Paleo Plan

Make Your Own Tallow

This awesome pic is courtesy of www.thenourishednana.blogspot.com


Before I go telling you how to make tallow, let me first tell you what it is, and why you’d want to make it. You’re probably starting to see “tallow” around the Paleo/Primal blogosphere in the “eat this” category. Tallow is rendered fat from meat other than pork – often beef. (Rendered fat from pork is called lard.) What is rendering? It just means to melt something down.

The reason I wanted tallow in my own kitchen is because it’s resistant to damage from heat from cooking – more so than unfiltered coconut oil and even lard, and definitely more so than olive oil. Tallow is 50% saturated fat, 42% monounsaturated fat, and only 4% polyunsaturated. Remember, you don’t want to heat polyunsaturated fatty acids very much because they’ll oxidize and potentially cause inflammation in your body. So when you’re cooking, you want high saturated fat content in your oil or a combination of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Now, you can certainly buy grass-fed tallow online from U.S. Wellness Meats or from other places, but it can be expensive and it’s pretty simple to make your own. Most tallow you can buy in the store is hydrogenated, so you’ll want to stay away from that. And unless tallow or lard comes from a grass-fed source, you’ll want to avoid it, since grain fed animals have fewer nutrients in their fat and more inflammatory omega 6′s to boot. Ok, on to the tutorial.

1. First you need to get some fat.
I bought half a grass-fed cow this year and requested that they keep the fat for me when it was butchered. You could do the same thing. If you don’t have half a cow handy and you’d like to make tallow NOW, you could go to a health food store (or call) and ask them if they have any fat scraps from grass-fed cows. You could call local ranches to see if they have any, or ask them where they get their meat processed and call the processing plant. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s probably only 15 minutes and 3 phone calls, which I think is worth it. If you can find it, it’s really cheap or free. Go to www.eatwild.com to find local grass-fed beef ranchers. Otherwise, you’re stuck with grain-fed fat from a butcher, which is what we’re trying to avoid here in the Paleo world in the first place…

Here’s what the fat looked like before I did anything with it.

2. Then you want to cut it up as small as possible, and cut off as much of the bloody stuff and meat as you can. Cut off the bloody parts and the meat and put the fat in a food processor for the best results. The objective is to have the most surface area so the fat can melt down as evenly as possible. I didn’t have my food processor (I did this at my boyfriend’s family’s house), so I just cut it up really small and it was fine. I fed the meaty, bloody scraps to my dog. Yum.

3. Place the fat in a pot.
The thicker the pot the better because the heat will be more evenly distributed that way. You don’t want anything to burn (burning meat = carcinogens and oxidized fatty acids = bad).

4. Put it on a burner over the lowest heat possible and cover it up.
Depending on how much fat you have, the melting process can take hours. I had about 4 pounds and it took about 3 or 4 hours total, but the pot we used was very thick cast iron, so it took a while for it to begin melting. The objective here is to melt the fat and then cast away everything else leftover in the pot. While it’s cooking down, you’ll want to take a wooden spatula or spoon to the mixture every 30 minutes or so to make sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom and to mix things up a bit. The picture below is about two hours into the process. The meaty parts are getting golden brown and the fat is melting down.

5. Strain the fat.
Once all the fat has melted down, you’re going to take a metal siphon, some cheese cloth (I suppose a paper towel would work) and a big glass bowl and clarify the pot-o-fat. Place the strainer in the big bowl pour the fat mixture in. I suggest you do this over the sink. By the way, do NOT use a plastic bowl for this. The hot fat will not only melt the plastic, but it will release estrogen-like toxins from the plastic for your eating pleasure.

You’re left with golden-colored liquid tallow in the bowl and fried meat/tissue in the strainer. In my household, those fried meaty parts are called grizzlies and we give them to the dog. You can eat them, too, if you want.

When the tallow cools, it looks white and solid – kind of like butter or coconut oil, but with a slightly grayer hue. The yellower it is, the more nutrient dense it is. Our batch was sitting in a cooler on the way home, so it got a little malformed…

I’ve been using the tallow for cooking eggs, stir frys, meat, or whatever else that’s savory. It has sort of a meaty essence, so I’m not sure I’d try to bake something sweet with it. Although I did just bake a batch of muffins using bacon grease instead of coconut oil, so scratch that last comment… You can keep it in an airtight container (mason jar, glass pyrex) just as you would coconut oil or olive oil, or save it for later use in the freezer. It’s very stable, so it should last quite a long time even out of the fridge or freezer. I can’t find how long it would last online, so if anyone knows, please let us know in the comments. Also, know that you can also create tallow just by saving the drippings from grass-fed beef roasts, ground beef, etc. then saving the strained fat in a mason jar. Good luck with this in your own kitchen!

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29 Comments

  1. loriborealis

    I’m fascinated by this! Since I started following a paleo diet, I’ve started to regularly drain the fat from bacon to use for later cooking (I usually buy the Trader Joe’s uncooked, nitrate/nitrite free bacon). I’ll scoop out a spoonful or two to saute veggies, eggs, or anything savory in it, especially if I am trying to stretch my coconut oil. I remember my mother would frequently do the same in her kitchen when I was growing up. Do you think this is safe in terms of the ratio of omega 3/6′s? I can’t find much information about the TJ’s brand and buying half a cow isn’t financially feasible for me right now. :)

  2. Could you put the fat in a crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours, or would that get too hot?

    • @Casey – yes, people use the crockpot for this, too. I just wanted the experience of doing it on a stovetop. There are plenty of instructional blog posts on it out there.

  3. I render all our meats for our use. I use a large butcher knife and cut it into 1 to 2 inch chunks. I then put it in the crock pot on high and let it go. AS the oil rises to the top I remove it. I then mash it down with a potato masher. Then remove more oil until it is mostly solids. I then drain it into a large sieve over a bowl. It takes little of my time nor attention. And the leftovers form this go to our chickens. You can call local butchers who do family raised animals as see if they will call you when they have something you can use.

  4. I love this idea! But one caveat on giving the dogs fat, I’ve seen many dogs over the years suffer from pancreatitis (bloody diarrhea, often requiring sub Q fluids to recover) from eating things with a lot of fat. This mainly occurs in smaller breeds, and purebreds.

  5. Zernike

    If you want your tallow to be more pure and a lighter color, add 2 x water to your last step (I pour it all into a quart-size glass measuring cup), reheat slowly until the water is near boiling, stir well, and then put in refrigerator to harden the fat. The water will settle to the bottom with a lot of the color and fine debris. Lift the hardened fat off the water, drain well on a paper towel for a few seconds, and put in whatever container you wish to use. I keep mine fresh in a glass container inside the refrigerator, easily scooping out whatever amount needed.

  6. Can I ask why tallow over lard? We raise our own heritage pigs on pasture can I use my own rendered lard rather than using tallow?

    • Neely

      Sally Knight – I love both. The only thing I said tallow was “better” for than lard was that it does a little better with high heat than lard. But both are pretty high heat fats. Carry on with your delicious rendered lard :)

  7. Colin Cook

    We British used to call beef fat “dripping”, and believe it or not, we used to eat it, spread onto bread like butter. It was the unclarified type, with the brown stuff present that oozes out of the beef joint while cooking, so I guess this was the only healthy reason for eating it. Modern folk with a fear of fat and furred arteries will regard this practice with horror… . But it was delicious to us kids. Maybe fried bread (also a British delicacy) would taste pretty good if tallow was used?
    Um, I eat more vegetables these days…

  8. I was excited yesterday to find out about the the Paleo diet…, Than to my utter amazement there it was …the recipe for Tallow… My Grandmother …. Born in 1907 …who. was my mother’s mother …..was originally ffrom Winder Ga and later migrated to Phila Pa …. made Tallow…. She and my mother along with all the women of the generation …that I knew .,. would always use the “drippings” from bacon or other meat… to scrabble eggs and fry other foods. …We didn’t purchase oil …until the early 70″s…but on rare occasions we did purchase lard. Up until the late 60′s…,I . remember my cousin …..on my father”s side .., when she was a child ..,suffered 2nd & 3rd degree burns over her entire upper boby … Except for her face….,,when the handle of a pot containing hot water broke… And it spilled on her…she of course …was rushed to the hospital and spent weeks there …when she returned home…my grandmother …gave her mother… my aunt a jar of tallow ….which mu grandmither had previously made…. my aunt used the talliow on my cousin”s scar tissue…, .,Today my cousin is in her early 60′s and still has beautiful skin… Only a small amount of scar tissue remains…. When my Grandmithet passed in 1994 … after a 15 yr illness …We still had the tallow….that she had made .on the 80′s… I wouldn’t recommend using tallow after having it for this length of time….(not rven fir the skin) Tallow does last a long time…

  9. Hi, I just love your site. I was wondering if it is possible to make the tallow with mixed meats and fats or is it necessary only to use beef, and others separately.

    • Neely Quinn

      Aarthi – I’ve never made it with mixed meats. It might affect the flavor profile if you mix meats, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work, but stick to beef and venison, and maybe pork. Here’s another article on this for more info, as I’m honestly not an expert in this area – I stick to the basics (one animal per rendering :) – http://www.cheeseslave.com/how-to-render-lard-tallow/

  10. Hi!! You’re site and recipes are awesome! I had actually bookmarked this post a while back for making tallow when we got our grass fed cow. I haven’t gotten to the tallow yet, but just made beef stock. Could the fat from the stock be used as tallow?

    • Neely Quinn

      Lori – Thanks for the kind words! Do you mean like the fat you can skim off the top of the beef stock? My only concern is that the fat from bones is coming from the tallow, which is actually mostly monounsaturated fat, which isn’t going to keep for as long as tallow. But I’m not really an expert on tallow/lard/rendering. You may want to search on the Weston A Price Foundation site for the answer to that question.

  11. thebookwormz

    would a pressure cooker work to keep from cutting the fat into small pieces?

  12. Thank you for using my tallow pic! Honestly, I’ m flattered & like your method, too. I’ll be back to visit. :)

    • Neely Quinn

      Cindy Hailey – I’m so glad you don’t mind! Thanks :)

  13. I was in the midst of writing a long summary of my tallow making with buffalo kidney fat i.e. ‘leaf tallow” when I hit the wrong key and I don’t know if it took off to you without finishing or it deleted itself. Please let me know. Thanks.
    Eloris

  14. Anonymous

    we use bacon grease lol

  15. Hi Neely,

    I am completely new to Paelo and note that alot of paleo recipes call for coconut oil. Unfortunately here in Namibia, we cannot buy coconut oil (or I have not seen it to date). Could I substitute this will olive oil?

    Thanks, regards
    Lisa

  16. We have been thinking of making tallow, we are Muslims and buy only Halal (Kosher) meat from one of
    the local butchers, all of the Halal meat is grass fed and organic. Next time I am there I will buy beef fat
    and try your method. Just for you & your friends, do watch the following Youtube video on foods. Hope this helps us in eating well. God Bless and my well wishes to you all.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cONYR7vAD-A

    Thank,s
    M. Jawaid
    Danville, CA

  17. Dave Ross

    Instead of a food processor I used a meat grinder. Works much better.

  18. Peabody

    Thanks for the instructions!

    I’m not really Paleo, but I’ve noticed significant improvements just from eating eggs and bacon for breakfast and no cereal or toast. After four months of bacon and eggs every day, my total cholesterol went from 211 to 219, and my HDL/LDL ratio went from 4.2 to 6.4. The nurse told me to keep doing whatever I was doing.

    I get supermarket beef, strain and save the drippings and cook with them. Just made some oatmeal cookies with that, and they’re quite good.

  19. You know that you can buy bacon grease for the Paleo plan. It’s on amazon.com under hot belly bacon grease. There is a direct link for the site, too. It’s FDA and USDA approved. I use it for rouxs and for red beans. Of course it’s good in anything that you want that hickory, bacon flavor.

  20. Anyone try it with deer fat yet? In the late season like now deer can sport several pounds of subQ fat. But I’ve always found it an unpleasant smell when it cooks and not that tasty if you chew a hunk off a steak. So I was wondering if it would change for the better being rendered.

  21. Mary LaPanadera

    Whenever I make my beef bone broth, I have a lot of fat that needs to be removed before I can use it. Does that count as tallow too? I have too much, and instead of throwing it away, can you suggest something to do with it besides in cooking? Unfortunately, I don’t live in the snow belt, otherwise I was thinking of making something for the birds in Winter.

  22. This is all great information… I didn’t read all the comments as I am out of time (gotta get back to work) but I did this with Leaf Lard (from the fat around the kidneys and heart of a pig) and I got a totally pure white, beautiful no smell batch of lard with which you can make delicious cakes, pie crusts, muffins etc…
    So I’m definitely going to try it with the beef. But I’ve been told the beef fat is never going to have that no smell, no taste effect that the pork does because there’s too much blood throughout the fat of the beef.
    I think goose fat is also a great clean fat…
    I found a recipe for face and body cleaner using the tallow and some oil but no lye so it’s not really a soap.
    Go to “foodrenegade.com”

  23. Oh and Mary, I meant to suggest that you save that fat from your beef broth( as long as it’s not full of some of that yucky stuff that comes to the top when you start to boil down) for sauteing and cooking veggies when you want a dash of beef flavor. But if you strain it through a couple of layers of cheese cloth perhaps it would be clean enough to use as tallow? I’m not sure. If you have any animals they’d sure love it, too

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