Beef tallow is fat that's cooked down or rendered from fatty cuts of beef.
If you've never considered cooking with beef tallow you're missing out on a delicious, earthy flavor with a savory beef undertone. I make beef tallow twice a month and use it generously when sauteeing vegetables and searing steaks.
Beef tallow is not a household staple today because it has been replaced largely by vegetable oil. That said, if you are enthusiastic about infusing food with unique and rich flavors like me, give beef tallow a shot.
In this article, I will outline everything you need to know about beef tallow, including how you can make some of your own and how to preserve it in the best condition. Let’s go:
Beef tallow is simply rendered fat from various fatty cuts of beef. This means that fatty cuts from any part of the steer are cooked down and the fat melts under heating. It's then filtered and allowed to cool.
Tallow is shelf stable and has a wax-like consistency. It doesn't need any preservatives, except for a clean airtight container such as a mason jar. So, it can remain fresh and safe for consumption for up to a year.
Get fatty cuts of beef or buy fat chunks from a butcher shop and remove any red meat, leaving only chunks of fat.
Cut up the fat into smaller chunks no larger than a half-inch cubes. The smaller they are, the better and faster the fat can be rendered.
Place the chunks in a slow cooker. Let the fat cook over the stove on the lowest heat setting possible. High heat will fry the chunks and brown them before they render any fat.
Check on the fat every 30 minutes and stir using a wooden spoon. Keep this up until you are down to a small number of chunks floating on a golden liquid.
Turn off the heat and sieve the liquid tallow into mason jars.
Let the tallow cool on the counter. It will solidify into a white or slightly cream-colored solid which is ready for use.
Its pure form is stable enough to last for up to a year at room temperature without going rancid. Tallow goes bad when it oxidizes. This can happen due to impurities present in the storage containers.
It can last more than a year in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. If you refrigerate it, however, it will harden, making it difficult to scoop. It's best to store it at room temperature in a clean airtight container.
The best way to incorporate beef tallow in your cooking is to use it instead of vegetable, olive, or coconut oil. I find that beef tallow makes incredible stir-fried vegetables. You will be forgiven for assuming that beef tallow infuses a ton of beef flavor in your vegetables but this is not the case.
Your vegetables will acquire a rich, earthy but subtle meat flavor and aroma. I would say the aroma is stronger than the flavor. To enhance the flavor you can add aromatic herbs such as rosemary and thyme to the cooking fat before frying your vegetables for a truly tasty dish.
Tallow has a high smoke point of approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit which means it packs a lot of heat. making beef tallow perfect for high-heat cooking.
Try searing for beef mignon or ribeye using beef tallow instead of any other cooking oil. You will get a deliciously caramelized sear and a perfect medium rare interior.
That high smoke point is also ideal for deep frying french fries to go with the steak.
Tallow has a similar consistency to butter, which makes it an excellent addition to pastries. Tallow gives pastries that flaky and fluffy quality we all love. Tallow can be used in any recipe that calls for lard so simply substitute lard or butter with tallow in your cake.
Unfortunately, getting grass-fed tallow is not easy and the store-bought tallow available is not likely to be pure beef tallow made from rendered beef fat.
Ideally, you need beef tallow made from the cuts of grass-fed cattle and not commercially bred cattle. The latter is likely fed on commercial feed and infused with high levels of antibiotics.
Moreover, the tallow available in most grocery aisles is most likely a blend of different fats and seed oils and not pure beef tallow. If you don't want to make your own tallow, look for pure tallow from high-end specialty stores that will be the genuine grass-fed type.
A butcher is also a great resource if you want the real item. They will likely know multiple farmers who provide shelf-stable grass-fed beef tallow.
Tallow and suet are used interchangeably but they're not the same thing. Beef tallow can be made from just about any cut of beef as long as it has enough fat to render down, while suet is the raw fat found around the kidneys and loins of cows and sheep.
When rendered it can be called suet or beef tallow.
Grass-fed beef tallow has undeniable health benefits such as its anti-inflammatory qualities. However, if you consider the net effects of consuming equal parts beef tallow and olive oil, the latter is significantly healthier.
The particular component of all fats and oils that has a significant impact on health is saturated fat content.
Even grass-fed beef tallow contains over four times the amount of saturated fat in olive oil. Saturated animal fat contributes a critical portion of the cholesterol that adheres to blood vessels creating the conditions necessary for heart disease and other coronary complications.
I highly recommend it if you haven't already. Shallow frying and roasting a steak in beef fat will be especially rewarding. Beef tallow caramelizes the exterior beautifully. At such a high temperature, your cooking is also fast and your meal can be ready in minutes.
Tallow has a mild, beefy flavor and when used in cooking produces a very subtle aroma that is barely noticeable. Beef fat doesn't interfere with the flavor of your ingredients, so that should not concern you.
Cooking with tallow has completely changed how I fry meat and vegetables. It adds a decadent quality to meals which makes food richer, more flavorful, and more delicious. In pastries, the end product reserves more moisture and gains a beautifully spongy interior.
Try frying your veggies with some tallow for a start and enjoy a fuller flavor with a slightly beefy undertone in your meals.