Have you ever considered rendering your own beef tallow? It’s a rewarding process that yields a versatile and flavorful fat. In this tutorial, we’ll guide you through the steps of making beef tallow from scratch.
- Embracing the Whole Animal
- Rediscovering Traditional Fats
- Understanding Beef Tallow
- The Unique Flavor of Beef Tallow
- Versatility in the Kitchen
- Ingredients and Equipment Needed
- Step-by-Step Guide to Rendering Beef Tallow
Embracing the Whole Animal
At The Rustic Elk, we believe in utilizing every part of the animals we harvest. That includes rendering different fats like lard, schmaltz, and even deer tallow. Beef fat is no exception. When we purchased a steer recently, we received an abundance of leaf fat from the butcher, giving us the opportunity to render over five gallons of grass-fed beef tallow. It was a time-consuming task, but well worth the effort.
Rediscovering Traditional Fats
Rendering your own beef tallow may not be as common today, but it’s actually quite simple. Contrary to popular belief, tallow and other traditional fats are healthy fats. In fact, these animal fats offer numerous benefits compared to hydrogenated vegetable oils commonly used in cooking and baking. By rendering your own tallow, you not only enjoy its delicious flavor but also honor the animal by utilizing every bit of it.
Understanding Beef Tallow
Tallow is the rendered fat of cattle and sheep. While fat from any part of the animal can be rendered into tallow, the best quality comes from the leaf fat surrounding the kidneys. Bovines don’t store as much fat under the skin like pigs do, so working with leaf fat is the preferred method.
The Unique Flavor of Beef Tallow
Despite being rendered from animal fat, pure beef tallow has a surprisingly light beefy flavor. It’s not overpowering or offputting. In fact, the flavor is milder than lard. Fun fact: McDonald’s used to fry their french fries in tallow until 1990. So, don’t let the misconceptions about natural animal fats deter you from enjoying this unique taste.
Versatility in the Kitchen
Beef tallow is an excellent cooking fat with a high smoke point, making it ideal for various cooking methods. Its heat stability allows it to withstand high temperatures without oxidizing or going rancid. Say goodbye to soggy fried foods! Whether you’re searing a steak or frying an egg, a dollop of tallow adds an incredible flavor to your dishes. You can also get creative by using tallow in roasting, deep frying, and even baking. Substitute tallow for butter in any recipe using a 1-to-1 ratio.
In addition to cooking, beef tallow has other practical uses. It serves as an excellent ingredient in skin care products due to its similarity to human skin composition. Use it to make tallow balm, salves, and soaps. The antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties of tallow make it ideal for medicinal salves and even facial cleansers. Furthermore, tallow can be used to make long-lasting candles and as a natural weatherproofing material for leather goods.
Ingredients and Equipment Needed
To embark on your beef tallow adventure, gather the following:
- Fat from a cow or steer (preferably grass-fed)
- A very sharp knife and cutting board (or a grinder for quicker rendering)
- A crockpot or large stock pot
- A fine mesh strainer
- Glass jars or food-grade buckets for storage
Step-by-Step Guide to Rendering Beef Tallow
Preparing the Fat
Begin by cutting the fat into small chunks to expedite the rendering process. Don’t discard the kidneys! You can make kidney dog treats or feed them to your chickens, ensuring nothing goes to waste. If you prefer, you can also use a grinder to process the fat more quickly. Just remember to wrap the grinder’s nozzle with an ice pack to prevent melting.
Adding Fat to the Crockpot (or Stock Pot)
Using a crockpot is a convenient way to render beef fat, but a stock pot can also be used on very low heat. Whichever method you choose, keep the lid off during the process. Fill the crockpot or stock pot without overfilling it, as the fat will melt down and reduce in volume.
Low and Slow Heat
To achieve the best results, use low heat. A crockpot is perfect for this task. If using a stove, set it to low heat and allow the fat to lightly simmer. Avoid boiling the fat; it should only bubble occasionally. If the fat starts to boil, reduce the heat and stir it well.
Patience is Key
Rendering beef tallow takes time, especially if you have larger chunks of fat. For a 6-quart crockpot full of fat, the process can take around 5 hours. As the fat renders, you’ll notice meat bits and impurities floating around the pan. This is normal, so don’t worry. Just be patient and let the magic happen.
Straining the Fat
For a pure and smooth tallow, double-strain the rendered fat. First, use a mesh strainer to remove any large impurities. Then, strain the fat again through a piece of cheesecloth, paper towel, or coffee filter to remove fine impurities. This extra step ensures a pristine final product.
Cooling, Storing, and Enjoying
Once you’ve strained the tallow, pour it into your preferred storage containers. While still hot, you can use it as a liquid, but as it cools to room temperature, it will solidify into a white, hard fat (harder than lard). Technically, tallow is shelf-stable if stored in a dark, airtight container. For longer shelf life, refrigerate or freeze unused portions. Keep in mind that frozen tallow can be challenging to break up, so consider storing a smaller jar at room temperature for easy access.
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Now, it’s time to embark on your beef tallow journey and discover the joys of rendering your own traditional fat. Happy cooking!