Friday, February 28, 2014

Rendering Tallow {Quick Method}

Oh, how to find eloquent enough words to describe the slightly repugnant process of rendering tallow? First off, maybe we could begin with what tallow is. Tallow is the rendered fat that surrounds the kidneys in an animal such as a cow. Once rendered, the fat is very similar to lard in appearance and functionality in the kitchen and it has a high smoke point. Which makes tallow an ideal candidate for deep-frying foods, like french fries. In fact, according to Wikipedia, McDonald's used tallow to fry it's world famous french fries until the early 90's when the no-fat fad became the newest obsession. Some people use the unrendered tallow as suet or food for birds. But, I'm not like most people. I use it for cooking because it is a rich source of CLA fat, an anti-cancer fighting agent. Terriffic! Bring on the tallow! According to Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hale and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard. 

But seriously, people - this isn't for the faint of heart. I'm leaving all photos small because no one wants to see rendering tallow in photos up close.  After a quick web search on rendering tallow I was barely patient enough to find two different methods. One method ground the tallow in a food processor, my processor has a 4-cup capacity. Guess how long grinding 8 pounds of tallow would take? Three days. No thanks. The second method suggested boiling the chopped fat in water first. I see how that adds no benefit. Let's review. Too small of a food processor and boiling in water takes too much time. Let's plow on with the Becki Let's Just Try It My Way and See How it Goes Method!

                                                                                       First, chop your fat - sounds fun doesn't it? I used the fat of 1 cow - about 8 pounds of suet total. You'll need a sharp knife with a longish blade. The cutting board is going to get greasy and gross as are your fingernails. Don't worry - it'll wash off, but I'd advise against using a porous cutting board. Some blogs will tell you to chop the fat into 1" cubes. Are you kidding me? I'd be chopping all day long, people! I just don't have the patience (read: demanding day job)  for that (next time I'll have the butcher grind it). Apparently the smaller the chop, the better the rendering. But, my theory is that if my end product is lesser 1 cup of fat, so be it. My chopping arm is that less sore. When your chopping try to get as many of the stringy tendon things out. That's all I will say about that. 
Now, throw your chopped offal into a big oven-proof pot. Preheat your oven to 375ºF and get ready to have your house smell like slightly burnt cow fat. It's alright. Your family won't mind. They surely will not notice the plumes of smoke coming from the oven asking: "Mom? What's going on in the kitchen?" You will try to torture them by assuring them it's just supper cooking, and not to worry.                      

After the offal cooks for about an hour and a half you'll check on it and to see what looks like State Fair Cheese Curds! Sadly, no, those are not cheese curds. That would be so much more appetizing than the burnt remains of cow kidney fat. I pierced the skins (? I don't know if it's skin - but it's the stuff I didn't grind up or cut  out with my knife) with a sharp fork, my hand narrowly missing the opportunity of a searing hot oil burn with each stab, attempting to get the fat from inside the little skin bubbles to seep out and that worked a teensy bit, but this was pretty much the waste. 
Now strain the cheese curds into a bowl and forget about them. Throw them into the trash. You'll never see them again. They are not cheese curds. Stop thinking they are because they smell like death and you  are almost done with this Godforsaken project hilarious deed. I mean seriously, who are you kidding? You're going to use this stuff?! Admit it! It's just going to sit in your pantry for 3 years getting smellier and smellier. 
Other blogs advised straining with a paper towel or some other such nonsense. Sha ha ha! I am pouring this fiercely hot oil right into the plastic ice cream pail full of BPA chemicals that will most certainly leech into my tallow just so I can fully negate any of the CLA cancer fighting agents that I so proudly proclaimed when this whole shenanigan began. Now, put it in the garage to cool and say a quick prayer that the plastic decides to hold up to that hot grease. And in case it doesn't, just put a cookie sheet under it because that will stop 16 cups of tallow from running all over my husband's garage floor.  The tallow sets up quickly, so make sure to strain it fairly fast into the container you want to store it in. The container should have a wide mouth and be airtight to prevent spoilage. I haven't used the tallow yet, it's storing in my freezer. I'll make sure to post again once I fry some potatoes in it and give you the full review!! 

Update 7/1/2015: Having tallow in my pantry was amazing! I adored the texture and supreme buttery flake of pie crusts, like Smitten Kitchen's Slab Pie or especially savory meat pies, like this Hamburger Broccoli Pie one. I deep fried potatoes into french fries and my life was complete. I had wished 4 more buckets into the pantry. The tallow was very shelf stable and was in my freezer for about a year before it was all gone. I will have the butcher process the tallow into small grind next time for easier rendering. And I read somewhere that the little "cheese curds" CAN be eaten like cracklin'…hmmmm. 


  1. OMG. I want to do this. Tallow is pretty expensive but I want to have it to cook to find a place to get the fat. Where did you get yours? I think I can try a place in the next town down (all of 15 miles) and see what they have and the prices. We have one butcher in town that I know of, and I'm not sure they are a complete butcher (if that makes sense). Wonder if any of the myriad of little Mexican grocers in town have it...I think there is one that had a meat market sign on it...

  2. Hi, Susie! Thank you for leaving a comment. When my husband and I had a cow butchered, I asked the butcher to process the tallow for us. He packed it in 1 pound packages and from 1 large cow I received 5 pounds of tallow. It rendered down to about 2 hefty gallons of tallow. I believe you can contact a specialty butcher in your area and ask for tallow in ground form. I cannot stress enough — asking for it to be ground leaves out a (kinda gross) step for you (chopping hard fat)! Thanks for stopping by, and let me know how it goes! Would love to know how you use it.


I'd love to hear all about your kitchen adventures! Xo, Becki