{Tallow: A Long-Lost Fat} How to Render Tallow in the Slow Cooker

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Ah, tallow: the healthy fat least recognized.

Tallow is one of the long-lost fats of our generation–pushed off the shelf by vegetable and canola oils.

Every time I find myself in a conversation about healthy fats (which is pretty much every day of my life), I mention tallow and inevitably confuse someone. No one seems to know what tallow is.

Is it a plant?

Is it some British variation of “hello?” (sorry…I realize that one’s a stretch…)

For a while, I wasn’t sure myself. I knew it was a fat, but I didn’t know from whence it came.

Was it a chicken? Or a goat?

Turns out I was half right with “goat.”

Tallow is the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals such as deer. It is very solid and waxy at room temperature and can be kept for extended periods without the need for refrigeration. Rendering is the process of gently heating the interior fat tissue, called “suet,” causing the pure oils to melt away from the rest of the tissue. (Source)

IMG_4679_1 I had to special order beef suet from my local winter farmer’s market. One of the not-perks of living in the city is that they have to bring you grass-fed suet from two states over.

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Suet is the hard fat found around the kidneys of the cow. 

IMG_4683_1 Rendering is the process of heating and separating the fat from the other bits by slowly heating and then straining the suet.  I started by cutting my suet into tiny cubes, but you could also grind yours in the food processor.

IMG_4686_1 The suet I got was fairly clean– no muscle tissue or blood to separate. If yours has muscle or blood in it, make sure to trim it off.

IMG_4688_1 I put the suet cubes into the slow cooker with a 1/4 cup of water on the bottom.  Lydia at Divine Health says that the water helps keep the fat from burning.  I set the slow cooker on Low and my time for 9 hours.

IMG_4692_1 After 9 hours, the fat and other bits (cracklings) had separated and the cracklings had turned a nice brown color. And my entire apartment smelled like beef fat.

IMG_4698_1 I poured the contents of the slow cooker through a cheese cloth and into a big metal bowl.

IMG_4702_1 And then through another cheese cloth into a glass jar.

IMG_4710_1 The next day, my tallow was a beautiful white.

How to Render Tallow in the Slow Cooker
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Modified from Divine Health (http://divinehealthfromtheinsideout.com/2013/01/rendering-beef-tallow-in-a-crockpot/)
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 to 2.5 lbs beef suet from grass-fed cows
  • ¼ cup water
  • cheese cloth
  • large bowl
  • glass quart jar
  • slow cooker
Instructions
  1. If needed, trim your suet of muscle tissue and chop into small pieces. You could also grind it in the food processor, which would take away some of the rendering time.
  2. Place ¼ cup of water in the slow cooker and top with your suet chunks.
  3. Cook on low for about 9 hours (if you ground up the suet, it might take less time.)
  4. Once the cracklings and the tallow have separated, pour the contents of the slow cooker through a cheese cloth and into a large bowl.
  5. If needed, pour through another cheese cloth and into a glass jar for storage.

Tallow is (in my world) a long-lost fat.

A traditional, nourishing fat that you don’t find in very many circles this day and age.

Tallow  is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hale and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard. It is also a good source of K2 in its suet form. (Source)

Fat is our optimum source of fuel and I encourage everyone to experiment with long-lost fats like tallow and lard.

Don’t be afraid: they’re good for you.

You need them to survive and thrive.

Wondering what to do with your tallow?

Here are some of the suggestions I got from my amazing Facebook followers and the world-wide web:

  • Fry up some french fries or sweet potato fries (tallow is a very stable fat, which makes it great for high temperature cooking).
  • Make some homemade candles or soap.
  • Use it as a moisturizer– it’s a traditional remedy for eczema.
  • Make some tallow balm for your face.
  • Make some pemmican .
  • Fuel your car…

Have you ever cooked with tallow? Or made your own tallow crafts? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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45 Responses to {Tallow: A Long-Lost Fat} How to Render Tallow in the Slow Cooker

  1. Kristin S February 7, 2013 at 6:56 AM #

    I’ve recently become a huge fan of tallow because I bought 1/4 of a grass-fed cow and got the fat along with the meat. I rendered it in the oven and use it with everything now! Potato and sweet potato chips and fries are the best in tallow. And I fry up my eggs in the morning in a little bit of it. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin since I started consuming it. I plan to make some sort of balm with it this weekend, so we’ll see how that goes 🙂

    • Allison February 7, 2013 at 10:46 AM #

      That is so cool, Kristin! I can’t wait to fry up some sweet potato fries! I actually made a tallow balm last night– I’ll be posting about it next week, but if you want a great recipe, check out DIY Organic Beauty Recipes by The Mommypotamus: http://www.mommypotamus.com/lp/order-diy-beauty-ebook/ that’s the recipe that I used.

  2. Alicia K February 7, 2013 at 7:44 PM #

    I’ve been waiting for a post like this. We have some raw pork fat that I would like to render into lard. Thanks Allison!!!!

    • Allison February 7, 2013 at 8:46 PM #

      So cool, Alicia! I think lard might take a little less time than tallow in the slow cooker– I’m thinking that lard is a little softer than tallow at room temperature if you know what I mean. Here’s a post that I found with specific instructions for lard in the slow cooker– she says it only takes an hour or so…http://nourishedkitchen.com/how-to-render-lard/

      • diane February 10, 2013 at 3:27 PM #

        A few weeks ago, I did 5 lbs of pork back fat in the slow cooker and it took about 8 hours.
        I’ve also made tallow in a frying pan and it takes about an hour. I use it for everything! I grease my baking dishes with it, saute veggies, cook meat, and make pancakes in it. Yum!

      • expat April 12, 2013 at 9:08 AM #

        This week I rendered 2.5 kilos of leaf lard from the kidney fat of pastured pork. Running it through a meat grinder first makes for a much faster project. I used a 3 quart stainless pan, with a pour lip (important for this process since there are many pouring stages). Fill the pan to the top with ground fat and place on the stove at the lowest temperature setting possible. I pour the lard off through a cheesecloth lined fine metal strainer as it reduces, directly into snap ring jars. When it is reduced down to just fatty fiber residue I add more ground fat to the pan and keep repeating this process with the remaining fat until there is little or no liquid fat left to drain off into storage. With a steel spatula I chop up and turn the rest of the fine cracklins and let them brown a bit with a little salt and ground dried garlic.They make a very nice crunchy salad topping.

        Since I now live in France and went paleo a few years ago I found that duck fat is also an excellent saturated fat for high temperature deep frying. It might be hard to come by in the states, but really worth it to try if you find a source. The French have used it for centuries for their frites (French fries). It imparts a flavor that can never be matched with vegetable oils.

        • Lily April 3, 2015 at 2:20 PM #

          I use a meat grinder too! Makes pemmican preparation a breeze! I grind the fat before rendering in the crock pot, and then I grind home made jerky to powder it.

  3. Heather@Mommypotamus February 9, 2013 at 4:04 PM #

    Great post! It also makes an awesome skin moisturizer when mixed with a little olive oil and some essential oils for fragrance!

    • Allison February 9, 2013 at 4:13 PM #

      Thanks, Heather! I actually made some of the tallow balm from your book the other day. I love it! My skin feels so soft. Can’t wait to see what changes in the next few weeks of using it. Thanks!

  4. Louise @ ancestralchef.com February 10, 2013 at 1:23 AM #

    I was actually just reading about tallow the other day! Had no idea how it’s made, but now I know 🙂 In fact, I had been wondering for a while where to get suet (I’ve been wanting to make a Paleo version of the traditional British mince pies). I’ll have to ask my butcher next time.

  5. sharon February 10, 2013 at 12:27 PM #

    I think I want to try this, I know a custom butcher and have access to lots of suet – I actually get my bones for broth from him..I have 2 questions 1) do you know if i can freeze tallow (probably) as I live alone and last time I made bone broth from these big joint bones, I put it in the fridge after I strained it . I got about 1/2 in. of suet off the top. how could I of used that? I put it in a jar in the fridge but it got moldy on me ( should I of heated it up again and strained it?
    Thanks!

    • Allison February 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM #

      Hi Sharon! I’m pretty sure you can freeze tallow, but I’ve read multiple places that it doesn’t need to even be refrigerated. You could probably save the fat and use it somewhere else– I usually don’t because it’s got chunks of other things in it…onion and whatever I use in my broth. I’m curious though– I think I’ll ask some of my ancestral health friends and see if I can get some answers 😉

      • Nicole February 18, 2013 at 3:30 PM #

        I’m also curious about the fat skimmed from bone broth. I hate to have it go to waste but, like you said, it inevitably gets mixed with bits of onion, etc. If there is a way to “purify” it that would be fantastic! On the same note, are there any uses for the large globs of bone marrow that remain when beef broth is finished cooking (dislodged from inside bones)? I hate to throw it away as I am sure it is nutritious but I don’t know what to do with it. And, the bones themselves, do you just toss them out? Thanks!!!

      • sharon lindsley December 22, 2016 at 12:44 PM #

        ha ha I think this was me a few years ago – I have been making some very nice lard for a while now – but I have some beef fat that has been in my freezer a FEW years now waiting for me to render it..wondering if it is still good – guess I could try..you say 9 hours in the crock pot?? lard takes me about 5 – I get about 2 quarts of nice white stuff and love making pie crust and frying in it – now though I really want to try the tallow and want to start making soap again….thanks for your info

    • Lady McCormick March 18, 2013 at 1:40 AM #

      Tallow and lard can be frozen. I’ve been rendering and freezing fat from our 4-H beef and pork, and wild game for over 20 years. I never keep more than a quart jar in the fridge and have never had it mold. Using wide mouth jars, or even clean coffee cans with lids, is preferable to small mouth jars. It’s much easier to scoop out the appropriate amount of fat.

      I always get rave reviews for my baked goods because of the natural fat too! I’ve had more than one friend ask where I got the recipe for this cookie or that pie, and it usually ends up being their recipe! They can’t believe my version tastes so much better. The secret is the animal fat.

    • Denise Skidmore October 22, 2014 at 12:44 PM #

      It’s the impurities that go moldy. If you clarify it will keep longer. If you save fat after deep frying to use again, repeat the clarification step before storing for any extended time.

  6. amy February 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM #

    I remember my mom and grandmas saving all of their left over fat from cooking and reusing it to fry other foods like eggs and potatoes. There was always a bowl of it next to the stove.

  7. Anita February 12, 2013 at 12:21 AM #

    Curious to know…do things cooked with it have a beef flavor to them??

    • Allison February 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM #

      Hi Anita! Great question– Tallow doesn’t really taste beef, BUT it does have a very distinct smell (I kind of find it lemon-y). I haven’t noticed that it adds any particular flavor to the foods I’ve cooked in it. It does add a richness that other fats don’t, but that’s the only real difference I’ve noticed.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  8. Mo March 3, 2013 at 1:48 PM #

    I have used tallow for several years. We raise our own beef. I take all the fat off the kidneys @ butcher time and render it first. It is the nicest. then if butcher will I have them grind up fat in 3 lb packages to fit my large crock pot..and do it like you do..only I don’t strain it. I ladel off the fat like skimming cream off milk. It is good in baking. frying..well you know. I also save fat off of steaks and ribs and do a batch of it too. I don’t throw any of the fat out. When I have a lot to do I will render it outside in large pans on propane burner. Chickens love the cracklins. The whitest fat comes off the kidneys. I also do cows feet for the gelatin. I value it the most . we used to throw them away!

    • Allison March 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM #

      Wow– that’s amazing, Mo! I secretly hope to one day live somewhere where I can raise my own animals. I think it’s so cool that you’re able to use the whole animal.

  9. Margaret Hunter March 18, 2013 at 3:28 AM #

    Some 65 years ago my mother bought crackings for us on grocery day. The butcher shop rendered fat and sold them. A few years later when I had my first baby my mom rendered fat and gave it to me for my nipples. It worked great on sore cracked nipples.

  10. Nikki May 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM #

    This may be a dumb question but does the water just evaporate?

    • Allison May 16, 2013 at 10:48 AM #

      Hi Nikki! No such thing as a dumb question 😉 Yes, the water evaporates– adding a little water keeps the suet from burning in the beginning stages. There are some recipes for rendering lard and tallow that don’t add water, but I did just to be on the safe side. From what I’ve read, it actually takes longer to render when you add the water.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Allison

      • Nikki May 19, 2013 at 12:51 PM #

        Hi Allison,
        Followed your recipe and did get good results … thanks so much! Just a few questions, though. When I was cutting up the suet there was a fair bit of connective type tissue … almost like a ‘natural saran wrap’ that coated the suet. Do I need to try to remove as much of that as possible? I did try to but it was very time consuming and I’m thinking that it will just separate with the cracklings as I’m rendering. Am I right? As well, I probably rendered about 2.5 pounds of suet and got about 3 cups of tallow. Is that about right or should I have cooked it longer … there still seemed to be some fatty type tissue in the cracklings? I’m not using grass fed suet … the best I could do locally was antibiotic-free and hormone-free.

        • Allison May 21, 2013 at 4:01 PM #

          Hi Nikki! I think that the connective tissue-y stuff will separate into the crackings as the tallow’s rendering. I would wait until the cracklings are brown and crispy– it might look like there’s some fat on them still…I rendered about 2.5 pounds of suet and got exactly a quart of tallow (about 4 cups). It might be that different “cuts” of suet render different amounts of tallow– maybe because yours had more connective tissue?

          • Nikki May 22, 2013 at 11:28 PM #

            Thanks for responding Allison … I poured mine into a different jar the second time around (that was easier to guestimate an amount from) and think I did get about 4 cups as well. Also cooked it for an hour or so longer. I let the cracklings cool and have stored them in my fridge for little dog treats … our dog loves them 🙂

  11. Shin June 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM #

    Oh this is beautiful! Look at that white tallow!

  12. Cecilia Powers June 26, 2013 at 8:00 AM #

    What do you do with the left over crackings from the rendered tallow? I just rendered for the first time and I hate wasting all of the great stuff. Thanks!

    • Allison June 27, 2013 at 11:38 AM #

      Hi Cecilia! I didn’t use my leftover cracklings from this batch of tallow ( I KNOW…SHAME). But I know of people that just eat them…One of the reasons I didn’t save mine is that I didn’t know what to do with them! I’ll ask the facebook page and see if anyone has any ideas 😉

      • mortarmanmike July 4, 2013 at 12:34 PM #

        Eat them! Pat them on a paper towel to remove excessive tallow. Shake on a little sea salt and umm umm good! If you don’t like them by themselves, use them like bacon bits. Sprinkle them on a baked sweet potato, or over a salad.

        Nice site Allison.

        • Allison July 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

          Thanks, Mike! Great tips 😉

  13. Ray January 2, 2014 at 3:17 AM #

    Great info. One thing tho- Temperature is important. I suggest folks use a candy thermometer. Get the rendering tallow up to 245F, which makes sure all the water is gone. Don’t let it go above 250F or it will be scorched.

  14. jennifer January 2, 2014 at 7:34 PM #

    I’ve always put my hot freshly rendered tallow(and lard) into hot sanitized jars, throw a cap and ring on and can using the inversion method! SO simple and it keeps for the whole year.

  15. Rebecca Care Doty January 22, 2014 at 4:28 PM #

    Allison,
    We raise whitetail deer and own a hunting service can I make tallow out of their fat?

    • Allison January 22, 2014 at 5:07 PM #

      Yes! You can make tallow out of their fat–I’m pretty sure that any hooved animal’s fat can be rendered into tallow. I think that deer fat is pretty similar to beef fat, but I would keep an eye on your slow cooker toward the end to make sure that it doesn’t burn. I tried to do some internet research on the difference between deer tallow and beef tallow, but I couldn’t find anything. I know a hunter that I think renders her own tallow– I’ll ask her and see what she says 😉

    • Allison January 23, 2014 at 11:08 AM #

      Okay! I just heard back from my friend Hayley at http://www.healthstartsinthekitchen.com/ She’s a hunter and homesteader. Here’s what she says:

      “we don’t render venison fat because we feel that the venison fat is typically the taste that is undesirable.. Most people who say venison tastes too gamey is related to the way the meat was butchered – more venison fat = less appealing taste.

      As for the actually act of rendering – yep it would be exactly the same process.

      We do LOVE venison bone broth – but always remove the fat

      We feed the chunks of venison fat to our chickens – it’s win win – they need the extra fat/calories in the winter much more than us”

  16. Kelly January 26, 2014 at 5:15 PM #

    I love tallow balm! It is the only thing that helps keep my eczema at bay. I have been without it for a couple of weeks and I can tell a huge difference in my skin. I am rendering some suet right now and can’t wait until I can make my tallow balm!

  17. Laura March 6, 2015 at 2:13 AM #

    I agree… I would just like to add that it’s important to use true animal lard, not the kind that has added hydrogenated fats.

  18. Michele December 9, 2016 at 8:05 AM #

    Does it have to be the fat around the kidneys? Can it be fat from anywhere on the cow? I mainly want to use it to feed birds by making seed cakes with it.

    • Denise Skidmore January 17, 2017 at 10:35 PM #

      Kidney fat is the least flavorful and lightest in color, for use in light pastry. But all the rest of the fat can be rendered and used for less delicate recipes.

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