The price of food can sometimes be quite high, especially for butter or coconut oil in particular. These two staples get purchased, and used often at my house. So, in looking for a way to reduce the grocery bill, the thought of rendering my own cooking fat came to mind (much in part thanks to another instructable).
I was fortunate enough to get some high quality grass-fed beef fat from a local farmer. Your local butcher might also be a good source for beef fat. I was eager to use this high quality beef fat to try my hand at making tallow. (spoiler alert: I was successful!)
In case you're wondering: Tallow, is similar to lard, except it is rendered from the fat of cows. Whereas, lard, on the other hand, is fat rendered from a pig.
The benefit of both lard and tallow is that they are highly heat stable, similar to coconut oil, and so can be used for frying foods. The fat is also rich in nutrients and vitamins (e.g. Vitamin B6 & B12, Vitamin A and many others). I'm also happy to report that the flavour, while distinctive (in the same way butter or coconut oil are distinctive), is mild. But everyone's tastes are different, so you'd have to judge for yourself.
Step 1: Get Your Materials Ready
Tallow making is easy, but messy, and requires time. Here's what you'll need:
- Beef fat (ask for leaf fat, if possible - it is the fat surrounding the kidneys)
- Your least favourite cutting board (wood is not suggested)
- A sharp knife
- A food processor
- A crock pot / slow cooker
- Large glass jars to store your rendered tallow
- Cheese cloth (or jam fruit strainer)
Step 2: Get Messy!
This is by far the messiest part. It is best (and easier for you) to work with cold fat. I suggest you refrigerate it overnight before you begin to work with it.
- Roughly chop the tallow into one inch cubes and put them in the food processor. Where possible, as you go, try to remove anything which is not fat (i.e. meat, blood, organs etc.). Some fats also have a thin cellophane type coating on them - you can remove that as much as possible, but don't get too worried if you miss some.
- Once the food processor is half to 3/4 full. Turn it on intermittently until the fat is blended into a consistency that looks a little like fluffy popcorn. Breaking the fat down like this will help reduce your rendering time.
- Put the 'popcorn-looking' fat into your slow cooker and repeat the chopping and processing until either you run out of fat, or your slow cooker is full.
- If you get your tallow from a butcher, you can skip this step if they are willing to grind it for you.
- If you do not have a food processor, you could do it all by hand but be aware that the smaller you cut your pieces, the quicker your tallow will render.
- Be prepared, the clean up of your food processor is quite a task! Wipe off as much fat as possible before using hot soapy water to clean.
Step 3: Time to Render
The next step requires lots of patience, and waiting...
- Once your slow cooker is just about full of beef fat, turn it on low.
- It will slowly start to melt, don't be tempted to rush this process by turning it up.
- Allow to cook for about 6-8 hours on low and stir it roughly every hour or so to prevent it from burning. You will see little bits begin to crisp up and float to the top.
- Once the beef fat is completely rendered down (i.e. most of the solid fat has lost its white colour and has turned slightly crispy) turn it off for an hour and allow it to cool slightly.
- Next, carefully strain the tallow into a glass jar using a cheese cloth or jam strainer.
- Allow to cool further (your tallow will turn white) and be ready to use!
- Do not allow the tallow to burn, if your liquid rapidly and continuously is bubbling / boiling in your slow cooker, turn the temperature down.
The tallow may be hot when straining, wear oven mitts or protective gear and be careful.
Step 4: Tallow Uses and Storage
- Tallow can be used in place of butter or oil for frying, cooking, baking, or on your favourite baked potato!
- It is heat stable (with a high smoke point) so it is a great oil for deep frying.
- You can also make soap or candles with tallow!
Tallow will keep well at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
- If you plan to store it for longer, the freezer is suggested.
- If you prefer to use tallow at room temperature, it is recommended you have only smaller amounts out at room temperature while keeping the rest is refrigerated, or frozen.