What is tallow?
Tallow is the rendered down suet fat (also known as leaf fat) of ruminant animals like cows and sheep. Not pork however, rendered fat from pigs is called lard.
Suet is the nutrient dense hard fat that’s found surrounding the animal’s organs, specifically the kidneys and loins.
Beef suet is a harder, more crumbly fat than the rest of the fat within the animal, and it’s one of nature’s highest sources of conjugated linoleic acid CLA.
What is tallow used for?
Tallow has been used many ways throughout history by our primal ancestors, well before a time of rancid hydrogenated vegetable oils, petroleum based products and chemically fractionated plant products.
In particular, tallow has been used in traditional foods as a fat-based ingredient, and also as a common cooking oil. Some may remember only a couple of generations ago grandma’s can of dripping beside the stove top for cooking. That’s the same concept except it’s called dripping because the fat comes from a different part of the animal.
Aside from cooking, beef tallow fat has also been used throughout the ages for:
- - Candle making (most candles were traditionally made of tallow and beeswax)
- - Soap making (makes a beautiful hard and creamy tallow soap)
- - Leather care (tallow is actually an ingredient in Dubbin!)
- - Wood/timber care (oiling furniture and chopping boards etc)
- - Skin care (healing salves and balms, grandma wouldn’t wash the fat off her hands, she would rub it in!)
What are the benefits of tallow?
CLA – Conjugated Linoleic Acid
As stated earlier, tallow is an excellent source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that makes tallow so wonderful for skin care. Tallow from grass-fed cows in particular contains even higher levels of CLA which is why it’s important to check your skincare labels to ensure you’re getting the finest quality ingredients.
Vitamins A, D, E and K
Tallow contains fat soluble essential vitamins A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K which aren’t found together anywhere else in nature but in animal products, all of which are necessary for good health.
These vitamins richly nourish the body, contributing the hormonal, neurological and cardiovascular health benefits along with bone and muscle growth, and immune system function.
Omega 3 & Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Both omega 3 and omega 6 are essential fatty acids. They’re termed essential because we need them and because our bodies don’t make them, we need to consume them.
High Smoke Point for Cooking
Grass-fed beef tallow has a wonderfully high smoke point making it an excellent replacement for vegetable oils and other highly processed or fractionated oils. Not only is it a safer option for you but it tastes great too!
Tallow for skin health!
Tallow is not only anti-inflammatory, it is antimicrobial and antifungal. It mimics the skin’s natural oils and absorb easily, making it an excellent non-greasy body butter or healing balm for rashes, cuts and scrapes and other inflammatory conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and itchy skin. It makes an excellent tallow balm!
How To Render Your Own Tallow
There are a few methods for rendering your own tallow but I like to use what’s called the wet method. It’s called the wet method because water is used to assist in the rendering process and ensure the tallow doesn’t burn.
The idea is that the fat is cooked down on a low heat to remove any remaining muscle and connective tissue from the fat, leaving behind a pure, clean, white fat that is shelf stable and will last a long time.
Depending on the quality, you can sometimes get grass-fed and grass-finished beef fat from your local butcher shop but you’ll need to ask.
You could use the same process with regular cows fat however most cattle have been finished on animal feeds such as a grains and your product will not be as high in nutrients, particularly CLA.
What you’ll need:
- - Beef fat (preferably suet) ground, or chopped into small 1cm x 1cm cubes
- - Slow cooker or large pot for the stove top
- - Water
- - Salt
- - Stainless steel mesh strainer and Cheesecloth/Muslin Cloth
- - Large stainless steel or glass bowl
1. Add the diced/ground suet to your slow cooker or large pot and turn the heat on low.
2. For every half a kg of suet fat, add 1 cup of water
3. For every half a kg of suet fat, add 1 tablespoon of salt
4. Continue to heat on low with the lid off for up to 8 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when all the grizzly bits have risen to the top.
5. Line your strainer with the cheesecloth and place over the bowl.
6. While it’s still hot, strain your liquid fat through the strainer and cheesecloth to ensure you remove as many impurities as you can. This will not only make for a cleaner, white tallow but it will also help remove odours.
7. Allow to cool and then pop in the refrigerator until solidified.
8. Once solid, pop the tallow out on a cutting board and begin to scrape the outside of the lump of tallow off with a knife. This helps get a lot more of the impurities out of your tallow.
9. Now put back into the pot and repeat the process at least one more time, I usually do this process 3 times to ensure a crisp and clean product with very little beef smell for the sake of having a high-class natural skincare product. You don’t need to do this if you don’t like though, a double render might be enough for you. The second and third renders usually only take 2 hours once melted back down, not the same as the original render
Once the final render has been completed, you now have a pure fat and can pour into jars for storage (I like to keep mine beside the stovetop as a solid fat) or use straight away for skincare purposes.
Storing Your Tallow - Shelf Life
Tallow has a long shelf life. Our great grandparents would have stored in jars in the cupboard for many years and if you’ve produced a high quality pure tallow, you can too. Try to avoid higher temperatures. You want to store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to preserve for as long as possible.
Random Fun Facts About Tallow - Did you know?
That McDonald’s French Fries used to used to be cooked in tallow until in 1990 when rumours were spread by certain foundations that saturated fat causes heart disease. This has since been debunked. In fact, there are now numerous studies around tallow being incredibly healthy fat and healing.
Check out this study around beef tallow increasing the potency of conjugated linoleic acid in the reduction of mouse mammary tumour metastasis. Interesting stuff and there are hundreds of studies just like it showing the benefits of tallow.
Here's another study indicating that beef tallow may decrease the risk of colon cancer by reducing bile acid concentrations. Amazing!