How to Make Tallow

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While some recipes call for removing or cutting off the fat from meats, a few require the addition of fat. Whether it is oil to coat a soft ball of bread dough, or solid fat cut into a pie crust, sometimes added fat is needed for cooking. Recently I came across recipes for well-circulated survival food, pemmican, that called for tallow, and I had no clue what they were talking about. Being from the South, I knew what lard was, but not tallow. So off to do some research.

What is tallow?

I discovered tallow, real tallow, is the product of rendering suet, which is the white fat layer surrounding an animal’s organs; namely the kidneys and loins. But it’s also been the more modern name for the product rendered from basic beef fat and/or lamb fat as well.

Tallow has been, and still is, used in everything from soap to candles, moisturizers to lip balm, and is a source of nutrients including niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and riboflavin. From my own personal experience, I can tell you it’s pretty darn awesome.

My tallow experiment

When I was making pemmican to write my article about it, I decided to render some tallow, too.

The first thing I did was pull a few roasts out of the freezer. I’d been wanting to cook a roast anyway and, needing the fat for the tallow, I figured I’d carve the fat off the other one and can some stew with the rest of the beef. It wouldn’t be the good stuff; the fat from the organs, but it would be tallow. And since it was frozen, the fat was easy to work with and remove from the outside. The marbling inside was a bit more difficult to get to so I had to let it them thaw some to get to the rest of it.

After cutting all the removed fat up into smaller pieces about a ½ inch to an inch in size, I put them in a small saucepan and then started to cook them down. It’s recommended that this part of the recipe, making the tallow, be done in a crockpot. But I wasn’t making very much pemmican and so didn’t expect I’d need much tallow. It didn’t take me long to figure out I should have started making the tallow the day before. Turns out the fat has to be melted down slowly so as not to burn it. So, I had hours at minimum to kill.

After a little over 4 hours, I had rendered enough tallow to finish the pemmican (almost 2 cups). I only knew it was done because there were some funny looking things floating on top of a clear yellowish liquid. I was surprised it was a yellow color. Using a cheesecloth over a mesh strainer (that was in turn over a metal funnel sitting in a clean mason jar), I poured the tallow into the jar, leaving out enough for the pemmican.

It’s said that the ‘cracklins’ that are left can be seasoned and eaten, or fed to pets, but honestly, I just threw them away because there wasn’t much, to begin with, and they were mushy. I’m thinking if I’d cooked it longer, or maybe even fried them up, they might have been crispy.

Then I made the pemmican, which was easy, and began wiping my hands off on a paper towel. It was at that point I noticed the little jar of tallow I’d poured.

It was no longer yellow but almost white, and hard, at room temperature. Now, I keep my house cool – right around 69 degrees, so I totally understand that room temperature for me is cooler than it may be for others, but the grease hardening that fast was amazing to me. I then looked down at my hands and realized the paper towel just wasn’t going to cut it. Does anyone remember how an older person would tell us as kids not to pour grease down the sink because it would clog it up? This was the stuff they were referring to. Not the canola oil or the vegetable oil, or even the Crisco. Nope. It had to be Tallow. It was coagulating on my hands. Either I was dead, or this stuff was solid at 98 degrees F.

Turning the hot water knob on I squirted some homemade foaming soap on my hands and start to rub, and ended up making a soapy greasy paste. With a big sigh, I squirted some more, then some more for extra measure. Nope – not gonna cut it. My hands felt like they do after I’ve mixed up a meatloaf and put it in the pan; only they smelled like lemon instead of ketchup. I usually use food handlers gloves when I play around in food but I just had to see how that pemmican felt, and now I regretted it.

Then I spied the Dawn dishwashing detergent, remembered the slogan, and thought ‘What a wonderful time to test that!’. Twice with Dawn and some hot water and my hands were clean. At least Dawn takes this grease out of your way. My hands were clean. And soft… I cannot describe to you how soft and supple my hands were at this point. They weren’t greasy – they were soft. And – I kid you not – they looked like my daughter’s hands who’s 20 years younger than me. This was some miracle stuff!

How to make your own tallow

So, what’s the correct way to make/render tallow? You need to get some good beef fat. You can render any beef fat into tallow but the very best is called “leaf” fat, which is the fat found around the kidneys and loins. You may be able to buy the beef fat at a local butcher or even grocery, but if you can, try to make sure it’s grass-fed with no antibiotics and such. The better quality your source, the better quality your product.

Then you need to have the following:

  • A large crockpot/slow cooker or stockpot. ( I recommend a crockpot/slow cooker.)
  • Clean glass jars, or clean baking dishes and baggies for storage
  • Clean metal funnel (the fat will be hot) if using jars
  • A strainer – again metal is best
  • A cheesecloth or linen towel (no pile)
  • At least 6-7 hours to spend in and around the kitchen.

Using cold fat, trim it well of any meat, gristle, etc., and cut it into small pieces. Some people recommend running it through a blender or food processor to break it up better but you don’t have to – it will render either way. Put the fat into your pot and turn it on very low – it’s extremely important that the fat melts, not cooks or burns. Put the lid on and remember to stir it occasionally. Over time you’ll start to see small pieces, ‘impurities’ or ‘cracklins’, float to the top. When the bottom of the pot is all liquid and all the solids are floating on top it’s done.

Carefully remove the ‘floaters’ and transfer your liquid tallow into jars or baking dishes. If you choose jars you can put the lid on them a store them in the fridge or freezer. If you want you can pour it into baking dishes and cut it into squares when it cools, storing the squares in containers or freezer bags then the fridge/freezer.

Have you made tallow? How do you use it?

Tallow is great for frying just about anything you want to fry, and I’ve heard it’s better than commercial solid greases for pie crusts and other baked goods. I plan on using what little bit I have left on the dry callouses on my feet. Then I’m going to make more!

How about you? Do you use tallow? What do you use it for? Have you made it before or you considering making any? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Sandra

Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.

Sandra D. Lane

Sandra D. Lane

Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.

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  • If you have a grinder, use a sausage plate(coarse) to make small lumps to render. Small uniform lumps render faster and more complete with less chance of burning. For small batches, pour off what you can and use a ricer to press the remaining tallow from the cracklings. If a really large batch, use an apple cider press, maybe with cheese cloth. The craklings can be fed to the chickens, but only in small amounts. Pork crackings have been used as an amendment to bread, again only in small amounts. It’s an acquired taste.

  • We started rendering tallow this summer for the first time. I started with a straight side, deep cooking pot, it needs to be straight side so the tallow will come out of the pot. Fill the cooking pot a little over one third full with water then add the fat, cover, and bring to a slow boil. Check on occasion to make sure there is enough water to continue the simmer and add water as necessary.

    We decided to do it this way to prevent sticking and burning of the tallow and what little meat there was left in the fat. When all the fat has melted, you have to stir on occasion to check this part, then allow to cool. Cut the tallow into quarters and remove it from the pot, scrape the bottom of each quarter of tallow to remove any impurities. After scraping we froze ours in zip-lock bags. We did this on a propane camp stove on our back deck to prevent heating up our house.

    The tallow comes out pure white and solid!

  • To get cracklins render in oven rather than pot on stove. I have never used tallow but lard that you render yourself is the best pie crust in the world. JR

  • I have rendered lard from my own hogs.
    Miss. JoAnne Ryan is correct, I found using the oven to be more accurate in maintaining temperature for rendering.

    • @Mr. Pete,
      I have lard in canning jars from a year ago, stored in my pantry.
      I find as long as you dont leave the jar open for long, keep in a cool place, out of the sun it is still good!
      And, if a little mold shows up, it is only on the top layer. Scrape a 1/4, 1/2 inch off, and use what is underneath.
      Great thing to do, rather than canning meat, is confit it. Cook the meat low and slow in the fat. Pour it into a canning jar. Let it cool and add another layer of fat to top off, making sure the meat is covered by fat. Close the lid.
      A few months later, put the canning jar in a pot of water that will come up to half way. Heat low and slow till all the fat melts and the meat is warmed through.
      Pull out the meat, drain/paper towel dry and serve with Colcannon!
      You can filter the remaining fat and re-use about half a dozen times for the same kind of meat.
      Do not cross with poultry to beef to pork.

      Over on Daisy’s Survival and Self-Reliance forum is a post of rendering lard and pork confit:

  • SO, I am really curious what people use it for? I render lard all the time, and use it for almost all my sauteeing and frying, and the leaf lard for pie crusts. Is tallow used any differently?

    • Well, tallow can be used for soap, candle making, laundry detergent too, and I found out it’s one of the best things I ever put on my skin! Otherwise, I don’t know that it’s much different.

      • Putting tallow on my skin has been crazy good! I have crappy skin and have tried everything. I recently tried a body butter from Primally Pure – what a great product and a really expensive price ($50 for an 8-oz jar)! But worth every penny to try it: I found out my skin really loves tallow-based products! I am waiting for some things to arrive, before attempting to duplicate the Primally Pure body butter. Tallow and jojoba oil do wonders for my skin.

  • tallowate soap is stronger than lard based soaps. it is suitable for laundry use, not bathing. substituting tallow for lard 1:1 will be close, or use a tallow specific recipe.

  • Another way to render fat is to do it in the oven. Put the cut up fat in a roaster and bake at 350 degrees. The cracklings will rise and you can scoop out the melted fat. Sieve through fine cloth. If you pour it while hot into canning jars, wipe the rim well and place a boiled canning lid with the canning ring on top, it will self can. I just completed 32 quarts of lard. I tried my hand at rendering deer fat before to see how well it would work as a candle. It will burn with a wick but the inner fat around the organs worked much better. It was a harder fat. It’s a good skill to learn.


    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup Tallow
    1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
    1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
    1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

    Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the tallow and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

    Roll pastry out to about 1/2 a centimetre thick .
    Brush the outside edges of pie dish with the egg wash, then place the dough on top of filling. Trim pastry to to 1/2 inch larger than the top of the pie dish. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper (optional). Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubblin.
    Think this is Ina Garten’s

  • We’ve been getting a cow from our local farmgal for the last…three…years? Half in June and half in December. Even with four large men to feed, that keeps me out of the store for meat anymore. The first time I didn’t know about tallow…even though I grew up on a ranch, my mom didn’t do that sorta stuff. The second time around, I got a lovely big bunch because my in-laws and my Second Son went in with us, and I got the whole cows worth of fat.

    I render mine down in a crockpot on low or if you have a Keep Warm setting, use that. It will burn if you don’t. Some people put water in the bottom to prevent that; others don’t. Since I have burned water in my time, I put a Tbsp or two in the pot! Just enough not to burn the first bits because I cut and add as I’m cutting. If you cut it all up and then add it all at once, you could probably not add water. Make sure you stir every couple of minutes till it starts to melt. Then you can check it every half hour or so, and give it a good stir. A full crockpot of tallow will take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to render…and the smaller you chop, the quicker it cooks. I usually do mine on a canning or baking day, so I’m there to keep an eye on it. Last time I started late, and it was bedtime and there were still blobs of fat left. So I turned the pot off, covered it with a towel to keep my nosy Rose cat out, and left it for the morning. Next day, I heated it right back up, finished rendering the blobs, and strained it. (I’m not a fan of the cracklins so I keep them for the grandpuppies.)

    We keep ours in wide mouth pints out in the garage fridge, but if you want to use it for cooking purposes it needs to sit on the counter for a bit. I’ve got a good stash at the moment, so I want to set one out and see how long it’s good for at 69 degrees…our room temperature.

    I have the clear nitrile kitchen gloves that I wear when I’m cutting and straining. My kids always seem to call me in the middle of it, and it makes cleanup much easier too. Dawn and very hot water are the key to getting everything clean when you’re done. Hey, if it works for oil spills…

    We have mainly used ours for frying, and it makes French fries taste amazing! We get a pig once a year too, and the bacon fat has kept me in pan frying fat for the last two years. That just sits on the shelf in the fridge in a jar waiting to be used. The nice thing about that fat is it stays pretty soft, whereas the tallow gets hard as a brick! Either way, you’ll never look at oils for frying the same way.

  • Okay, so let’s say you’ve never done anything like this before but want to give it a try on a small scale: I can just trim the fat off a few roasts from the grocery store and render it down? And for beginner uses: pie crusts, and frying? That seems like something I could try 🙂

  • My tallow candles are soft to the touch. Not sure why or what to do about it. The only time the tallow got hard was in the fridge

  • Hi,
    I make a bit of Tallow. If you cut up your fat, put it in a Wok, add a cup of tapwater and then put on the bbq side burner, you can cook this at max temp. The water stops it scalding and “burning” the fat. The water evaporates at boiling point, leaving your tallow rendering down in its own fat juices. I also use a paper towel to strain, i didnt have any cheese cloth or coffee filters. I use tallow anywhere wheere i would normally use oil on the grill. It has a higer burn temp than most oils and makes it easier to clean the BBQ afterwards. I use poor quality tallow (yellow) to cook bacon, eggs, sausages etc and the clear (white) tallow for my low/slow cooks. ie lamb shoulder, brisket etc.

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