What is tallow? Well, it is the product of what happens when you render beef fat.
To render tallow means that you have melted it down, and “extracted” the fat. It removes any leftover stuff in the fat, and makes it smooth, creamy, and easy to use.
You are basically changing the composition. Rendering it is easy to do, and only takes a few hours to have enough for the entire year.
Is Tallow the Same as Lard?
I sometimes hear people use the words tallow and lard interchangeably, but are these really the same thing?
No, they aren’t: tallow is rendered fat from cows or sheep, but lard comes from pigs. Now, they are used for pretty much the same things in recipes for frying, baking and cooking but they are different when it comes to nutrition and they’re intrinsic characteristics.
If you have one or the other, you are usually good to go, but really savvy home chefs will have both on hand!
What is the Nutritional Content of Tallow?
Tallow is surprisingly nutritious, and it is both calorie and nutrient dense. Also, it is far healthier than vegetable oil propaganda would have you believe.
A tablespoon of tallow contains, on average, 110 calories and around 14 g of fat. About half of that fat is saturated, but the rest being monosaturated or polyunsaturated fat.
Also, it is completely carb-free making it perfect for low-carb or keto diets and is extremely high and vitamins A, D, E and K.
Also just as important it really doesn’t impart any flavor to food. Most folks who haven’t tried it, or who don’t know they have tried it in the past, seem to worry that it will impart a beefy or gamey flavor but that just isn’t the case!
Even when used with high temperature cooking techniques tallow tastes remarkably clean, and this makes it perfect for all sorts of recipes whether you are frying, roasting, baking or doing anything else in the kitchen.
Rendering Your Own Tallow
The process for rendering your own tallow is remarkably easy, and requires next to no actual work.
It does require a considerable amount of time, but pretty much all of this time is spent leaving the suet to render slowly over low heat either on your stove top or in a slow cooker.
All you need to do is come by periodically to check on things and give it a stir. That’s it!
That being said, you will need some tools to do a good job of things, and I’ll list these in a moment. But first things first, we need suet. Where can you get it?
Where Can You Get Suet?
You generally it won’t find suet just sitting out for sale at your local grocery store, but if you ask at the meat department they might be able to hook you up with some. Another great place to check is a local butcher. Typically, suet is quite cheap and you’ll be able to make tons of tallow for pennies on the dollar.
Also, if you know anyone that raises and slaughters their own cows, or performs processing, now is a great time to ask them for a favor; most folks don’t want anything to do with suet otherwise, so you might have access to a virtually limitless supply if you are willing to pick it up.
You don’t need much to do an ace job of rendering your own beef tallow at home, but you will need a few things. Gather the following, and then move on to the instructions. Make sure you read over all of this before you begin so you know what to expect!
- Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot: either one works great as long as it will produce steady, low heat. You don’t want your melting tallow to really cook or burn!
- Glass Jars: nothing beats glass jars for storing tallow. You can use one large glass jar or multiple smaller ones at your preference. Note they must be totally clean and sterile and absolutely dry, so take care of this ahead of time!
- Ladle: if you have any concerns about lifting and pouring scalding hot oil out of your crock pot, use a ladle for the purpose. Again, make sure it is absolutely clean and dry.
- Fine Strainer: you’ll need a fine mesh strainer to strain the small chunks of leftover suet, called cracklings, out of your rendered tallow. Make sure it is metal, plastic may melt.
- Cheesecloth: if you don’t have a metal strainer, a double layer of cheesecloth can work instead. You don’t need both.
- Funnel (Optional): if you are using cheesecloth instead of a strainer, a metal funnel may be helpful.
- Oven Mitts: you’ll be working with scalding hot oil, so I highly recommend protective oven mitts, especially if you’re going to try and pour directly out of your slow cooker or Crock-Pot vessel.
- Apron: again, scalding hot oil. Wear an apron!
Rendering your own beef tallow is the very picture of simplicity, it just takes time and periodic attention. The steps below will show you how.
- Pat Suet Dry: take your suet and pat it dry with paper towels. Especially if it has been refrigerated, condensation will moisten it somewhat and water is the enemy of this entire process. Get all sides, and get it as dry as you can before you go on.
- Chop Suet into Cubes: chop your suet into small cubes no larger than half an inch wide on a clean cutting board. This will speed up the rendering process and make it go evenly.
- Add Suet Cubes to Slow Cooker: pile all of your cubes into your slow cooker.
- Set Slow Cooker to Low: now set your slow cooker to the very lowest setting. Slowly and surely, the suet will begin to melt into tallow.
- Check on Suet Periodically: you won’t have much to do during this process. Every hour or so, or when you walk by, check on your rendering tallow to make sure that the slow cooker is functioning properly and the tallow isn’t getting too hot. You should see more and more liquid forming as the suet slowly shrinks.
- Stir Occasionally: when you check on your tallow, give it a stir to make sure everything is heating and melting evenly.
- Wait; Observe for Suet Separation: this will be a long process. Depending on the quantity of suet and your slow cooker temperature, this will usually take around 8 hours but might take as long as 24. Just be patient, keep an eye on things and keep stirring.
- When Cracklings Separate and Shrink, Tallow is Ready: when your tallow is very close to being ready, you’ll notice the leftover bits of suet completely separate and shrink down into little popcorn like shapes. These leftover bits are referred to as cracklings, and when you see them form you know your tallow is ready. This is why we check on it regularly.
- Remove from Heat, Let Cool Slightly: when you see the cracklings form, turn off the heat or remove the vessel and set it aside to cool somewhat. You only want to let it cool down a little bit for safety and ease of handling, because your tallow will turn completely solid at room temperature!
- Place Strainer on Jar: when you get ready to pour, place the strainer over your jar and make sure it is secure. Just a reminder, make sure your jar is absolutely clean and totally dry.
- Carefully Pour Tallow Through Strainer: now, either cautiously take your slow cooker vessel or grab your ladle and start pouring the tallow through the strainer and into your jar. When the cracklings start to block up the strainer, stop and clear it before continuing.
- Cover and Keep in Pantry or Fridge: and you are pretty much done! As your tallow starts to assume room temperature it will turn from a liquid, clear golden color to a completely solid white block. Your tallow is ready to use this way, and you can keep it in your pantry or in the refrigerator at your preference with a lid or top on your jar. So long as you protect your tallow from water it will keep for a long time.
It really is that easy, and after you’ve done it once or twice you can sort of make tallow in the background of your day as you go about your usual chores or other business. It is super simple!
The following tips can help your tallow rendering process go a little bit smoother, or make it easier for you to use in the kitchen and other recipes.
Reduce Your Suet Quicker with a Food Processor
If you don’t want to spend the time chopping up your suet into smaller cubes, you can put chunks of it into a food processor and pulse it down to help it reduce quicker when you add it to the slow cooker.
It has a tendency to want to get stuck, so you have to scrape down the sides of the container or bowl, but it works well enough.
Keep Your Cracklings!
Don’t discard those cracklings when you are done rendering your tallow! Those cracklings are immensely flavorful and useful in various recipes. Some people even eat them as is with a little dash of salt or hot sauce!
You Can Pre-Cut Tallow into Portions
When your tallow has hardened, you can chop it up into cubes or discs if you want to pre-portion it for recipes or just for calorie control. Place it on a clean cutting board and cut it up however you want, just like butter, before wrapping it in parchment paper.
Make Convenient Portions with a Muffin Tin
One of my favorite tricks for rendering tallow is to pour it into a muffin tin. This makes convenient little discs that are often just the right size for baking and other cooking. You can let them firm up, pop them out and then stack them in your refrigerator with a little slip of parchment paper between them.
Great Recipes and Projects to Try with Your Tallow
Tallow has a whole bunch of uses both in and out of the kitchen. Aside from the usual in baking and frying, you might try the following with your tallow:
Pemmican is an ancient field and travel ration created by American Indians. Made with dried meat and tallow, and sometimes berries and seeds, it is super filling and long-lasting when made properly.
Beeswax isn’t the only natural material used for candle making. Tallow candles last a long time and are surprisingly efficient, and again, they don’t have any kind of smell!
Tallow soap is a great way to make super moisturizing, all natural soap that cleans wonderfully and is especially good for the most sensitive skin.
Tallow is Great for Skincare
As you might expect, Tallow is also great when used for cosmetics and various skincare concoctions. From soothing salves to wonderful lip balms, tallow can do it all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Typically yes, and you don’t want to rush it. Slowly rendering tallow over low heat is the best way to make it.
No. Assuming it is made properly, not contaminated and placed into a completely clean and dry jar tallow will keep for a long time in your pantry at room temperature.
Yes. Although tallow is typically thought of as a specifically beef product, coming from cow, you can make the same thing from sheep (mutton) suet.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.