How to render beef fat

Five jars of cooled (white) fat, jar on right with melted fat still hot

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:  (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.) (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 ManiaHomestead Barn Hop, Real Food 101,  Traditional TuesdaysReal Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesdays, and the Real Food Hanukkah Blog Carnival.)

20 thoughts on “How to render beef fat

    1. I mentioned in a recent post about our food costs that we were able to get it for 13 shekels a kilo – originally he told us it would be 25 shekels a kilo, and then went down on the price.

  1. I wish it were cheaper here. The most amount you can get is on a brisket, and that tends to make the brisket cook moist. After the brisket is cooked though the fat is sort of blended in than.

    1. We moved from the US four months ago, and have been getting fat for at least four or five years directly from a small butcher – they’re the ones who can save you parts that you request, who can put aside fat they are trimming off of other peoples’ orders and save it for you…once you find that, you’re in business!

      It’s nice to hear from someone who eats primal – that’s my personal preference for eating (which I’ve mentioned recently in a comment, though don’t directly write about). About two years ago I made a maximum effort to find a way to feed my family primally on our budget at the time of $650 monthly for a family of 11, and despite being about the world’s most frugal person, lol, I couldn’t find a way to make it work and have conclueded that costwise it’s pretty much unrealistic. I still believe it’s the best way to eat, though.

  2. 650 is less than what we spend per month on a family of 4. We don’t have a local kosher butcher anymore so we have to order it or get mealmart/ Empire stuff. I think if I could get offal I could save quite a bit on supplements. I think food expenditures should be the highest, since it will pay off the most, even more so than medication. I still eat rice and potatoes though. Sweet potatoes are better though.

    How do you explain that bread isn’t healthy to a religious person though? It goes against the motzi for one thing, and the whole bread is a staff of life which is in most cultures. Granted the type of wheat used now adays is GMO.

    1. I don’t try to convince people of anything, really. I just share my thoughts on it, and if they’re interested, follow up with more information on the difficulty the body has digesting grain. Dh has been on GAPS for over eighteen months so he’s off all grains, beans, and doesn’t have challah even on Shabbos. (I make hamotzi for the family unless ds18 happens to be home.) He just tells people that grains upset his stomach and he feels a lot healthier not eating them, and people find this interesting since so many people have digestive issues, or know someone who has Crohn’s, celiac, IBS, etc.

      There is the tradition of pas shacharis, ‘morning bread’. I don’t know if it’s actually a blanket recommendation for bread itself or a recommendation to eat breakfast rather than start the day hungry. Also, what they ate as bread is nothing like what we eat nowadays, and I don’t mean just our GMO wheat. They would have had coarsely ground whole grain flour, fermented and baked as a sourdough. Their digestive systems were undoubtedly much stronger than ours and their gut flora would have been in much better shape, so they could effectively digest and utilize the nutrients in their bread. But we (collective ‘we’ of this generation) can’t do that.

      We minimize grains as much as possible, but the challenge is that beans and grains are budget stretchers. Sweet potatoes are great and we use a good amount of them, and we’ve managed to cut a lot of grains out. But budgetarily I have to use meat as an ingredient rather than a main dish, which means I use beans and vegetables, or sometimes a grain and vegetable, to make a filling dish.

  3. I make beef tallow & shamaltz too:) I do use mason jars, but I never thought of not putting them in the fridge. They do seal when still warm ( my herbal infusions seal too LOL) but I just assumed it is too warm here to keep them in the pantry. Have you ever kept your jars out during the summer?
    I agree with you on the budget issue and eating primal…… 6 of us are gluten free, so that’s an expense too. We do eat rice & potatoes, although we eat more sweet potatoes ( tonight we had sweet potato latkes) I also agree that grains and legumes are filling and can feed a big family for less. I usually soak the oats and rice and quinoa before cooking and besides the oats, usually cook them in broth so it is easier to digest and there are nutritional benefits. since you posted about sprouting lentils I have been sprouting them too. I think you are so right about the difference between our modern over processed grains and the ancient grains and that they were most likely fermented. Yes, their gut flora was better and the soil was not depleted and poisoned and was a rich source of minerals and good bacteria.

  4. We just bought half of a grass-fed cow and received it this past weekend. I made sure to ask for the fat and any extra that I could get. We’ve been busy prepping to go out of state for Christmas, so I stuck it in the freezer. As soon as we get home I plan on doing this. I look forward to having all that good fat to cook with. :0)

  5. So here in the USA, you got the fat from a kosher butcher? There is none around here, (even tho I think there is a good sized Jewish community in Portland) & I think places like Whole Foods charge for fat.

    It it still worth it to try to get or buy fat from a regular butcher?

    1. If you’re Jewish and keep kosher, then it isn’t advisable to get non-kosher fat. There are enough other alternatives like butter, palm shortening and coconut oil that you can easily find at health food stores, TJs, Whole Foods. Beef or chicken fat isn’t a necessity for health, but a nice alternative to know about if you have the availability of the raw materials.

      But if you don’t keep kosher, then sure, go ahead and buy the fat from whatever source you can find!

  6. this is how i render my fat- tell me if this is right. i bug packaged ground beef or chicken cut up in quarters or eighths. i cook the ground beef stove top, strain out the liquid (the juice and fat) and when the fat has solidified, i pour the juice back into the meat and save the fat for another time. this is how my mom taught me to cook- it’s like second nature… but she used to throw away the fat and i save it for sauteing veggies or to flavor up grain dishes like rice or quinoa. with the chicken, i clean and bake and when the fat has solidified i scrape it out of the pan and put it in a container. i freeze the fat because i never know when i need it and i don’t want it to go bad, but does it even go bad if you can leave it out at room temp? and as of now i cant imagine buying just fat- there’s already more than enough fat in the chickens and meats that i get. what other dishes do you use your fat for?

    1. Estee, we use fat to cook just about everything, and what’s left from a chicken is nowhere close to enough for us! But then again, we’re a big family so of course we need a lot more than most. I use it for scrambled eggs and omelets, stir fries, to saute vegetables as a base for soup, etc. I don’t use it for baking, though – I Use palm shortening for that.

      I think it stays fairly well on the counter if it’s been well strained as long as it’s not for very long periods of time, so we keep ours refrigerated most of the time.

      1. i did this today! thanks to your awesome instructions it made it so much easier! i got a bag full of fat (for free!) from my kosher store (the owner was like, you know pesach is over, right?). one of the jars has a golden brown liquid (i’m assuming meat juice) at the bottom after the fat turned white, is it still okay to store this jar in the fridge for a substantial amount of time? i’m not sure how quickly i’m going to go through it, i feel like i have to revamp how i meal plan because breakfast and lunch is usually dairy.

  7. Hi Avivah,
    So glad to “meet” you! It’s great to find a fellow real foodee living in Israel. I’m going to have to check out your blog.

    I have to say that I made beef tallow once and said never again. I found it dificult and smelly and hard to clean up. I’ve only made a tiny amount of schmaltz, but that seemed much more user friendly. I wonder if I did something wrong…

    חג שמח!

    1. Hi, Ruth, welcome!

      It does sound like you did something wrong – the rendered beef fat should hardly have any smell. I don’t think it’s any harder to clean up than any other oil. I wonder if you rendered it at a high heat?

  8. You might feel like “Some things are so easy you feel almost foolish posting instructions on how to do it…” but your instructions explained why my entire kitchen was black with smoke, the fat I was melting was an inferno, and I was left with lumps of black coal in the pan. And no fat to brush my steak with.

    Having read the finishing touch for a perfect grilled steak is to brush on some “beef love” which is rendered suet, I trimmed the fat from my 2-inch thick steak, which still had some meat attached, and tried boiling it down to liquid by setting the gas burner to high and covering the saucepan. Within minutes there was black smoke billowing out of the pan and filling the entire kitchen, spreading into other rooms. When I raised the lid the smoke exploded out 10 times more volumous. What a disaster!

    So, you see, your instructions for the simplest task are needed and much appreciated.

    PS As the steak on the grill was ready for what was supposed to be “beef love” before the final sear, I noticed some thick liquid in the saucepan–what was left of my disaster. It was super dark brown, smelled kinda nice, so I brushed it on the steaks. Wow, delicious. Don’t know if that was burnt fat, burnt blood, or both, but it really gave “love” to my steak. So I bottled the 1/2-inch worth of what was left in a glass jar, and will add rendered suet (this time according to your most valuable instructions) to it.

    Thanks again, and consider this: Why do you think the “Dummies” books sell millions of copies!

    1. I’m so happy this was helpful for you, Chaz! And thanks for the great reminder that clear instructions are helpful to us all!

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