Rendering Tallow: A Step-By-Step Guide

Tallow is a traditional form of rendered beef fat that has been used for centuries to make candles, soaps, lubricants, and cooking oils. Before the rise of vegetable oils, tallow was highly prized for its versatility across many household tasks. Although it has waned in popularity over the years, rendering your own beef tallow at home can be a fun DIY project that saves money and reduces waste. Follow this detailed step-by-step guide to render high-quality, usable tallow from beef fat.

What You’ll Need

  • Beef fat/suet – This will be the raw material rendered into tallow. Acquire beef suet or untrimmed beef fat from a local butcher shop or meat processor. Ask specifically for suet, the hard fat around the kidneys and loins.
  • Large stock pot – Choose a heavy bottomed 6-8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven to hold the fat for rendering. The pot should be big enough to allow the fat to bubble and cook evenly.
  • Long handled wooden spoon – Use a wooden spoon to periodically stir the melting fat. Wood is heat resistant.
  • Cheesecloth – Cheesecloth will be used to strain out impurities after the tallow is rendered. Get a fine mesh cloth.
  • Glass jars or tin cans – Have clean glass jars or tin cans ready to store the finished tallow. Canning jars work well.
  • Oven mitts – The hot fat requires hand protection. Have good quality mitts or gloves to safely handle the pot.

Step 1. Prepare the Fat

Start by cutting the raw beef fat into 1-2 inch cubes using a sharp knife or cleaver. Keep the cubes uniform in size. This increases the surface area and allows the fat to render more quickly and evenly. Trim off any visible meat, tissues, or sinew – the final tallow should be pure white.

Step 2. Melt the Fat

Place the cubed fat into the stock pot over low heat. Let the pot warm gradually until the fat starts to liquefy and melt. Use the wooden spoon to stir the chunks every 5-10 minutes as it melts down. Keep the heat low to avoid scorching or burning the fat, which ruins the flavor. Melting may take 30-60 minutes.

Step 3. Simmer and Cook

Once the fat has completely melted, increase the heat slightly to bring it up to a gentle simmer. The melted fat will start bubbling lightly and making light crackling sounds. Continue cooking for 2-3 hours at this heat, stirring occasionally with the wooden spoon. The fatty tissue solids will slowly sink to the bottom, leaving pure tallow fat on top.

Step 4. Strain and Filter

Remove the pot from the heat source and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Place your cheesecloth over a large bowl, pitcher, or container. Carefully pour the liquefied fat through the cheesecloth, catching any crispy solids and particles in the cloth. These remnants can be composted.

Step 5. Store and Use

Pour the filtered liquid tallow into the prepared glass jars or tin cans through a funnel. Allow the tallow to fully cool and solidify before capping and storing. It will become an off-white solid at room temperature. Refrigeration can help extend freshness and shelf life. Use tallow for cooking, soap making, leather care, candle making, and more!
For even more detailed instructions with photos and tips on rendering high quality beef tallow, check out this excellent render tallow guide.
Enjoy your homemade tallow! This traditional skill produces a versatile, all-natural product.


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