As with pork lard, enormous amounts of beef fat that could otherwise be rendered into tallow gets dumped in the trash every year.
People do this for varying reasons. Some don’t understand how easy it is to render into tallow, and some believe that its more unhealthy than it actually is.
I won’t get into detail about whether or not it’s healthy or unhealthy and to what degree. I will say that some research into the subject may surprise you, especially with the evolving science on saturated fats.
I will say that saturated fats are, without question, better than the artificially created trans-fats that are introduced into your diet through the industrial sludge pumped out by giant mega-corporations.
Fat is Gold, Don’t Throw it Away
Let’s talk about the waste, though, especially for Texans who love to cook brisket. Before writing this post, I found a 17.5-pound prime brisket on sale at HEB. After trimming it and leaving about a 1/4-inch fat cap, I had a 5-pound pile of fat and a 12.5 pound trimmed brisket.
I turned that 5-pound pile of fat into 3 pounds of tallow and 4 cups of beef cracklins. Considering that beef tallow can sell for anywhere between eight and twelve dollars, that’s quite a bit of savings.
Throwing all that away is wasteful.
Keep in mind that the best fat for rendering into tallow is the leaf fat that can be found near the cow’s kidneys. It has a much milder flavor than the fat trimmed off a brisket. I don’t mind that beefy flavor since I primarily use rendered lard in dishes that need a milder flavor, not beef tallow.
I generally save my beef tallow for beef-based recipes. Beef seared in beef tallow is better than beef seared in vegetable oil (do you know which vegetables are used to make vegetable oil?).
Also, keep in mind that prime brisket generally comes with a more significant amount of fat than choice or select brisket. If you don’t have enough beef fat to render, just freeze what you have and add to it as you trim beef for other meals.
It freezes well and will be ready for you when you have enough.
Rendering and Storing Beef Tallow
To prepare beef fat for rendering, all you need to do is freeze it for about an hour (frozen fat is easier to cut), then cut it into small cubes. If you have a meat grinder, even better. Just run it through the coarse plate, and it’s ready to go.
After you’ve cubed it up, take the cubes of fat and toss them into a Crockpot with 1/4 cup of water. Turn the Crockpot on low, cover it, and leave it going for about 12 hours, stirring every few hours. About two hours before it’s done, stir it and let it cook with the lid off to allow the water to evaporate.
Water introduces oxygen that can cause tallow or lard to spoil faster. It’s only added in the beginning to keep the fat from frying before it has released enough liquid to protect it from that.
Basically, you’re doing the same thing you would do to render pork lard, except for the addition of the following steps.
After you’ve finished rendering your beef fat in your Crockpot, you’ll need to strain out all of the solids. Just pour it through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a clean, heat-proof bowl.
Let it cool for about an hour once you’ve strained it.
You don’t want to let it get cold yet, though. You just want it warm. Too hot and it will melt the wax off of the wax paper in the following steps, and add a weird flavor.
The difference between rendering beef tallow and pork lard is that beef tallow becomes very firm after it cools. Pork lard is soft enough that you can pour it into jars and tuck it away in the fridge to be spooned out as needed.
Getting beef tallow out of a jar after its cold can be a bit of a challenge.
You can solve this problem by pouring it into a wax paper-lined baking pan then refrigerating it until it firms up. Once it’s cold, you can pop it out of the pan and cut it into bricks.
You can use regular plastic wrap, but I prefer to use wax paper due to it being more firm. It makes it a little easier to get it out of the pan. To use wax paper, you need to be careful to let the tallow cool enough to not melt the wax, but not so much that it becomes hard and won’t pour.
Letting the tallow cool for about an hour before pouring it into the pan solves this problem.
After you’ve cut your bricks of tallow, just wrap them in plastic and throw them in the refrigerator or freezer. They’ll hold up for as long as a year in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer.
Making Beef Cracklins
This is an optional step that ain’t for everybody. Some people simply don’t like cracklins. If you haven’t tried them before, though, give it a shot. If you have and don’t like them, simply toss the solids out. No biggie.
To make cracklins out of the leftover solids, toss them in a pan and fry them until they’ve released all of their fat and have become crispy.
Next, strain the liquids from the solids.
If you like, you can add this additional rendered tallow to what you’ve strained from the Crock-pot (before cooling and cutting it into bricks, of course). You should understand, though, that the pan-frying process will introduce a more prominent, beefier flavor that you might not want in your cooking tallow.
To get your cracklins extra crispy, throw them onto a heavy-duty pan, and crisp them under the broiler for about five minutes.
You can use beef cracklins the same way you would use bacon bits or as a crispy topping for tacos.
I like to make tacos out of rice, refried beans, and roasted jalapeños. Crispy beef cracklins tossed in add a satisfying beefy crunch.
Like tallow, beef cracklins will hold up indefinitely in the freezer.
How to Render Beef Tallow
- 5 lbs. beef fat - meat removed
- 1/4 cup water
- Freeze the beef fat for about an hour before beginning (frozen fat is much easier to work with).
- Either use a meat grinder (coarse plate installed) to grind the fat or cut it into 1/4-inch cubes with a sharp knife.
- Add the cubed fat to your Crock-Pot along with 1/4 cup of water. Set on low, cover, and cook for about 10 hours, stirring every few hours. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 2 hours, stirring on occasion (this helps ensure that all of the water has evaporated).
- Strain the solids out of the tallow with a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Set the solids aside to fry into cracklins. Let the tallow cool for about an hour.
- Line a casserole dish with one sheet of wax paper (binder clips will help hold it in place) and pour in the tallow. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or more, until completely set. Pop the hardened tallow out of the pan, peel off the wax paper, then cut it into soap-sized bars. Wrap in plastic and freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.