Do it yourself: tallow

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May 2, 2013 by saltdogsducttape

I have never cooked with tallow. For those of you who don’t know, tallow is the short way of saying “rendered (melted) beef fat.” Yes, tallow is a saturated fat. Is that bad? What does it mean? It means that it is a solid at room temperature. It also has Omega-3s, potassium, iron, B vitamins, CLAs (anti-cancer), and has been linked to bone and heart health. Not bad, tallow, not bad.

While doing the Whole30 program, you have to leave grains behind. This means a lof of cooking oils. Butter is also out (clarified butter is ok). Tallow is a good substitute as a cooking oil. It has a high smoke point and can be reused. And thanks to people starting to realize that fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat, you can find tallow pretty easily.

I was feeling a little adventurous last night so I decided to try my hand at rendering suet (fat) into tallow. I’m lucky that our grocery store has an awesome butcher in it, and while they didn’t have tallow, they did have suet and some good advice. So here goes.

I started with just over 3.5 pounds of grass-fed beef suet. Cows have areas of almost pure fat in their bodies that protect organs like their liver and kidneys. This is where suet comes from. This cost me about $10.

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The first step when turning suet into tallow, is to remove as much of the meat, blood, gristle, and as much not-fat as possible. This will keep your finished product as pure as possible. It’s best to do this while the suet is cold. There were some frozen parts in mine and they were hard to work with, refrigerator temperature would probably be better.

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Once you have picked through all the fatty stuff, it’s time for step two. At this point most of the suet is probably in pretty small pieces. I ran a knife through a few times to give it a good rough chop. Then it’s into a food processor. It’s best to pulse it a few times, until you have the consistency of ground beef.

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You’ll need a pretty good sized kettle. I used a cast iron dutch oven. The 3.5 pounds of suet that I used pushed the limits of my kettle, next time I might do two batches. It reduces down pretty quickly, but the key here is low heat. This isn’t a race or a fast process. I just used to stove top, I have heard of other methods using an oven set to 200. I also did what’s known as dry-rendering, there is a wet-rendering process that I didn’t get into.

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After an hour or so on the stove this is what I ended up with. Before I got here, I put a double layer of cheesecloth in a colander over a large bowl and strained the now rendered suet. This beautiful golden quart is tallow. Easy as that.

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Once the tallow cools to room temperature it turns into a creamy white color and becomes solid. In this state it has a pretty long shelf life, I read more than once that tallow is the cooking oil of the zombie apocalypse because it doesn’t need refrigeration.

The whole process took about two hours and was really easy. For my time and $10 I got a quart of grass-fed tallow. I haven’t cooked with it yet, but I’ve heard good things about tallow-fried potatoes.


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