Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rendering Beef Suet (Leaf Fat) for Tallow, Again

I finally got more beef suet, aka leaf fat, from my meat man, and as promised, here are photos of rendering it for tallow. I  posted on this before, but not with photos as I went along, and photos have been requested since then.

First, the difference in beef suet/leaf fat and regular beef fat. The beef leaf fat or suet from around the kidneys is considered the best fat for rendering into tallow. It tends to be cleaner, with fewer impurities, and more pure fat rather than layers of fat mixed with meat, blood vessels, etc. Certainly, any beef fat can be rendered, as can the fat from ducks, chickens, geese, lamb, hogs... it depends on your use of the fat as they all have different properties both for cooking, and even for soap-making. I just decided to render the beef leaf fat for this post since I got it for free.

Generally speaking, tallow is made from beef fat, lard is made from hog fat. The beef suet or leaf fat from around the kidneys has a much different 'feel' than regular fat also. It is crumbly when you cut it, feels waxy rather than greasy, and has a thin membrane around and sometimes through bits of it.

These are the 2 pieces I got, still frozen and just beginning to thaw on the counter. The one sorta balled up was put back in the freezer for now, since I don't have a pot large enough to do both at once.

To render it, it needs to be in small pieces; the smaller they are, the quicker it renders. I trim out any bits of meat I see in it, although this had almost none... some of the bits of fat will cook out as edible beef cracklins'... just sprinkle a little salt or other seasonings on them while they are still warm.

You can see the membrane in the first photo with the chunks up above, but here's a close-up.

Place all the chunks in a large pot or dutch oven and place in the oven set to 300ºF. How long it takes to render is a combination of temperature and size of the pieces. Note: I started rendering at lower temperatures (around 225ºF) last year; it takes much longer.

This is after about 3-4 hours at 300ºF. I turned up the temperature to 325ºF after this photo, partly because I was impatient, and because I'm not sure my thermostat is correct. It's an older stove that was here when we bought the place.

After most of the fat rendered out and cooled just a bit, I strained it into another stainless steel pot, through several layers of cheesecloth lining a metal mesh strainer. Do not use plastic with the very hot fat; it will melt and you will have an enormous mess to clean up!! (The photo of straining was too blurry to post.) 

In the disposable pie pan in the back, you can see the pieces that did not completely render. I don't know why, maybe the chunks should have been smaller? Or my thermostat is really out of whack? I don't remember that ever happening with previous batches, but for sure the next batch will be cut smaller. I may even run it through the food processor quickly.

After the fat cooled to about body temperature, I poured the tallow into yogurt containers and refrigerated it to chill completely. As it cools, the tallow will turn white or off-white, and become fairly hard. (See photo at top of post.) I have seen the suggestion of sprinkling half a teaspoon of baking soda over the chunks before cooking to insure a more even color in the tallow, but mine has always been just fine so I've never tried it. Once cooled, the tallow does not need refrigeration, but it should be stored tightly covered in a cool, dry place.

I read somewhere that grass-fed beef tallow, which is naturally low in Omega-6, was the most frequently used household fat in the early 1900's (long before the earliest documented cases of heart disease).  So much for saturated fat clogging our arteries! I'll write another post soon on more of the nutritional differences in lard and tallow and maybe other fats and oils as well.

Rendering tallow or lard may also be done on the stovetop, in some water. However, that requires constant watching, which I don't care to do... and sometimes it's hard to get all the water separated out later. Nothing worse than water in the fat when you add it to a hot pan.


  1. I've read about pouring water through the slightly cooled fat to further cleanse it. I tried it w/some rendered tallow I made from low quality fat, but the results were inconclusive.

    I'll be getting a couple of pounds of pork fat from my farrier soon, so I'd be interested in the nutritional info... & between rendered fats & butter, too, if that's possible.

    Thanks for posting this. =0)

  2. I'm working on it, but I'll be out of town Nov 1-4... hope to finish it before then but have lots of trip prep to do.

  3. When rendering pork fat for lard, I've always added a cup or more of water to the fat while rendering. The water helps to moderate the temperature during the rendering process keeping the fat from burning which results in a whiter product. This may also work for tallow production. Also, if you are getting beef or pork fat from your butcher, sometimes you get them to put the fat through their hamburger grinder which results in nice, tiny pieces which render more completely.

  4. Yes, that's true (using some water to moderate temps) for tallow or lard, but I can never get all the moisture out later so I don't use that method.

    I grind my own fats, and use some in sausage mixes. I just didn't want to drag out the grinder for the recent tallow I made... but I should have. It would have rendered quickly.


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