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!