How To Render Beef Fat or Tallow

I’m sure that many WLSers might be wondering what in the world would I be doing posting about rendering (cleaning) your own beef fat. Aren’t we suppose to be cutting out all possible sources of fat in our diets because it’s bad? Isn’t beef fat really bad for you because it’s saturated fat? What the heck is saturated fat anyways? Which fats are saturated? Is your head going to explode yet from all these questions?

A nice discussion of fats will make a great blog post. For now however, I’m simply posting about rendering or cleaning your own beef fat. Why in the world would you do that? Well there are several reasons. The best darn french fries in the world (this is my opinion) are fried in beef fat. I would highly suggest that you don’t eat french fries on a regular basis but, if you do eat them once in a while, then they taste incredible cooked in beef fat. Just saying.

Tallow or even lard (pork fat) also makes the best darn pie or pastry crust in the world! Again, eating pies or pastry is not suggested as a daily thing. But, if your having a treat, I can’t think of anything better than my grandmother’s homemade French meat pies with homemade crusts that were made with either beef or pork fat. Her apple pies rocked as well.

Beef fat, or tallow, also makes great homemade soap. Which is exactly what a friend of mine wanted to make with a rather large amount of beef fat that she had received when she purchased a side of organic beef. If your shelling out that kind of cash I say use every bit of the animal. So, with many pounds of beef fat on hand, she asked if it could be made into soap. Why yes it can! I’ve made many batches of soap myself in the past and, call me crazy, I’ve actually rendered my own tallow as well. I actually saved the pictures from making a batch and wondered how in the world I would make it into a blog post. Now I know. So here’s the oddball of all blog posts on a WLS nutrition blog……How to render your own beef fat or tallow.

At the local farmers market I decided to ask the pasture feed beef vendor if he happened to sell the beef fat along with the cuts of meat he had to offer. I didn’t expect him to actually have any on hand. He surprised me however by pulling out an 8 lb chunk from the freezer:

Yes I know it’s not pretty but what can you do about it.

To render your own fat start by taking your piece of beef fat and cutting it up into pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in size. If I had a meat grinder or a food processor I would have ground it up even smaller. But I don’t so I had to cut it with a knife. Once your done toss the chunks into a large pot.

I think it took about 2 hours for it to get to this point. From this translucent point it didn’t take much longer for the fat to completely melt. I ended up with a pot full of golden liquid. There was a small amount of debris at the bottom of the pot. This material seems to be the fine membrane that was holding the fat together. I know you don’t really want to know that but that’s basically what it is. I used a slotted spoon and scooped out most of it. In the end there was still smaller pieces that the spoon could not get out so I strained the liquid through a brand new nylon. You could also use cheesecloth if you had some available. Using a nylon was easy. I simply stretched it over another pan and poured the liquid through it. Here’s what was removed:

All that was left behind was a beautiful, golden oil:


I covered the pot and allowed it to sit at room temperature over night so it would cool down. The liquid oil solidified and turned creamy white. All that was left was to gently ( so I didn’t scratch the pot)  run a butter knife through the pot to break the fat into smaller pieces. I lifted each piece out and wrapped it in plastic wrap. I packaged the pieces up so they were small enough to use within a reasonable amount of time. From 8 lbs of fat I got 5.5 lbs of rendered fat. Several sites I consulted said you may have liquid beneath the solid fat. If so, simply remove the solid fat and discard whatever is left. I did not have anything beneath the solid fat.  I cut that amount up into 8 equal pieces.

Each piece was wrapped in plastic wrap, labeled and put in the freezer until I needed them for french fry or crust making. For my friend, who plans on making soap, she will weigh out the fat and the weight will be used to determine how much lye is needed. But full discussion on soapmaking will have to be saved for another time.

How about you? Have you ever rendered tallow or used it for some type of cooking or craftmaking purpose? Why not leave a comment below and tell us about it.

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