How to make tallow out of beef fat (easy-peasy crock pot recipe!)

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beef fat, chopped with my favorite knife

How to make beef tallow, why you probably ought to, and how to use it when you’re finished. (If you don’t want to read my pre-recipe content–though who wouldn’t want to??–you can scroll down real quick to get straight to the recipe!)

I have a bit of an awkward history with beef fat.

The year? Circa 1970. I was a little girl. Soooo little. The place: my Grandma Young’s kitchen table, at their farm near Ellis, Nebraska. Grandma’s kitchen was tiny. She often stood at the oven stirring gravy, heating up her homegrown green beans, or mashing potatoes, while the rest of us sat at the formica-covered table, waiting happily for our hot lunch.the hot,

Life was so good.

Grandma was not a tiny woman, and I can still see her squished there, between my Grandpa’s chair and the stove. “Excuse me, oof, Harry, move over a bit,” she would mutter, squeezing from one end of the stove to the other. I don’t know how she did it. There was barely room to move. But never mind.

Lunch was nearly ready, so we were in our places.

There was no tablecloth on Grandma’s kitchen table. Plain white plates, sturdy silverware, and tall silver tumblers of ice water–or cold milk–fresh from Grandpa’s Jerseys–sat in front of us. There was always a loaf of sourdough bread, sliced on a cutting board, with a butter dish nearby. It was okay to help yourself to a small smidgen of bread, if you were absolutely starving–and we always were–but only a bite or two, lest we spoil our lunch.

When everything was ready, Grandma would turn and begin to hand platters and bowls of hot food over to us. Mind you, this was merely an everyday lunch, but it was glorious: mashed potatoes with gravy, bowls of steaming green beans with globs of salt pork, maybe a cold jello salad, and in the center of the table: a massive platter of huge glistening steaks. My grandma and grandpa ate this way nearly every day. Grandpa was a dairy farmer and by lunchtime each day, they’d both been working very hard for nearly eight hours.

Once we finally started eating, I began to wish that I was not sitting right next to Grandpa. I loved my grandpa, but there was something he did at every meal of beefsteak that chilled me to my very bones. It didn’t happen right away. My grandpa would carefully cut the quivering layer of fat off the edge of his steak, and scoot it to the side of his plate. He wasn’t doing this because he was going to discard it.

Oh, no.

He was saving it for the last. And here is where my sensitive little girl’s heart would quiver. Where my nerves would blanch. My grandpa–once the rest of his plate was clean–would cut that big quivering chunk of fat up into bites and . . . eat every juicy, greasy, oozing bit of it.

And there I would sit, next to him, listening to every mouth-smacking moment of it. Trying hard to keep a neutral look on my face. It wasn’t easy. I was filled with horror.

I’m not criticizing my grandpa, but I just couldn’t imagine eating the fat like that. The fat–in my mind–was what you cut off the steak, and afterwards you’d toss it to the dogs. Or the chickens. Not down your own throat.

When Grandpa noticed that I carefully cut the fat off my steak, and left it on my plate, he’d shake his head. “Sis,” he’d scold, “you don’t know what you’re missing.”

OH YES I DID. Gosh.

But, oh well. I got used to it after a while. Actually, I learned to not sit next to my grandpa! He knew, however, what I did not know–that beef fat was a valuable source of nutrients and energy. And he lived into his late eighties, though he smoked cigarettes every day (Camels, unfiltered) and ate the fat off his steaks for a special treat.

Go figure.

chunks of beef fat in bag

Chunks of beef fat come like this from the butcher, frozen solid. The little black seeds? I spilled a bag of chia seeds when I dug this out of the freezer. #embarrassingbuttrue

These days I do eat the fat.

Yes, I do.

But first! I cook it down into a lovely spreadable form, aka tallow. Tallow is a fancy word for rendered beef fat. It’s creamy and has a neutral, fresh taste when it’s made correctly.

It has a very high smoke point, too, so it makes the very best hash browns, French fries, scrambled eggs, and other fried foods.

Do you make tallow? If not, you ought to try it. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be a convert to beef tallow–like me.

An enduring theme of my life

. . . is this: making something out of (almost) nothing, or making something valuable out of something that is either discarded or is viewed as not worth anything.

Enter tallow: a valuable fat product made out of something that is generally thrown away!

Here’s the deal:

If you buy beef directly from the farmer (and I recommend that you do), you can request the fat. And the butcher will cut the chunks of fat from the animal into big chunks, and freeze it in a freezer bag. The last time we ordered half a beef, I was really surprised at how much fat we got, as well! I’m sure you can buy it other places, too.

Let’s get to the recipe

It’s so simple, especially if you use a slow cooker!

This is the equipment you need:

  • slow cooker
  • cheesecloth and colander, or a fine mesh strainer
  • sharp knife and cutting board
  • immersion blender (this is optional, but it’s great to use if you have one)

And the ingredients you need for tallow are simple, too:

  • 5# beef fat, frozen (let it thaw for 30 minutes before you try to chop it)
  • 1 cup of water
jar of tallow, with a spoon

all done!

chunks of beef fat on cutting board, with knife

Beef Tallow

dramamamafive
Use any frozen beef fat to make tallow in this super-simple process!
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients
  

  • 5 pounds beef fat
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Chop chunks of fat into smaller pieces, 1" or smaller
  • Combine water with chopped beef fat in a slow cooker, and stir to combine. Put on lid and turn to "high" setting.
  • After 30 to 40 minutes, the fat should be soft enough to puree with your hand blender. This step is optional, but you'll get more tallow from the fat, and it'll cut down the cooking time.
  • Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and edges of the pot.
  • Once the fat is liquid and clear (3-4 hours) and small bubbles appear on the surface, it's done! Strain the fat through a fine mesh strainer, or a colander lined with a layer of cheesecloth.
  • Pour into mason jars and store in the refrigerator (it'll last for months) or the freezer (will last for years!).
  • Use for frying potatoes, eggs, vegetables, or what-have-you. Also it's used to make soap, candles, moisturize skin, and clean rifles!

That’s it!

And see, it’s just as easy as I said, if not easier!

If you decide to make some beef tallow, I’d love to hear how it works for you. Thanks for reading, and take care!

xo

Amy

2 thoughts on “How to make tallow out of beef fat (easy-peasy crock pot recipe!)

  1. Janet Dugan

    5 stars
    Hey, you just reminded me that I have a bag of fat from a lovely pastured pig, hiding in the freezer. I’ll bet this recipe will work beautifully for it!

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