In the pursuit of culinary excellence, it is widely accepted that french fries, when fried in beef tallow, possess an unrivaled delectability that surpasses other oils, such as peanut oil. However, procuring beef tallow may prove to be a challenge, as it is not as readily available as it once was. While one may resort to purchasing it online or from local farmers’ markets, what options are there for those who lack access to these resources? Fear not, for you can create your own!
Unveiling the Essence of Tallow
Tallow is the rendered fat derived from either beef or mutton, although the term predominantly refers to beef fat in American culinary jargon. It is an oil with a high smoke point, saturated in nature, and boasts a rich flavor profile. Deep-frying had long relied on tallow until the cholesterol scare of the 1980s spelled its decline.
The Superiority of Beef Tallow in Frying
Not only does beef tallow enhance the taste of fried foods, but it also showcases some remarkable heat-retention properties. Compared to peanut oil, beef tallow has a higher heat capacity, meaning it can deliver more heat-energy per degree. Furthermore, beef tallow brings an added nutritional aspect to the table. Abundant in niacin, a vital vitamin and mineral, beef tallow effortlessly fulfills the nutritional requirements that often elude us.
Additionally, beef tallow outshines vegetable oils in terms of longevity. With its high saturated fat content, beef tallow solidifies at room temperature, resulting in extended shelf life. Dr. Oscar Pike, a respected food scientist specializing in oils at Brigham Young University, asserts that it is the unsaturated fats present in oils that break down after repeated heating and cooling. In contrast, highly saturated fats, like beef tallow, prove resilient against the ravages of usage. As long as it is stored in an airtight container, free from oxidation, beef tallow retains its usability over multiple applications before necessitating replacement.
The Quest for the Perfect Fat: Rendering Beef Tallow
To embark upon the journey of rendering your very own beef tallow, you must first procure beef fat. Most meat departments in grocery stores, particularly those with in-house meat cutters, are likely to accommodate your request for beef fat if you inform them in advance. The fat they provide will likely originate from prime rib roasts, T-bone steaks, and other assorted cuts. While this will suffice, traditional recipes and personal experiences affirm that the finest tallow derives from beef suet.
Beef suet for rendering tallow
Suet represents the clumpy, cake-like fat enveloping the kidneys, situated beneath the loins of a cow. If you are fortunate enough to find suet in a grocery store meat department, consider yourself lucky. In my case, I had to explore a local slaughterhouse/butchery to obtain suet. The extra effort is worthwhile, as suet guarantees a purer and superior tallow. Nonetheless, it is recommended to request the butcher to grind the suet for you.
A Culinary Alchemy: The Rendering Process
Suet grinding set up and finished product
Should the butcher fail to grind your suet, begin by performing the task yourself. Employ a food processor to finely mince the suet in small batches. It is crucial to ensure the suet is cold, preferably partially frozen, as warm suet has a tendency to gum up the machine.
Once all the tallow is ground, transfer it to a large pot. Add hot water until it peeks through the surface of the tallow. Place the pot on the stove, setting the heat to high. The objective is to cook the proteins in the beef suet, preventing them from adhering to the pan or clumping together while simultaneously initiating the fat-rendering process.
Suet ready to be rendered into tallow
Bring the water in the pot to a heavy simmer, periodically skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Stir the suet, ensuring it remains freely suspended in the water.
Skimming scum from rendering tallow
Once the pot ceases to produce copious scum, allow it to simmer freely. While occasional monitoring is necessary, constant attention is needless. Periodically check to prevent boiling over, clumping, or sticking to the bottom by setting a timer for 10 minutes with the assistance of a TimeStick. The goal is to thoroughly cook out all the water from the pot and the fat tissues, which demands considerable time.
A hard simmer will render the tallow as quickly as is safe
Over time, a layer of fat will form, growing increasingly thicker on the surface of the water. Don’t fret; this is distinct from the foam layer. It will resemble oil poured into the pot. The simmering process will unfold as expected, and it is essential to adjust the flame to prevent rapid boiling, which may lead to overflow.
Nearly-rendered beef tallow
Once the water level decreases, you will notice a change in the sound of the boil, deeper and more gurgling, accompanied by an additional layer of fat on the water’s surface. This indicates a diminishing water supply. Reduce the heat slightly and set a timer for another 10 minutes.
Rendering beef fat, final stages
Stir the tallow, scraping the bottom to prevent any bits from sticking and burning. This stage requires heightened attention. As the water evaporates, and the pot fills with rendered fat, these bits may become stuck to the pot’s base. Carefully scrape them off using a flat-nosed wooden spatula.
Throughout this process, the bubbles in the pot will diminish in size and adopt an oily appearance as the water continues to cook out. This is the ideal time to employ a Thermapen, spot-checking the temperature. As the water evaporates, the fat’s temperature will rise. Beyond 212°F (100°C), the water within the little fat bits will sizzle out, generating tiny bubbles throughout the pot. The ultimate goal is to cook the fat to precisely 230°F (110°C). This temperature ensures the removal of a significant portion of the water contained within the fatty bits, without scorching or browning them, which could adversely affect the oil with denatured proteins. Continue scraping the pot’s bottom with your wooden spoon during this process.
Rendered beef suet: tallow
Upon reaching 230°F (110°C), remove the heat and allow the oil to cool for at least half an hour. During this time, the meaty bits will settle at the bottom, enabling you to strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Press the bits to extract as much oil as possible.
Simmer the rendering tallow
Place the oil on the countertop to cool, witnessing its transformation into a beautiful, buttery golden hue. You can freeze it for later use, but even in regular refrigeration, it will remain viable for months, if not longer. Remember, if it develops an unpleasant odor resembling rancid beef, it is no longer suitable for use.
A Versatile Culinary Ally
And there you have it! A reliable method for creating your own golden, delicious beef tallow, perfectly suited for various high-temperature cooking needs, including deep-frying and sautéing. Use the TimeStick to monitor the process and the Thermapen to ensure precise temperature control. Revel in the magic you have concocted and savor the culinary delights that await!
If you’re in search of inspiration for your newfound tallow, look no further. Dive into the divine indulgence of frying French fries using your homemade beef tallow.
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Homemade french fries: golden and crisp