How to make beef tallow (From brisket trimmings)

Beef tallow in a jar
Photos are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

If you love to experiment in the kitchen or on the bbq, then beef tallow may be your next big thing. This rich and flavorful ingredient is quite versatile. People have has used beef tallow for centuries in cooking, skincare, and even as fuel.

But what exactly is beef tallow? What makes it so special? And how can you make it at home? In this post, I will explore the world of beef tallow and provide you with a simple recipe to make your own using brisket trimmings.

What is beef tallow?

Beef tallow is essentially rendered beef fat. People often mistake tallow for lard (made from pork fat) or other types of animal fats. However, beef tallow is specifically made from beef or mutton fat. To render the fat, melt the solid fat down into a liquid and separate any impurities using a fine mesh strainer.

The rendering process results in a pure, almost waxy white substance. Solid at room temperature, the tallow also carries a rich, beefy flavor.

Since tallow is from an animal part normally unused, it is a cheap and readily available source of fat. In fact, in the mid-20th century, it was one of the most commonly used cooking fats before the now popular oils like coconut oil and olive oil.

What makes beef tallow even more appealing is its long shelf life. It’s a great alternative to oils that can easily go rancid.

What is beef tallow used for?

Beef tallow is made entirely from animal fat so it contains a fairly high amount of saturated fat – 50% to be exact. While this may sound unhealthy, it is actually beneficial for cooking.

Beef tallow has a high smoke point that can withstand high temperatures without breaking down and producing harmful compounds. So, tallow is perfect for deep-frying, searing, roasting, and other high-heat cooking methods.

Liquid tallow
Here is beef tallow in liquid form before it cools

For Cooking

Because of its creamy texture and rich flavor, think of beef tallow like butter. It can be great as a spread for bread or toast.

Also, some people use it to add a savory depth of flavor to their dishes. For example, add a spoonful to mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or pan-seared steak for a rich and savory touch! The depth of flavor is hard to replicate with other fats.

Some people even use beef tallow as a substitute for butter or oil in baking. Beef tallow results in a flakier and more flavorful crust on pastries and pies. And let’s not forget its use in making the perfect French fries. Frying potatoes in beef tallow is actually the secret behind many fast-food chains’ crispy, buttery fries!

Other uses.

But the benefits of beef tallow are not just limited to cooking. Tallow has also been historically used for skin and hair care. It is a common ingredient in soaps, moisturizers, conditioners, lotions, and even lip balms. It has a unique ability to deeply nourish and hydrate the skin and hair.

Why brisket trimmings are good for making tallow.

Generally, any type of beef fat can make tallow. One popular option is beef suet, which is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys and loins. If you don’t have access to suet, fat trimmings from a brisket are a great alternative.

If you are smoking a brisket, you might as well save the fat trimmings and make tallow as well. Its a win win situation.

Beef brisket

Known for its wonderful marbling and flavor, beef brisket is a cut that comes from the breast or lower chest of the cow. People typically use it for making stews, pot roasts, and of course, the famous smoked brisket.

People often discard brisket trimmings during the butchering process, so using them is a great cost-effective way to reduce waste.

Naturally, the quality of tallow depends on the quality of the beef fat. Brisket trimmings are ideal for making tallow as they contain a high ratio of fat to meat.

This means that brisket has a higher proportion of fat, specifically the “point cut” or “deckle,” making it easy to render and extract the tallow. Brisket also gives the final product a smooth, creamy texture and a rich, beefy flavor.

How to make beef tallow from scratch.

The idea of making their own beef tallow might intimidate some people. But, it is actually a simple process that requires minimal ingredients and equipment. You can make beef tallow from any beef fat, but we are using brisket trimmings for this recipe.

Start by collecting the trimmings from a good quality brisket. You can either ask your local butcher for the trimmings, or you can save them yourself when trimming a brisket.

Brisket trimmings

Once you have your trimmings, it’s time to start rendering the fat. This process involves melting the fat for a long time until all the moisture evaporates. It should become a gold liquid, separating the fat from any impurities. You can do this on the stovetop in a large pot or in a slow cooker.

If using a stovetop, place the brisket trimmings in a large pot with just a cup of water over low to medium heat and let the fat render down for 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally, every 20 to 30 minutes, to prevent sticking and burning.

Brisket trimmings being rendered

The little bit of water with the fat helps the fat not to burn and stick to the bottom. Eventually all of that water will evaporate.

As the fat renders, you’ll start to see what we call liquid gold aka the liquid tallow, together with small bubbles on the surface. Note that it should not boil, but rather gently simmer, so turn the heat down if necessary. 

If using a slow cooker, which takes longer but requires less monitoring, place the brisket trimmings in the cooker and let it cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours. Check on it every hour or so and stir to avoid sticking and burning.

The rendered fat is ready when all the solid, white fat pieces turn into a golden liquid, and the meat pieces become brown and crispy. At this point, you can turn off the heat, remove bits of meat using tongs or a slotted spoon, and let it cool for a few minutes.

Straining beef tallow

Next, strain the liquid tallow into a clean container through a piece of cheesecloth or a strainer with a few sheets of paper towel above. This step will remove any impurities or sediment and give you a purer tallow. Transfer it to an airtight jar or container and let it cool a bit before storing in the fridge.

For a smoother and more refined finished tallow, you can strain it once more by pouring the rendered tallow through a coffee filter. This additional step will remove smaller pieces of meat and other impurities that may have passed through the initial straining.

Liquid tallow
Beef tallow aka liquid gold

Cooking with beef tallow.

Fat is an essential ingredient in cooking as it adds flavor, moisture, and texture to dishes. Beef tallow, a rendered form of beef fat, is a popular choice for cooking due to its high smoke point (up to 420°F), making it suitable for high-heat methods like deep frying, roasting, grilling, and searing.

Because of its rich, beefy flavor, savory recipes often use it to add a nice umami kick to dishes. It is also an excellent substitute for butter in some recipes,  which is especially helpful for those following a dairy-free diet.

One thing to keep in mind when cooking with tallow is that a little goes a long way. Its high fat content means you will need less of it compared to other oils or fats like butter.

Wondering how it’s different from butter? Check out this post.

How to store beef tallow?

Although beef tallow is a highly stable fat, its storage can affect its shelf life and quality. One of the easiest ways to store beef tallow is in an airtight jar or container at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat. Stored this way, it will stay good for up to 12 months.

However, if you want to extend its shelf life even further, you can store it in the fridge or freezer. If you choose to freeze your tallow, make sure to cut it into smaller portions before freezing so that you can easily grab what you need without having to thaw the entire container.

Once the tallow cools down completely the liquid will turn into a solid white color. It almost looks like candle wax.

Keeping it in the fridge can stretch its shelf life up to 18 months, while it can last up to 24 months in the freezer.

FAQs

Can you use any fat for beef tallow?

Technically, you can use any beef fat for tallow, but the best results come from using the fat trimmings in the brisket. It has a fatty part called the “point cut” or “deckle” that’s perfect for rendering beef tallow. It’s easy to find at a butcher shop and it’s also relatively affordable than other cuts of beef.

How long does it take to make beef tallow?

The process of making beef tallow from scratch can take anywhere from 2-3 hours, depending on the amount you are making and your preferred type and method of rendering. In this recipe, we are doing wet rendering using the stovetop method.

How long does homemade beef tallow last?

A properly rendered and stored beef tallow can last for up to 12 months at room temperature, up to 18 months in the fridge, and up to 24 months in the freezer. Make sure to store it in an airtight container to keep any moisture out and prevent it from going rancid.

Can you reuse beef tallow after frying?

Yes, you can reuse beef tallow after frying as long as you properly strain and store it. As a general rule of thumb, you can use it about three to four times before it becomes rancid.

Monitor its color and smell before using it to check for freshness. It should not have any off-putting odor or discoloration, so if it does, it’s time to start with a fresh batch.

Does tallow need to be refrigerated?

Since beef tallow is a rendered fat, it is stable at room temperature and does not need to be refrigerated. It can last for up to 12 months this way. However, if you live in a hot climate or your kitchen always gets warm, you should store it in the fridge to prevent any potential spoilage.

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How to make beef tallow (From brisket trimmings)

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Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 pounds brisket fat 
  • 1 cup of water

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized pot add beef brisket trimmings and 1 cup of water.
  2. Cook trimmings over medium low heat until the fat has rendered down, stirring ever 20-30 minutes or as needed to prevent chunks of fat or meat from sticking to pot. The tallow as it renders from the fat should be simmering not boiling. 
  3. After about 2-3 hours the fat should all be rendered down. Remove the large pieces of meat with tongs or a slotted spoon. 
  4. Strain liquid tallow with cheesecloth, coffee filter or a regular strainer lined with a few layers of paper towel. 
  5. Pour the strained tallow into an airtight container. For best results and shelf life, refrigerate tallow or store in a cool place. 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger

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