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Nose to Tail Cooking: How to Render Tallow?

Nose to Tail Cooking: How to Render Tallow?

Let’s stock that fridge with homemade tallow. We’re highlighting Yak tallow; however, you can use these same methods and tips to make beef or bison tallow! Yak tallow is rendered yak fat, specifically yak suet, that is cooked slowly over low heat, which in turn becomes a liquid and then re-solidifies at room temp. At the start of the 1900s, tallow was one of the most common fats used for cooking! Now you can make it right in your own kitchen. In this recipe we used yak fat, as you can see the color is more yellow vs. white but it’s very rich in vitamin A! Check out our Yak Fat Bundle to try making your own homemade tallow at home!

Why Use Tallow?

  • Rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D E and K, plus minerals 

  • Abundant in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties

  • A way to use the whole animal from nose to tail

  • Stable cooking fat with a high smoke point

  • Simple to make and an affordable cooking fat

  • Long shelf life either at room temp, in the fridge or freezer

  • Not just for cooking but for everyday use such as skincare, soaps and candles 


Essential Tools for Making Tallow:

Making tallow isn’t hard but does require some patience. There are several items that will help you get that smooth final product!

Large Stock Pot, Instant Pot or Slow Cooker: The fat cooks down a lot but it would be best to use a bigger pot than you think you’ll need. Believe me, you don’t want any fat splashing on your countertops or stove top. Choosing between stove top or slow cooker is all about cook time. The total cook time can be almost double when you use either a slow cooker or instant pot, compared to the stove top. Usually a batch of tallow on the stove will render in 3 to 4 hours, while it takes 6 to 8 hours in a slow cooker or instant pot.
Spoon: Either a slotted stainless steel spoon or wooden.
Fine Mesh Strainer: Make sure you have a fine strainer on hand to strain all the large pieces of meat and other impurities that don’t cook down with the fat.
Funnel: A funnel is a must when doing the final straining into your storage jars. 
Cheesecloth (100% cotton) or Coffee Filters: Cheesecloth is the best way to strain; however, if you don’t have any on hand, you can also use a coffee filter.
Large Bowl or Dish: Having a large bowl for that first strain will make less of a mess.
Storage Jars (Wide Mouth Mason Jars with Tight Fitting Lids): A wide mouth mason jar makes the perfect jar for storing tallow and pork lard. Using a wide mouth makes for easy fridge storage, plus makes it easier to scoop the tallow out. 

Rendered Tallow Recipe:

*Note: This recipe was created using 3lbs of yak fat; however, you can use more or less fat depending on your cooking vessel and storage space! This means servings will vary as well. 

Servings: About 4 cups* 
Prep Time: 15 minutes 
Cook Time: 3-8 hours (Depending cook method + fat size)

Ingredients
3lbs 100% grass fed and finished yak, beef or bison fat*
1 cup water (just to cover bottom of pot)

Instructions

  1. Tim and cut the fat: With a knife or kitchen shears remove and discard any meat from the fat, as this will give the tallow a meaty flavor and distinct color. Then use a knife to chop the fat up finely. However, you can also pulse the fat in a food processor until crumbly and coarsely cut (similar to the consistency of ground meat), as long as the fat is nice and cold!
  2. Heat fat: Put the ground or cut up fat into a large pot and place over low heat. If using a slow cooker or instant pot, turn the temperature on to low heat.
  3. Add water: Add just enough water to coat the bottom of the pot to prevent the fat from burning. For a larger amount of fat, use more water and for smaller amounts, use less. 
  4. Slowly render the fat: Keep the heat low and allow the fat to render for several hours, stirring occasionally, every hour or so, for 3 to 4 hours to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If using a slow cooker, stir in a similar manner and adjust the cooking time to at least 4 hours but could be up to 8 hours. Although this process doesn’t need your constant attention, don’t leave it unattended!
  5. Finish rendering: The tallow will be finished rendering when the fat covers most of the pieces in the pot. You will see the fat slowly shrink into little bite size pieces that look like popcorn called cracklings. These pieces will be small, shriveled and lightly browned. 
  6. The first strain: Turn the heat off and allow the tallow to slightly cool. Gather a large bowl, cotton cheesecloth and a strainer. Layer a piece of cheesecloth over the strainer. Carefully pour the pot over the strainer into the large bowl. The strainer will catch all those large crispy pieces. Take the back of a spoon and press the fat down to release more tallow into the bowl. 
  7. Strain a second time into storage jars: Fit your mason jars with a funnel and layer a piece of cheesecloth. Slowly pour or scoop the tallow from the large bowl into the funnel. Straining twice will help remove any remaining impurities in the tallow. This will help it last longer, as well. 
  8. Use or store tallow: Use immediately in liquid form or store with a tight fitting lid for later use. Keep in the fridge or the freezer.

FAQ for Rendering Tallow:

Which method is better for rendering tallow slow cooker, instant pot or stove top?

The slow cooker or instant pot is a great way to get low, even heat, which is what you are looking for when rendering fat. However, you can always do it on the stove top to save time but it must be watched carefully to make sure the fat doesn't get too hot or boil. Choosing between the stove top or slow cooker/instant pot is all about cook time. The total cook time can be almost double when you use either a slow cooker or instant pot, compared to the stove top. Usually a batch of tallow on the stove will render in 3 to 4 hours, while it takes 6 to 8 hours in a slow cooker or instant pot.

Why is water added to cover the bottom of the pot?

There are two methods when it comes to rendering fat. Either the dry method that uses no water and the wet method, which water is added to the fat. Using the wet method, will help keep the fat from burning during the rendering process. Just add enough water to coat the bottom of the pot. For a larger amount of fat, use more water and for smaller amounts, use less.

How can you render tallow faster?

The size of your fat matters! Having smaller, ground fat will render more quickly and evenly than fat that is in large chunks. Either chop your fat finely with a knife or use a food processor but make sure the fat is nice and cold.

Why strain tallow?

This is such an important step! Straining helps to remove those impurities as they won’t taste very good and it will cause your tallow to spoil faster. Use a cheesecloth (or coffee filter) for both strains but the first strain is to remove any large pieces, and the second is to get all those tiny pieces and sediment removed leaving a nice clean tallow. 

How to store tallow?

Store tallow in glass mason jars or containers with tight fitting lids. You can also store tallow in chunks or freeze into ice cube trays. Best to keep the tallow in the fridge for up to 3 months or in the freezer for up to a year. 

How to use tallow in cooking?

Tallow is a very stable cooking fat (due to its high content of saturated fat), meaning it won't burn under high heat. Due to tallow's high smoke point, it’s great for all cooking methods including high heat searing and frying. Try replacing your current fat (butter or ghee) with tallow!

Check out our Yak Fat Bundle to try making your own homemade tallow at home!

Further Reading: 

Article from a group of Cardiologists where they review all of the existing literature on saturated fats. PMID: 32562735