Beef Tallow

One of the most popular requests we get at the meat counter at Bagley’s Farm Meat Market is for tallow. Beef tallow is the rendered form of beef suet made from the hard fatty tissue around the cow’s organs, especially the kidneys, and the loins of the cow, which is sold as brisket. Before it is rendered into tallow, the suet is slightly tougher and grittier than tallow. 

Tallow was a household staple in the United States for cooking until vegetable shortening and other oils became more common starting in the early 1900s due to its long shelf life and lower cost. Recently, tallow made its comeback and is popular for a variety of reasons.

With the negativity of trans fats in the United States beginning in the early 2000s, popular shortening brands such as Crisco had to reformulate their products to remove nearly all of the trans fats, resulting in a decline in its textural form, leaving bakers and health-conscious cooks looking for a more predictable and sustainable alternative. 

How to render beef tallow

Beef tallow can easily be made at home by purchasing beef fat trimmings from a high-quality butcher such as Bagley’s Farm Meat Market. If the butcher is unable to grind the suet up for you, small chunks will work. If there are any strings of meat attached, remove them when you get home to make straining easier. One pound of fat will yield between one and two cups of beef tallow.

Using a large stovetop pot or slow cooker over low heat add the suet chunks and water just to the top of the fat chunks if wet rendering. Wet rendering not only prevents the beef tallow from burning, it will make the end product more flavorless, and odorless, which is ideal for making skin and hair care products.  If dry rendering, extra care must be taken to stir the pot every 30 minutes so the fat does not burn, which can affect the flavor and texture of the final product.

Both methods take about four hours. The rendered beef tallow is ready when the sediment separates from the clear melted liquid, the rendered fat. Place a strainer over another pot or glass bowl and carefully pour the melted fat through the strainer. If all of the sediment is not caught by the strainer, strain the remaining mixture again, lining the strainer with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. After cooling at room temperature overnight, break the solid beef tallow disk up and compact it in the storage container of your choice, such as a wide mouth glass mason jar. Then it can be stored as a shelf-stable solid that turns into a liquid when heated. Tallow is self-stable for about 12 months, up to 18 months refrigerated, and two years when stored in the freezer.

Why cook with beef tallow?

Tallow’s cooking superpowers include its high smoke point (420 degrees Fahrenheit), flavor profile, and nutritional density. Its high smoke point makes it an excellent choice for frying, sauteing, and searing meats. It offers a unique, rich flavor for meats, vegetables, and baked goods. Beef tallow is also naturally high in vitamins A, D, E, K, choline, and essential fatty acids, including omega-3, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and stearic acid.

Before you cook, you can season your cast iron pan with tallow. Rub a thin layer on the pan to prevent rust and keep the skillet’s non-stick properties. You can also use tallow to condition and smooth wooden cutting boards and wooden utensils.

Other uses for beef tallow

In addition to cooking, tallow is a natural moisturizer/lubricant for human skin, leather, and tools and machinery. Tallow is gaining popularity in skincare products because it is rich in fatty acids similar to those found in the skin’s sebum. People who make their own skincare are also drawn to using tallow in balms, lotions, and soaps because they offer hydration without the chemicals found in many commercial products. The same suppleness tallow gives your skin is also why beef tallow is excellent at restoring suppleness to leather boots, jackets, and other goods, helping them last longer. In the workshop, beef tallow not only prevents rust, but is a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based lubricants that will help maintain the functionality of your equipment.

Tallow-based balms and salves are also a versatile tool to keep in your first aid box for burns, insect bites, scrapes, cuts and more.

For a natural homemade deodorant, mix tallow with baking soda and essential oils.

Candle makers also like beef tallow as a sustainable zero-waste alternative to paraffin wax. Tallow candles burn cleanly and add warm, natural light to your home.

Now that you know the many uses for beef tallow, you can store your fat trimmings in the freezer if you  eat lots of beef until you are ready to make a big batch.