Friday, July 9, 2010

Cooking with Tallow

Chicken Fried Steak photo from jasonlam's photostream

Cooking with tallow may be something not many of us do, yet it has some terrific advantages. I recently wrote about rendering tallow, so let's talk about cooking with it. 

Tallow from grass-fed cows is healthy, with a low omega-6 content and a balanced omega-3/omega-6 ratio, low level of polyunsaturated fats (around 3%), and vitamins like Vitamin A and K2. Tallow has a high smoke point, making it ideal for deep frying, although it's best to keep the temp a bit lower, like 350ºF. Deep frying in good fats is not the health buggaboo it has been 'touted' as being, and in fact research is now proving saturated fats are good for the heart and cholesterol levels. (Personally, I contend that saturated fats from CAFO animals are not ever healthy since toxins concentrate in the fat and organs.)

If you are frying battered chicken, chicken fried steak or onion rings in tallow, some bits of batter may come loose. They could burn, giving the tallow a poor taste, so fish them out as you go along. When you are finished frying, the tallow can be strained for re-use because heat has not broken down the structure (unless you used it in the smoke-point), something you cannot do with most fats. If you have fried something with a strong flavor, just drop a couple slices of potato into the hot oil when you take the pan off the heat. The potato will absorb most of the flavor in the oil.

Strain it carefully while it is still fairly hot. I place a scrap of clean cotton cloth or muslin in a metal strainer to catch any browned bits I didn't fish out. Tallow is hard to clean out of cloth so I just toss it. Try to get as much of the tallow as you can out of the pan... when it cools it becomes like hard wax. I use a paper towel for the last film. When the filtered tallow is thoroughly cool, it will be hard. Cover the container, and store in a cool, dark place for re-use. (I store mine in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup.)

If I need enough tallow to fry something, I find it easiest to melt the tallow in the pyrex storage container in a low-temp oven, until it's just barely liquid, and pour just what I need into my skillet. I use a bit of tallow to fry eggs, or anything that needs a bit of 'grease' in the pan, and I plan to use it in making some pemmican for 'emergency' high-nutrition food storage.

ps... I'm betting tallow is great to re-season cast iron pans. I have one that needs it, so I'm going to give it a shot. I'll post results later!

I have several pounds of beef leaf fat on order for the next time my supplier butchers, which should be in about 2-3 weeks. As requested, I will post pictures of the rendering process.

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