. So I tried it. I think I did not do entirely correctly and sadly wasted a lot. But I did get pure white tallow. Put in freezer, but now I see I don’t need to. I will try again and next time freeze and shred first and hopefully get better yield. The fat of this grass fed beef does seem to have a bit of a gamey flavor, but the tallow is really pur and almost no flavor.

    Question: How carefully do I need to clean the suet before rendering? I see I should cut out meat and other organs (several small organs embedded.) But do I need to remove the membrane? It is a lot of work to do so.

    • The more you clean it up before rendering, the less you’ll have to filter out in the last step. If you end up with a lot of waste filtered out, it’s going to hold on to more of the tallow as it cools. Any lean meat left on can also scorch if it touches the bottom of the pan, which can discolor the whole batch.

      This used to be a process that people would do in a huge kettle over an open fire over the course of several hours. Check out this description of how they used to render tallow.

  42. Drew, thanks for the response. The article was very interesting. You may note in the article that they often rendered the leaf fat from around the kidneys separately.
    When I watched the butcher skin and take the grass fed carcass apart, there seemed to be very little fat around the outside of the meat. I don’t know if it was because he was taking it right off with the skin. Any clue? I guess grass fed is leaner, but the steaks and roasts were no less tender than grocery store corn finished. Pretty well marbled, considering.

    • Beef is actually much more seasonal than we’ve been trained to expect. We know tomatoes are best in late summer and not so good the rest of the year. It’s similar with beef, especially when they’re pastured; they have more fat at the end of the summer and get leaner through the winter.

  43. Jeff, re “I was hoping for a alternative to Pork, but an alternative to processed shorting (sic) as well.”

    I just bought a container at an herb shop of “Spectrum All Vegetable Shortening.” Haven’t tried it yet for cooking (but I did use it as a moisturizer, haha), and it’s NOT hydrogenated. The only ingredient listed is “mechanically pressed organic palm oil.”

  44. I roasted some marrow bones last night, and I noticed that a lot of fat rendered and leaked out into the baking dish the bones were in. I’m wondering if all of this yellow fat at the bottom of the baking dish is tallow? I strained everything that was left at the bottom of the pan after I removed the bones. Are the solids pieces of marrow and the liquid tallow? I’m hoping it is- I’d love to make some frites!

    • Tallow is usually made from the fat that is cut out when butchering, but technically any fat you render from a cow can be called tallow.

  45. Hi, I’ve been looking for that EXACT potato ricer but have not had luck finding it. Can you please tell me where you bought it? Thanks!

    • My wife inherited this from her great aunt. It’s probably older than I am. Which is a long way of saying, “I have no idea.” We’ve got a bunch of stuff that you can’t find any more.

      Best advice is to check garage sales and estate sales.

  46. Drew,

    Thank you for posting very valuable and factual information about Beef Tallow. Animal Fats are truly the original and natural shortening for baking and frying. For deep frying French fries, onion rings, chicken, breaded zucchini, mozzarella cheese sticks, etc…, we cannot find a better frying shortening or oil than Beef Tallow. Furthermore, Beef Tallow is excellent for frying donuts and traditional pastries. The key here is too use a fully deodorized Beef Tallow that has been heated to 450F and stripped of its beef flavor using a vacuum. This process is referred to as physical refining and essentially removes the invisible traces of protein that are still in beef tallow post rendering. This process provides a cleaner and further clarified version of Beef Tallow that is more resilient and durable for deep frying.

    Besides Beef Tallow you can use Pork Lard for other traditional foods. For some a blend of Pork Lard and Beef Tallow will help make an incredibly flaky and flavorful pie crust that is unrivaled.

    The benefits of animal fats are coming full circle and its great to see people who believe in and understand that it’s the healthier frying and baking shortenings.

    Thank you Drew and others who believe in animal fats.

    Eric R. Gustafson
    CEO
    Coast Packing Company

    • Normally I don’t like comments that are plugs, but good, non-hydrogenated lard and tallow are so hard to find that I’m happy to see this one.

      For anyone who didn’t notice, his name was a link to their site, Coast Packing.

      • Drew:

        My comments were meant to applaud you and others who have taken the time to research the truth and become educated about animal fats. I am not that tech savvy and did not even know that if you clicked on my name it went to our website. I had entered the info in the 3 fields and did not know it would link our name and website. To be frank I think our website is antiquated and needs improvement. It does serve a purpose but needs work.

        Thank you for allowing me to comment. I was pleasantly surprised to come across this and could not help myself. I am very passionate about what I do and was excited to see others who believe.

        Best regards

        Eric R. Gustafson

  47. Norman Fussell says:

    I have groung hamberger already grounded up how do you add tallow to it before cooking the bergers

    • I wouldn’t add tallow to ground beef. You usually render the tallow out to use it for frying other foods, like french fries.

  48. Samantha says:

    Hi Drew!

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve been looking to render my own fat for a while, and I just contacted my local butcher this week. He said he would start saving his beef fat for me to pick up later this week. I’m really excited and have read quite a bit about it, but since he only had beef fat and not pork (they keep it to use with their sausage) I wanted to see exactly how I could use in cooking. I didn’t know that you could strain it and reuse it after frying! How many times can you do this, as long as you do not burn anything in it? I would imagine you have to stay pretty on top of it to keep anything from overcooking in it. Thanks for your help!

    • Tallow is amazingly durable. For decades tallow was what restaurants used for deep frying and you could use the same batch for weeks or more. Remember, that’s at a restaurant where they keep it hot and in use for 12-16 hours per day. So for home use? Skim after each use and filter once in a while and you could use the same batch for months or more.

      When people got scared of animal fat in the 80s — driven mostly by the aggressively vegetarian Center for Science in the Public Interest — the restaurants all switched to hydrogenated vegetable oil, which really shouldn’t be approved for human consumption. It’s horrible for you even when “fresh”, but it goes rancid so quickly it has to be deodorized during the manufacturing process. That’s right, it’s rancid before it’s sold. Restaurants have to toss it each night.

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