If rendering fat like tallow (beef) or lard (pork) is on your to-learn list for a healthy frying oil, I've got the scoop today!
I’ll tell you how I finally made some beautiful beef tallow the other day (yeah, I said it, it’s beautiful, especially after my last attempt which was quite the fiasco), but I’d love to find out if there’s an easier way…
Just want to BUY it?
Now and then I may still just buy it. If you don't want to make it yourself, here's info on buying safe meat or beef tallow online. UPDATE: see this post about which is more cost effective, rendering it yourself or buying it in larger quantities – hint: I was happily surprised! (Also be sure to read more at that link about reusing tallow and how to store large amounts.)
Why use tallow or lard?
Tallow and lard are traditional fats that won’t leave a nasty film in your mouth, or give you a stomach ache after your favorite fried food, with a few trips to the bathroom thrown in, too. It is also a healthy fat, contrary to what you’ve probably heard. Read more about healthy fats here. (Be sure to get your fat from a farmer that knows how to properly raise their animals.) You can fry foods without the worry of killing your heart, like you have to worry about when eating McDonald’s French fries – the oil they cook in is disgusting, although it wasn’t so until 1990:
Before switching to pure vegetable oil in 1990, the McDonald's corporation cooked its french fries in a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil. (Source)
What is Tallow? What is Lard?
Tallow is made from rendering fat from a cow, lard is made from rendering fat from a pig.
OK, but what the heck is ” rendering fat ” anyway?
I didn’t used to know this, either. The other night when I was standing over a pile of disgusting, sticky fat for an hour cutting it into pieces, I wasn’t sure if I was glad that I know now. The first time trying this I didn’t know I needed to cut it into pieces and I burnt the heck out of it, even though it was on super LOW heat for days. (The sick smell coming from our house and off our clothes was just plain embarrassing.)
Rendering fat is the following process: turning clumps of fat into tallow or lard that you can fry in.
- First you buy fat from a local farmer who has his animals out on pasture, and raises them without antibiotics, hormones, or other junk, and feeds them what they were meant to eat.
- Next you’ll need to get your big girl/big boy britches on and start cutting the fat into small-ish hunks. (I did about 1-2” pieces.) This takes a while, depending on how much fat you have. I did a lot at once so I didn’t have to mess with it again for a while. It took me over an hour – there were icky pieces that I didn’t want in there, including a layer of thin skin throughout. That was partly what was so time-consuming – do you guys get the gunk off, or do you just chop it up and throw it all in there? This job wasn’t easy for a city girl, but I got through it. (My beautiful tallow makes it worthwhile!)
- Put the fat in a big stock pot and cover with water. Simmer on very low heat until it’s all melted. It took mine about 4 days! I’d turn it off at night and get it going again in the morning. Does anyone know if this is a normal amount of time? Obviously, after the last time I was afraid to turn it up any higher. Part way through I used my potato masher to smoosh the pieces so they’d finally finish melting.
- UPDATE: I just heard two tips that I want to share with you. First, you can do this out on the grill on low and then your house won't smell as it's boiling. Next, as the fat melts, pour it into the container you're storing it in, and then the fat that's left will melt down faster.
- When it looked like it was done at last, I used a fine strainer to strain it into a glass bowl. This is how it looked – just a tiny amount of gunk leftover and a little over half of this big bowl full of beautiful tallow that I can now use to make real French fries, the best fried fish you’ve ever had, or the other night we had batter-fried shrimp and onion rings – get more recipes in this Deep Fried Heaven post. 🙂 You’ll want to store it in something you can easily scoop some out of. A narrow top container doesn’t work well, trust me.
I’d appreciate any pointers on the cutting-it-up stage!
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