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As most of you probably know by now, the only fats you should be cooking with are saturated fats. Unsaturated liquid fats (vegetable oils and yes, this includes olive oil) are too fragile to cook with. DO NOT COOK WITH VEGETABLE OILS!! OK, now that my public service announcement is made, as a reminder some great fats to cook with are coconut oil, ghee, butter, palm oil, duck fat, lard, tallow, reserved bacon fat. Obviously, the healthier the source of said fat, the better it is for you.

I use coconut oil, butter and reserved bacon fat quite a bit. However both coconut oil and bacon fat tend to add their respective flavors to the dish. Not a bad thing, but I often prefer a flavorless fat so I can better control my flavors with herbs and or spices. Butter works great but it can often burn or turn brown. You can avoid this with ghee, but to purchase ghee can be pretty expensive unless you are clarifying the butter yourself. I find good old-fashioned lard or tallow make great options. However, the one obstacle to these is that I have yet to find either at my local grocery store. You can find them online, one great source is a company called Fat Works and I have ordered from them in the past.  You may also find either or both from a local company selling grass-fed or pastured meats. More than likely though you may have more luck purchasing the actual fat at a pretty cheap price or better yet you may be able to get that fat for free! Purchasing pre-rendered fat is certainly easier, but will of course cost more. Out of curiosity I reached out to the company we purchase our grass-fed meat from, West Loop Butchers to see if I can get my hands on some beef fat so I can render it myself as one of the owners is a good friend of ours.  To my delight Tom dropped a huge hunk of beef fat off for me later than day. Sweet! This is what I started out with. The next question was, what do I do with it now?

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To the internet I went and found several sources. Apparently there are 2 methods, a wet method and a dry method. I chose the dry method since quite frankly it just seemed easier. This is how I did it:

Step 1: I cut the huge chuck of fat in to smaller, more manageable pieces, trimmed off as much remaining muscle and connective tissue I could and placed them in my food processor.

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Step 2: Then I shredded the smaller chucks to create more surface area for the rendering process.

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Step 3: I placed the shredded fat into my crockpot (You can use a large pot on your stove top or even in an oven safe pot in your oven on a low heat setting) and set the heat setting to low. I checked on the progress every hour or so, stirring it occasionally. After few hours it looked like this. The fat was melting and any of the other bits I didn’t trim were floating at the top. After a few more hours it was clear I did not trim enough off because I had lots of little pieces to skim off, but no worries, it didn’t really impact my end product.

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Step 4: Once I felt sure all the fat was rendered out a few hours later I turned off the crock pot and strained the fat straight into my glass jars through a cheese cloth. Easy peasy!


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Just in case you are curious, this is what a jar of hot rendered tallow looks like!

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And this is what it looks like cooled!

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I store it in these glass jars with an air tight top in my pantry. Voila! Home rendered tallow. It takes a while but it is pretty easy, doesn’t require constant attention, is relatively inexpensive and it will last me quite a while! Next up is getting my hands on some pork fat to render! 😉


Until Next Time,

Laura, MGP



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One Response to “Adventures in Animal Fat Rendering: An Easy How To Guide”

  1. Pa-Leo says:

    Hi Laura,

    Hope all is going well in your life; the challenges must be pretty much endless, in a good way.

    Leaf Lard (fat from inside the body cavity) is the most desired from pastured pigs. So when you get ready to try another batch, you can jump right in having the “skinny” on that fat.

    I rendered a large batch of beef fat (suet — from inside the body cavity) sourced from our local organic grass fed beef farm/butcher. I used the dry method but a slightly higher temperature using very low heat on the stove. A few drops of water in the fat will let you know when your too hot. It will start to spatter. The fat should be kept under the boiling point of water. Thus the wet method, on the stove works too, just takes a lot of time to get rid of all the water.

    I froze about 3/4 of the batch that I made for future use. I think it has a bit stronger flavor and more mouth feel than pork lard, but a very nice addition to the range of animal fats for cooking just about anything.

    I’m lucky enough to have a source of high quality, organic meats within 1/2 hour drive, so life isn’t too crazy trying to find something that I call think of as local.

    I even purchased a small amount of duck fat at our local specialty shop (wine/beer/cheese – you know the attraction). It was pricey, but it was something that is very different to try if you enjoy living off the fat of the land (and air in this case).

    Enjoying the start of winter, already below freezing and not getting above freezing for the next few days even in the middle of November. At 9 calories / gram, FAT is the best fuel you can find for this kind of weather.

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