I’d venture to say that fats, good and bad, have been one of the most talked about, written about, and discussed subjects in the last few years. Many people are still absolutely sure that saturated fat causes heart disease, cancer, and numerous other damaging problems related to plaque. From the studies of Dr. Royal Lee and Dr. Weston A. Price, we know this is a myth, and it’s now been fully dispelled. So much so that the FDA recently acknowledged this, and they are now cautiously allowing saturated fat into their diet paradigm.
For those who are no longer afraid of saturated fats, one special fat that I love and use frequently is beef tallow, suet, or other beef fat from grass-fed cows, preferably Jersey or Guernsey.
For starters, let me define the different terms we use when we talk about tallow.
- Suet is a hard waxy fat around the kidneys and loins in sheep, cattle, hogs, etc. It’s rendered for making tallow.
- Tallow is the harder fat of sheep, cattle, hogs, etc. When melted, this fat separates from the fibrous and membranous matter naturally mixed with it. It’s used to make candles and soap, and for cooking.
The majority of fat on grass-fed/finished beef is the kidney fat, about 15 pounds. For grain-finished beef, the kidney fat can total as much as 25 pounds. Similarly, the back fat on grass-fed/finished beef amounts to about 5 pounds, while the back fat on grain-finished beef is as much as 30 pounds. The kidney fat on all animals has a different composition than the back fat, and it’s sold at a premium for making baked goods. Beef tallow is very stable at high temperatures, and it’s ideal for frying! How about some luscious french fries prepared with tallow?
The first time I ordered suet to make tallow, it was nearly white. I later found out that suet from grass-fed cows is actually very yellow in color, and for this reason now I only purchase suet from grass-fed beef. According to many of our WAPF chapter leaders, Jersey and Guernsey grass-fed cows produce the lovely yellow carotene-rich suet, while grain-fed cows are more likely to produce the white suet. I currently buy from White Oak Pastures. Though I cannot get it locally, the Weston A. Price Foundation Whole Food Shopping Guide or WAPF phone app, both available from Selene River Press, do list many other organic farms that sell premium suet.
Tallow is also an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and riboflavin. Grass-fed beef tallow contains a high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to popular belief, tallow is good for health, as the fat is similar to the fat and muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50 percent of saturated fats such as tallow and lard to keep the heart healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of vitamin D, similar to lard. And in the form of suet, it’s a good source of vitamin K2. For more in-depth information on the benefits of tallow, see Nourishing Traditions, pp. 9, 10, 18, 213, 307, and 548.
Methods for Rendering Suet to Tallow
Hopefully by now you’ve decided to get some of this precious fat into your diet and make your own tallow. Rendering methods tend to be unique to each cook. There are numerous techniques, so depending on what kind of time you’ve got on your hands, choose the method that suits you best. All of the following are great ways to render your fat.
My favorite rendering method is also from one of my favorite websites, Vintage Tradition. Their pictorial instructions will work well for you if you’re highly visual like I am. They also have recipes for making vitamin-rich face and body balm from tallow. Totally divine!
The crockpot is another great way to render your fat when you prefer not to use the oven or stovetop. However, fat is ideally rendered at about 200–220°F for approximately 18–20 hours. Crockpots typically include a limited range of temperatures: warm (165°F); low (180°F); and high (200–225°F), per Hamilton Beach customer service. Because many crockpots don’t allow you to select a specific temperature, you need to monitor it carefully.
I’ve found that the high setting on a crockpot cooks the fat way too fast, which can result in a darker color and sometimes burned fat, while the low setting cooks it way too slow. When I used this method, I resorted to alternating between low and high, carefully monitoring it so as not to burn it. Maybe your crockpot has settings different than mine, or your brand may give you satisfactory results. It’s all in the experience.
Along with your crockpot, you’ll just need suet, water, and some glass jars. Be sure to leave the lid off throughout the process. Leaving it on will create condensation and make the fat unusable.
- Cut the suet into bite-size pieces.
- Pour about ¼ cup of water into the crockpot.
- Add the suet. As noted above, leave the lid off throughout the process. The water will eventually evaporate.
- The suet pieces, which may have meat on them, will float to the top (they will resemble chicharones, which you can Google to see what they look like). Remove them from the crock and drain on paper towels—they make a delicious snack.
- Allow the melted fat (tallow) to cool somewhat. Pour into glass jars (I suggest pint jars) to cool completely. Store in refrigerator.
Visit the following websites to see the rendering process in better detail:
Finally, here are some of my favorite recipes that I make with tallow.
—Adapted from Tactical Intelligence.
Pemmican is a great super food. The meat should be as lean as possible, and if you don’t own your own meat grinder, have your butcher double grind it. Please note: Dried meat is generally made in large batches. After it’s dehydrated, pound out the desired amount. You want to measure out a 1:1 ratio of meat and tallow so you have equal amounts of each. The total yield of meat will be more or less, depending on the kind of meat you use. For more detailed information on the meat-drying process, see my Cook Your Way to Wellness: Cooking Class DVD and Booklet.
4 cups lean dehydrated meat, ground to powder consistency (see below)
2 cups rendered tallow
3 cups dried fruit berries (cranberry adds vitamin C)
- Spread meat out very thin on a cookie sheet and dry at 180°F for at least 8 hours, or until sinewy and crispy. Pound it to a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool. Grind the dried fruit, leaving it a little bit lumpy for texture.
- Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until it liquefies, but do not overheat. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit.
- Mix ingredients by hand. Form into patties or square bars. Let cool, then wrap patties or bars in wax paper. Pemmican keeps well and can be consumed for several years.
Tallow Stovetop French Fries
This is my personal recipe for french fries. I use a deep cast-iron Dutch oven that belonged to my mom.
Organic white potatoes
Few cups tallow, softened (total amount will depend on size of your pan)
Special equipment: a fryer skimmer is recommended for safely lifting the fries in and out of the hot fat.
- Wash the potatoes and dry thoroughly so no water comes into contact with the hot oil. Using a french fry cutter or just a sharp knife, cut potatoes into strips.
- Place softened tallow in a deep frying pan or pot. You’ll need at least 2 inches of tallow to cover the potatoes.
- Place on the back burner for safety and heat tallow. It should be hot (350–360°F) when you carefully add the potatoes. Fry on medium until they turn a nice brown color.
- Remove potatoes from tallow with fryer skimmer. Drain on paper towels. Salt to taste and serve immediately.
Heavenly Pie Crust
—Adapted from Weed ’em & Reap
¼ cup sprouted whole wheat flour, cold
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons organic butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons tallow, very cold, cut into small pieces
6–8 tablespoons ice-cold water
- Sift flour into a bowl. Add salt.
- Add butter and tallow and begin cutting them in using a pastry cutter.
- Add 6 tablespoons ice water. Mix with a spoon until dough comes together, adding more ice water one tablespoon at a time if necessary. Form dough into a ball using your hands.
- If you have time, wrap dough tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. This will firm it up and make it easier to handle when you roll it out.
- Flour a fine cotton towel or piece of fabric, and roll your dough using a rolling pin. Once your dough is rolled out to the desired size, use your rolling pin to roll it up completely and transfer to your pie plate.
- If you’re making a custard pie, prebake the crust. Add pie weights and bake for 15 minutes at 375°F. Cool for 15 minutes before filling.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.