This month with my co-op order, I bought a 5 pound box of beef fat. Beef fat can be rendered into a healthy cooking oil called tallow. It is the beef equivalent of lard, which comes from pigs. I had the option of buying already rendered tallow or lard from the co-op, but it was much more economical to buy the fat (also called suet). At $4.99 for 5 pounds, I thought it was a real bargain. With just a little work myself, I could have a dirt cheap healthy cooking oil, and I can't resist a good do-it-yourself project!
I'm sure right now you're thinking that tallow (and lard) aren't good fats. They're full of artery clogging saturated fats! The opposite is actually true. Grass-fed tallow and lard are two of the healthiest fats around! Here are a few benefits of tallow:
1. Grass-fed tallow is high in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which is actually a fat burner! CLA reduces body fat and increases lean muscle mass. CLA also protects against heart disease and reduces cancer risk.
2. The saturated fats in tallow are important for bone development and brain function.
3. The saturated fats also lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol (HDL).
4. Tallow has a high smoking point so it is safe for high heat cooking and frying.
5. Tallow is extremely shelf stable. It can last years without going rancid.
It's not traditional fats like tallow that are hurting us - it's processed oils like canola, soy, and vegetable oil!
So, if you can get grass-fed beef fat from a reliable source, you've hit a foodie jackpot. You'll need to render it into tallow. Keep the beef fat in the freezer if you're not going to be able to get to it for a few days because it will go rancid. Put it in the fridge or in a cooler a day or so before so that the fat will defrost but will stay cold. It's easier to work with that way.
First, take the pieces of beef fat (there will be all shapes and sizes) and cut it into cubes.
Place the beef fat in a large pot, such as a stock pot. I did all 5 pounds in two batches. Turn the heat on medium-low to medium. In simple terms, essentially what you are doing is "melting" the fat. It won't take long before you start to see oil pool at the bottom.
Continue to let the fat render. It will take 1 to 2 hours, depending on how full your pot is. Stir it every 15 minutes so that it doesn't stick at the bottom. You don't need to babysit it the whole time, but do not leave it unattended with pets or children. Remember to use caution when working with hot oil, as it can be very dangerous and burn! When it is all done, it will look like this.
Wait several minutes for the oil to cool slightly. Then, strain it in a cheesecloth over a colander (do NOT use plastic) over a bowl. If there are any impurities in the tallow, it will not have as long of a shelf life. Some people save the "cracklings" to eat as a snack; I don't like them so I threw them away.
Pour the pure tallow into a large measuring cup with a spout so that you can pour it into glass jars. Be very careful that the tallow isn't still too hot or the glass will break. In fact, next time I might sterilize the jars in a hot water bath much like in canning, that way there is no extreme change in temperature. (If you do this, make sure to throughly dry the jars.)
Leave the jars on the counter to cool. Again, don't stick them directly in the fridge because of the sudden temperature change. 5 pounds of beef fat rendered me 4 quarts and 2 pints of tallow.
When the tallow is cool, set the jars in the fridge and they'll last a year or longer. The tallow will get hard, so on the days you plan to use it, set it on the counter for a few hours first.
Printable: How to Render Beef Fat into Tallow