Rendering Tallow for Cooking and 12 Other Uses

by Todd Walker

Rendering the fat of animals (beef, sheep, bear, deer, and poultry) is a process that produces tallow. Lard is pig fat that has been rendered. Since I don’t have a source of pastured pig fat, I use grass-fed beef fat. My butcher at our local Earth Fare market freezes grass-fed beef fat just for me. Just picked up 8 more pounds yesterday. I’m now known as the ‘fat man’ every time I walk by their meat counter.

Finding Healthy Fat

Don’t expect to find grass-fed beef fat at big chain supermarkets. I’ve not had success dealing with the big boys. If you don’t have a store that sells grass-fed animals, local farmers may be an option. Of course, the animals need to be raised naturally – not factory farmed.

Here’s a couple of resources that will ship omega 3 and CLA-rich grass-fed tallow to your door!

Why grass-fed, free-range, and naturally raised? Factory farmed animals are pumped with hormones, fed chemicals, and are just not happy animals. Just ask them. If you use tallow for cooking or skin care, you want the best quality fat you can find.

If the thought of eating tallow is disgusting to your delicate sensitivities or eating style, consider the many other uses for animal fat.

12 Non-Cooking Uses for Tallow

1. Cooking is the most obvious use at our home. Tallow has a high smoke point (420 degrees) making it an excellent oil for frying foods. This means you can fry on higher heats without creating free radicals in the oil which is a concern with vegetable oils.

2. Skin care – Saturated animal fat (tallow) was used for beauty products back before the low-fat myth became ‘truth.’ Your grandma and grandpa likely used it to heal cracked, dry hands and as a moisturizer.

Tallow is biologically compatible with our bodies largest organ, our skin. Animal fat contains vitamins A, D, K, and E.

Tallow (especially tallow from grass-fed animals) also contains fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as palmitoleic acid, which has natural antimicrobial properties. – Source

3. Lubricate stuff, like the proverbial squeaky wheel. Tallow greases moving parts but is resistant to water. Steam engines and ships uses tallow for many years to keep things running smoothly.

4. Flux for soldering.

5. Leather conditioner.

6. Soap making. The best shaving bars are made from tallow.

7. Candle making. Can’t make a traditional candle? Improvise by placing tallow in a container with a piece of cotton clothe in emergencies.

8. Biodegradable motor oil.

9. Deer tallow is preferred by German athletes to make a salve to prevent sore skin and blisters.

10. Biodiesel. Tallow can be used like plant-based material to produce diesel.

11. Make your own pemmican.

12. Pastry baking.

13. Lubricate muskets and rifles.

If you’re wondering, here are some nutrition facts about this healthy fat:



The DiY Rendering Process

Step 1: Trim the grass-fed beef (or other animal fat). You want to get all the red meat off the fat.

Step 2: Cut into small squares. The smaller the cuts, the more surface area is exposed. I did this cutting twice. Then, in a stroke of SmartPrepper brilliance, I pulled out my meat grinder. Now I just stuff the trimmed fat into the meat grinder and collect it my cast iron pan.

Way faster and creates more surface area!

Way faster and creates more surface area!

Step 3: Load your cut or ground fat into a pan or cooking container. I use a large cast iron skillet. Be careful not to overload the pan with fat. It will cook down. But you don’t want to have to transfer hot tallow if it’s up to the lip of your container.

Step 4: Heat your pan of fat on low heat. I shoot for 200-250 degrees. I set up in my outdoor kitchen. My turkey fryer is my heat source. You can use your stove if you don’t mind smelling up your house a bit. It ain’t as bad as cooking chitlins. Still, a distinctive odor.

Almost ready.

Almost ready.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I could use my Big Green Egg on my next batch. It’s so easy to control the temp – set it, and forget it!

Step 5: Stir the fat occasionally just make sure it doesn’t sick to the bottom of your pan. You’ll notice liquid starting to collect in the pan. If it begins to smoke, you’re burning fat and not rendering it. Turn down the heat.

Step 6: Once you notice the fat turning a dark brown (think crispy bacon), you’re done. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for a while. If it cools to room temp, you’ll have to reheat to liquefy for pouring.

Step 7: Once it’s cooled down a bit, pour the contents through a fine mesh strainer. You can add cheese cloth to the strainer to catch even smaller pieces. I’ve stored tallow in wide mouth mason jars. We go through tallow pretty quickly around here. Mostly, we just pour it up in a few two-quart containers and place them in the fridge. Tallow can be stored in the freezer as well.

Oxidation can cause the tallow to go rancid. From what I’ve read and followed myself, rendering the water out of the tallow prevents the oxidation to occur. To be on the safe side, we store ours in the fridge.

I’ve read of other methods of rendering tallow by using a slow cookers. Never tried it.

Any of you rendered tallow or lard in a different way? I’m always interested in learning new ways. Drop your method in the comments if you’d like.

Keep doing the stuff,


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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Natural Health, Real Food | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Rendering Tallow for Cooking and 12 Other Uses

  1. mariowen

    I have rendered both lard and tallow in the slow cooker and it works fine. I don’t mind the smell in the house. It is handy to keep an eye on there on the counter. Great article.


    • tberry

      I don’t know if it’s considered tallow or if it’s more like the cans of crisko you can get at most grocery stores but whenever i cook something fatty (hamburger, bacon,….) i poor the leftover grease in a round glass container with water in it. let it sit on the counter for a while so the contaminants can sink to the bottom. then put it in the fridge or freezer over night. once hardened i take it out and cut it out of the container put the hardened tablet in a baggy and put it back in the fridge. works great for everything from gravy to just greasing a pan so your eggs won’t stick… perhaps if a large enough amount was collected that way then put in a crockpot @ 200 – 250 the tablets would then turn into tallow? dunno just an idea…


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  3. Diamonds

    I’ve heard people using tallow on bowstrings to keep water off and make them last longer. Any ideas on that as far as effectiveness


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  6. MamaBear

    Love your site! Question on rendering tallow. Our last quarter cow purchase left us with quite a few short ribs and back ribs that are so fatty and scant on meat that they are practically unedible. Do you think I could cook these down to render the fat out of them? I plan on using the leftover meat, whatever that might be, to make jerky and turn the whole shebang into pemmican. Or dog treats, if it turns out horrid. :)


    • Thank you, MamaBear! Glad you here.

      When I render my tallow, I trim all the red meat off the fat before I run it through the meat grinder. If you have decent chucks of fat on the ribs, you might try trim off what you can. If not, you’re looking at a lot of time removing fat from the meat portions.

      I’ve never tried to render the way you’re describing. I would seem to me, again – I’ve never tried this method, that boiling the fatty ribs would remove the oil from the fat. You’d have to skim the fat off the top of the pot water. I’d probably re-render the skimmings at very low heat to try and remove any remaining not-fat material. Maybe another reader has more experience with your fatty rib rendering dilemma. Sorry I could help more.

      Thanks for you comment!


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  8. Pingback: Rendering Tallow for Cooking and 12 Other Uses - SHTF Preparedness

  9. Talbert

    also, used in Greek fire


  10. Alida

    Done it in the oven, you can set the temperature there, too. Didn’t mind the smell.


  11. Interesting that the first non-cooking use for tallow is cooking.


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