Some things are so easy you feel almost foolish posting instructions on how to do it, and how to render beef fat (or chicken fat) is one of those things!
But since Chanukah began just last night and it’s traditional to fry foods in oil during this eight day festival, I’m going to go ahead and share an option for frying that our family enjoys year round!
Firstly, you’ll need to get hold of a good bit of beef fat. This is also called suet. There are different qualities of fat; if you have a choice, you want a big chunk of white fat rather than a blob of little pieces. But either way, you’ll prepare it the same way. We got a nice slab from the ribs, which is good quality fat.
If you want to make life more involved for yourself, then go ahead and dice the fat up. Or put it in a food processor, or chop it. I’ve seen all those things recommended. But you know me, ‘why make more work than necessary?’ is my motto, so I just put the entire big chunk in a pot.
Put the burner on low, and let the fat slowly melt over the course of time – it might take up to a few hours, depending how much fat you have. When it’s liquid, it’s called rendered – pour the fat through a strainer into a glass jar or container. If you are going to refrigerate the fat and don’t care if there are tiny pieces of meat that end up in it, don’t bother straining it. The beef particles will sink to the bottom of the jar. I use this up so quickly that it doesn’t matter to me if it’s clarified (strained) or not.
If you have a big chunk, you might find that you can pour off most of the melted fat, but there’s still a chunk left. Go ahead, pour off what’s melted, and keep melting the remainder – that’s what I did above, which is why one jar in my picture was in the hot melted stage while the others had already cooled off.
When the fat is liquid, it will be a lovely golden brown, but when it hardens, it turns a pure white. You can see that in my picture above. (You can also see the little food particles at the bottom of the jar of melted fat on the right, if you look closely. )
You might be left with some tasty cracklings at the end of this – if you are, save them and use them to season another dish – it’s delicious!
Now, how do you preserve your rendered fat? Assuming you’ve strained it, you should be able to keep this at room temperature for quite a while. What I’ve liked doing in the past is rendering a large batch of fat at a time, pouring the hot strained fat into glass canning jars, and then immediately closing each jar with a new canning lid and ring. It will seal as it cools, and will stay shelf stable for many, many months.
For those of you wondering why in the world I’d want to use something as artery clogging as beef fat, it’s because it’s not saturated fat that causes heart problems, but processed vegetable oils (yes, like the widely touted canola and soy oils). They’ve done analyses of the stuff they’ve scraped out of arteries and it’s not saturated fat. There’s lots of fascinating research about this and if you’re interested in reading some articles, here are some to start you off:
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/08/saturated-fat-consumption-still-isnt.html (This blogger has a PhD in neurobiology and has a number of excellent articles on different aspects of the research on saturated fat – you can do a search on his blog if you’re interested in reading more.)
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/ (This is an excellent site and is filled with high quality information, but you’ll find a little bit of off-color language from time to time – just a warning for those who would be bothered.)
The benefits in terms of cooking with beef fat are that it has a high smoking point, which makes it good for frying and baking. Flavor-wise, I prefer to use coconut oil or palm shortening for baking, but find the beef fat adds a nice flavor to most other things.
(This post is linked to Make Your Own Monday, Monday Mania, Homestead Barn Hop, Real Food 101, Traditional Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesdays, and the Real Food Hanukkah Blog Carnival.)