How to Render Tallow (Beef Fat)

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Animal fat gets a bad rap this days, mostly because we’re scared of those totally-dangerous saturated fats. The old fast food joints used to cook their fries in lard (rendered pork far) or tallow (rendered beef fat, also known as suet) until the low-fat craze of the 70s forced everyone to use vegetable shortening (and their lovely, cancer-causing trans fats). I’ve looked around for animal fats to use in cooking but all I’ve found is partially-hydrogenated lard, and I’ve come to learn that the hydrogenation process, while useful because it allows for the lard to be kept at room temperature, also has trans fats. While we’re still searching for pork fat to render lard, our local Whole Foods has been more than happy to set beef fat aside for us as they trim their cuts down for sale. Within a day they had 10 lbs of beef fat for us, which I rendered into tallow the other day.

There are two ways to render fat – “wet” or “dry”. Dry rendering is simply leaving fat pieces to cook on low in a stockpot or crockpot until the fat has liquified (leaving cracklings for later), but the fat can burn and leave a bad taste in the tallow. I decided to do a wet render (which basically involves boiling the fat pieces until the liquid fat has been extracted). I found the whole experience to be surprisingly easy.

The first step is to cut away all pieces of meat from the fat, because it can spoil the tallow. Put all the fat pieces into a stockpot, and add enough water to reach the top of the fat. Simmer the fat on low for a few hours, until the fat starts to shrivel. Stir it around every 20 minutes or so.

Pour the whole shebang into a colander that’s lined with a cheesecloth, with a pot underneath. Leave the colander there for a while to let everything drip into the pot. I also moved the fat pieces around with chopsticks to loosen any liquid, which worked well.

Put the pot in the fridge overnight, and in the morning you should be able to separate the tallow from whatever water is left.

Lastly, cut the tallow up and smoosh it into a wide-mouthed jar or container for easy access. I used a cookie cutter and then shoved the leftovers down the sides of the jar. Keep it in the fridge, and it should keep for several months.

Also, I took the pieces that had a lot of meat on them and sautéed them with a little seasoning, and had them for breakfast. Pretty tasty!

In summary, I would say that if you have any access to fat, it is definitely worth your while to render your own. The only part that felt like “work” was having to cut the meat away from the fat, which took about 30 minutes. As a whole, it was a very satisfying experience and well worth the time invested.

27 thoughts on “How to Render Tallow (Beef Fat)

  1. Great article. How long did it take you to go through that tallow? I’m assuming it will last a long time!

    Know of any way to save bacon grease without it spoiling?


    1. Hi Casey, glad you liked the post. We’re still eating the tallow, it’s only been a couple of weeks since I rendered it. I actually ended up scooping half of the jar out and freezing it just in case we don’t use it fast enough. I’ve been cooking my eggs in it when I don’t have any spare bacon grease, and I’m surprised that it doesn’t impart any beefy flavor onto the eggs.

      As far as bacon grease, I’ve heard that refrigerating can help it keep for about a month without spoiling. We use ours up so quickly that we just keep it under the sink and it’s usually used within a week. I guess you could freeze it if you have a lot, as well. When I worked in restaurants we would usually use the leftover bacon grease to make the next day’s gravies, so I’ve never thought much about storage…hope this helps!


      1. After refrigerating the melted fat and then removing same from the water beneath the fat cap, can you melt the fat again and then pour it into a container to freeze rather than to cut it up cold and have to cram it into a container leaving air spaces around it?



        1. Hi Rogiere,

          I don’t see why you couldn’t melt the fat to make it store better. My only hesitation would be that re-heating anything (even if you are going to immediately freeze it) brings the food that much closer to spoiling. In truth, you could eliminate the whole refrigerating/packing part of the process and just skim the tallow from the top of your pot as it renders, but you would probably lose some of the tallow in the process…


          1. going to try this in a few minutes. perhaps after it is a liquid fat you could pour it into icecube trays to freeze then just take out and use what you need leaving the rest in the freezer in a ziplock bag?


    2. Strain the bacon grease through a coffee filter to get out the bits of meat they are what goes rancid. The fat will last forever if refrigerated


  2. Do you think that you could use the fat leftover from making bone broth? Or would it be “bad” because of the meat and marrow?


    1. Amanda, you should definitely keep the leftover fat from making bone broth for cooking. It may spoil relatively quickly compared to pure tallow. I would recommend putting it in the fridge and using it within a week or so.


    2. No it will not be bad because the meat and marrow will not be in the fat floating on top. I know because I do this all the time since I make so much beef stock. Refrigerate the stock overnight in a large mixing bowl (you may need to use 2 bowls dependant upon how much stock you made). After refrigerating the stock overnight, you will see the fat-cap has solidified. Remove it and place the fat upside down on a cookie sheet. Use a knife to scrape clean the brown loose gelatinous fat from underneath. This stock tallow fat will last in your refrigerator for 8 weeks or more. Don’t trash the brown scrapings you just removed (will last for 2 week in the refrigerator) instead add the scrapings to gravys, steaks, etc. In short removing the gelatinous brown scrapings preserves the fat to last longer in your refrigerator. On the otherhand, you can certainly just remove the solidified fat cap from the stock and place it in a glass container without removing the brown loose gelatinous fat as long as you intend to use it within 2 weeks. We sometimes do this because we use it as a flavoring for when we cook greens. In short, removing the gelatinous brown fat will give you 8 weeks and leaving it in will only give you 2 weeks of storage.


  3. I have been redering beef fat on a dry way and it has a very strong smells. We used it for cooking and for our skin it does work very well because my very extreem dry and cracked skin is getting better and smoother. We are using organic 100% grass-fed beef fat to make sure that no chemicals or if there is at least less. Now i found your article I will try to render more fat in wet way I will see if it doesn`t have the strong smell. I will let you know. What is your advice on using this as skin balm instead of just a soap?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good article and I agree. I think dry rendering is in essence frying the tallow i.e. it’s cooked a bit, goes brownish and doesn’t taste as good as wet rendering. Also wet rendering enables you to render a lot more fat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you
    do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your
    head prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing
    my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Write your thoughts down as they come to you. Don’t worry about how random or disconnected they are. Then Organize them and rearrange them once you have written them down.


  6. Went to my grocery and got a lot of beef fat, it’s not the suet per say looks like the hard white trim from steaks and roasts, can any fat be used?


  7. Has anyone rendered lamb fat the wet way and what was the outcome? We just got an organic lamb and I’ve been trimming the fatty pieces from the stewing meat and am rendering them wet now.
    Has anyone used lamb tallow in lieu of beef tallow in soap recipes that call for beef tallow?


  8. I was gifted a roaster full of organic tallow pieces. Treating it like pork/lard, I put it in the oven for about a half hour and thought, maybe I should do an online search to see if my method was okay. I found your site and I realized that your method was far better. My tallow pieces are not as pretty as yours, but I’m sure I can get enough rendered tallow to make it worthwhile. The pieces are now in two large pots and will soon be coming to a boil. Thank you.


  9. Like to cook and try new things. Saw a video on processing beef brisket and the trimming process produced a lot of fat(which they discarded). They then cut the meat up into various sizes for different uses. I thought I would try this so bought a whole brisket for $3.65 a pound. After trimming the fat I had less than half the meat left, so I was paying about $8.00 a pound for brisket meat(thought this was a little pricy but we’ll see later. Was going to discard the fat and then thought why not feed the birds with it. I buy suet cakes for seventy cents each so the sue will ave me some money. Haven;t used any for cooking, but it does traditionally have a bas reputation. Would like the cracklins though.


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