How To Render Beef Tallow {a long-lost fat}

Beef Tallow

For today’s Happy Homesteading post we are going back in history to learn the long-lost skill of rendering beef tallow fat like many pioneers made & used. Beef tallow was used in cooking as it makes an amazing oil for frying or pastries. They would also use tallow fat for candle making, soap making, moisturizing, keeping cast iron pots from rusting and even for waterproofing leather.

What is Tallow?

“Tallow is the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals such as deer. It is very solid and waxy at room temperature and can be kept for extended periods without the need for refrigeration. Rendering is the process of gently heating the interior fat tissue, called “suet,” causing the pure oils to melt away from the rest of the tissue.” (Source)

Tallow is solid at room temperature, with a texture harder and more waxy than shortening. In fact tallow and lard are rendered the same way, but lard is pig fat slowly melted down and is softer like shortening.

Beef Tallow is a Healthy Fat


Tallow is the healthy fat that sadly got pushed off the shelves once vegetable oils came around.

Before doing this homesteading series I had honestly never heard of tallow. And when I asked my friends and family about this I just got weird looks. Isn’t it amazing how something that was basically a staple in homes a hundred or two years ago has seemingly been lost or forgotten? After researching I found that beef tallow is actually a very healthy fat full of vitamins and is actually better for you than some of the hydrogenated oils we buy at the stores.

“Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grass Fed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hale and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard. It is also a good source of K2 in its suet form.” (Source)

Making Tallow

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First thing you need is some beef fat. I found a nice local butcher shop, called them up and asked if they had any beef fat. Lucky for me they did and it was only $.67 per lb too. For the nicest and healthiest tallow try to get beef fat from right around the kidneys and preferably from a grass-fed cow.  I didn’t ask the butcher at the time I purchased it if this was a grass-fed cow or not, I think I was in shock that I actually found beef fat and that it was so inexpensive. But next time I will ask for sure.

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The beef fat I purchased was frozen, so I let it thaw enough that it was still hard but not frozen solid so I could use my food processor to grate it up. If you don’t have a food processor just use a knife and cut the fat into as small of chunks as you can. If there are any pieces of meat you can cut out do it at this stage too.

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Here is all my beef fat put into my 5 qt. Dutch Oven I purchased. I think there is about 4 lbs of beef fat in there. I filled my pan to the top.

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With the heat on low I put the lid on the beef tallow fat and let it start slowly cooking. Here is how it looked after 1 hour. If you had only 1 lb of fat it would look a lot more melted at this stage, but since I have 4 lbs, it is slowly cooking from the bottom.

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Here it is again after 2 hours. A little more rendered. At this point I took a wooden spoon and mixed the beef tallow fat around a bit. Some people like to take a potato masher and squish it a bit too to help the process along. You don’t want to cook this fast because if it burns it will ruin it all.

Beef Tallow

Now its been 4 hours and my house is REALLY starting to smell bad like well..FAT and STINKY OIL. YUCK.


I opened up every window and turned on fans. I can’t stress to you enough how horrible this smelled. At this stage I was just wanting this whole process to be over. I am not kidding. I spent most of the day upstairs just so I couldn’t smell it as much. Then when I did have to go downstairs I actually gagged once from the smell. I am such a baby, aren’t I… 🙂


After about 6-7 hours it was all done. You can tell by all the little browned bits cooked till crispy. The Pioneers called these the cracklin’s.  They are basically fried bits of meat and grisle.  They would sprinkle a little salt on the cracklins and once cool eat them up. I shuddered at the thought after smelling the fat cooking in the air. I actually lost my appetite with the smell in the air.

How to make Beef Tallow

Next is the time to drain all the liquid oil and strain out the cracklin’s. You can use a fine mesh strainer, a paper towel, cheese cloth or what I used: a flour sack towel.  I lined the towel over a strainer, which sat over a large bowl.

Draining Beef Tallow

Then I poured all the hot oil in and strained it. Use oven mitts here, and remember to be safe. This is REALLY HOT oil and can burn you if you are not careful.

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Look at all that lovely yellow liquid tallow left behind after the straining.

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It should be a nice yellow color.

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I poured mine into wide mouth glass jars for storage. Then I let it cool all night.


And it turned hard and waxy and white. Isn’t it beautiful??

It was even more beautiful after I deep cleaned my whole kitchen, using vinegar to get the nasty smell out. 😉


Storing Tallow

Beef Tallow is wonderful because as long as you store it in an air-tight container to avoid oxidization it can be at room temperature for up to a year or longer. I have mine in my fridge as it will last even longer there. OR you can pour your tallow fat into ice cube trays and put the frozen cubes into a freezer bag to freeze.

Tallow Soap & Tallow Candles

As many of you might know I made my own homemade soap for the first time last month using a recipe of lye and a variety of store bought oils. I love the soap I made, but I wanted to make soap like the Pioneers and settlers did from long ago using beef tallow. I have heard that homemade tallow soap made from rendering beef tallow is the very best type of soap. It’s strong, its hard and it suds nicely. And I would like to use my own tallow soap instead of using Fels Naptha in my Homemade Laundry Soap recipe as well. So check back, I will be making tallow soap from scratch very soon!  Plus  I think it might be neat to try to make Tallow candles as well.

 So what do you think? Do you have questions? Think this is weird? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

4.67 from 12 votes
Beef Tallow
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
7 hr
Total Time
7 hr 20 mins
Author: Karrie
  • Beef Fat preferably from a grass-fed cow and try to get the fat that is from right around the kidneys
  1. Use food processor to grate it up or if you don’t have a food processor just use a knife and cut the fat into as small of chunks as you can.
  2. If there are any pieces of meat you can cut out do it at this stage too.
  3. Put beef fat into 5 qt. Dutch Oven, fill pan to the top.
  4. With the heat on low put the lid on the beef tallow fat and let it start slowly cooking.
  5. After 2 hours take a wooden spoon and mix the beef tallow fat around a bit. Some use a potato masher and squish it a bit too to help the process along.
  6. Don’t cook this fast because if it burns it will ruin it all.
  7. Stir again at about 4 hours.
  8. After about 6-7 hours it will be done. You can tell by all the little browned bits cooked till crispy.
  9. Next drain all the liquid oil and strain out the cracklin’s. (Cracklins are basically fried bits of meat and gristle)
  10. Use a fine mesh strainer, a paper towel, cheese cloth or a flour sack towel and line the towel over a strainer, which should sit over a large bowl.
  11. Pour all the hot oil in and strain it. It should be a nice yellow color.
  12. Pour into airtight containers and allow to cool overnight.
  13. Store it in an air-tight container to avoid oxidization it can be at room temperature for up to a year or longer. You can store it in the fridge as it will last even longer there. OR you can pour your tallow fat into ice cube trays and put the frozen cubes into a freezer bag to freeze.



How To Render Beef Tallow {a long-lost fat} was last modified: November 2nd, 2016 by Karrie

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  1. Valerie Hutchison says:

    I think this is so cool. I have food storage and it’s just another thing to be prepared with. I might try it, just to see if I can. Very cool.

    Keep all your homesteading ideas coming

    • I love tha you did this. I think next time do it outside. Over a fire would be cool but why not just use a hot plate and let nature enjoy the stink . Lol
      I may just try this.

      • Absolutely. Next time it would have to be outside, but it might be hard to keep a fire or coals at a low temperature so you don’t burn it.

        • Try a large slow cooker outside. Another variation is with pork fat however that’s not as inexpensive as beef fat because pork fat is typically used in Mexican cooking and is much harder to find.

          The Mexican grocery store on 20th (the old Bingo City) sells pork fat as does Albertsons off of Court. Sometimes WinCo in Kennewick carries it but I’ve never seen it at WinCo in Richland. Not sure about Fiesta Foods, I’m sure they do sell it but I don’t shop there enough to know for sure.

          Pork fat smells so much better than beef fat but at the same it’s worse because your whole house will smell like bacon. LOL

          • Brilliant idea about the crockpot…love it! Oh and to respond about the pork fat smellin up your house like bacon….All I gotta say is mmmmm, baaaaacoooon. 😉

          • claudia howard says:

            I just found your site as I was looking for a DIY Dishwasher soap recipe. I have always wanted to do the tallow thing. I for one, would love to see/hear your results using a slowcooker.
            C. Howard

          • claudia howard says:

            Also wanted to mention, yes I would do it outside, but for me I would have to do it on the second floor balcony cause I live in bear country 🙂
            C. Howard

        • Ruth Daniels says:

          Try using a propane burner, like one on the side of a bar-b-que, or for a turkey fryer. You can set it for a constant, low heat.

          • I have made in in my kitchen and NO smell. YOu first have to remove those pesky peaces of meat and mucle. That’s what must be making it smell. You can cook it later in a small batch with the scraps of meat if you wish to save more fat.

        • When we render the tallow from our 100% grass fed beef, I have not noticed a terrible smell. We also render pork from pastured pig. I have never rendered commercial fat, so have no experience with how it smells.
          You might find a source of better fat would not have the same odor.

          • Margarett says:

            I just rendered tallow from a 100% grass-fed steer that we split with our farmer friend. I thought it smelled awful while rendering, my husband didn’t even notice. I think I am just more sensitive to certain odors.

      • Katherine says:

        I was thinking of trying outside also. I had a similar stinky situation when I made bone broth in the slow cooker, my house was so stinky I stayed upstairs too!

    • Thanks Valerie, trying new things has been fun for sure. And it does feel good knowing that I know how to do them if I need to. 🙂

    • Kathy Casey says:

      Before I did this for the first time, I had read about how bad it smelled. I have a gas grill with a burner, and I rendered the fat outside on the grill burner. Also, if you put the hot, strained fat into hot canning jars then immediately put on hot canning lids, the lids will seal and the fat will last even longer. So far, I have only used it for soap and I love it for that. I would seriously suggest finding a way to do it outside unless you live so close to other people you might get a complaint.

    • Which is more healthier…Beef tallow or pig fat?

    • Do you ever cook with it?

    • Kara L. Baas says:

      I am filling my freezer with a side of grass fed beef. I plan on making atllow, but with the warning of the smell, im going to use a crockpot on the garage. Can you please share ways/recipies you use the tallow? I feel confident rendering it, but dont want to kill food by using it wrong. Thanks!

  2. Awesome! I’m excited to try making my own tallow as well, but right now I’ve got bad morning sickness so the smell just might do me in! Maybe in a few weeks I’ll give it a shot. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Oooh..yeah. It’s a really bad smell..beware my pregnant friend.

    • Soaping nut says:

      The reason hers smelled so bad is there were still bits of meat, muscle and blood spots when she rendered it. If you remove as much of that as you can you’ll have a mild smell but not an over whelming stench like she got. When I render, it smells more like I’m heating oil in a deep fryer

      • I just did some again today from grassfed beef and I didn’t notice a smell until I went out and came back in. But I took out all the meat bits and non-fat stuff. I used to cut mine up for lard and tallow before I put it in the pan, but it was too much work. Now I just stuff it all in the pan, and put the lid on. Then when it starts to get warm and soft, I take the lid off and start cutting it into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces with my kitchen scissors. I make big cuts with the tips touching the bottom. I cut some more every time I check it the first hour or 2, until everything it less than 1 inch. It gets softer and so much easier to cut as it gets warmer!

  3. This brings to mind something my grandmother told me when I was a young housewife. I was trying to do it all from scratch and be Susie Homemaker. Since she had been a farmer’s wife for a long time (before they figured out there was more money in running a Dairy Queen) so I asked her advice. She said to me “Do you honestly think we would have done everything by hand if we had a choice?” So knowing full well I would have made a terrible pioneer, there are times when I look at some of this stuff and recall her advice. 😉

    • So true, Mary! I do sometimes think I romanticize doing everything from scratch, but I think it’s because I want to have that knowledge. It feels sad to me that the knowledge of it all is slowly fading away, and if a natural disaster happened or another great depression I want to be a little more prepared. Hoping nothing ever does happen, but I want to know how to survive. It has been really fun trying these things out. I love a great new adventure.

      • The way things look it is better safe than sorry. Love your site.

      • Greg Self says:

        Love this, I am going to try regardless of the smell. Besides if you can get that much tallow or lard from a pig that cheap think about the money saved buying shortening.You also know what is in it.


      • Wanda Hershey says:

        And you get the added benefit of knowing what exactly you are eating or putting on your body.

  4. FYI-you can even get suet from most grocery stores that have a butcher also! I get mine from winco. We use ours (and a lot of others do as well) to mix with our venison when we grind it up, since venison is very lean.

  5. I would like to know it just in case something very terrible were to happen (like decimating civilization as we know it) and for that I appreciate your post and effort. That being said, I would not make this part of my daily routine.

    • Yep, this won’t be part of my daily routine either. However after hearing the idea about the crockpot in the garage…that sounds like something I might be able to do. It would be better to have a HUGE amt of beef fat and do a big batch at once since it’s a lot of work and the stuff lasts a really long time.

  6. My sister has a jar of tallow she had it for twenty years when our kids were babies and had colds and mixed it with vicks works like a charm

  7. Alicia Penney-Harnum says:

    I have a butcher in my community who I may be able to get fat from and I also buy whole pigs from a farmer. I had tried to make tallow before, but didn’t have much success. Your blog has been the most instructive and detailed that I have read so far! I think I will use a slow cooker out in my garage and see how that works to avoid the smell in the house. I love that there are people like me who love keeping these valuable homesteading skills alive! Great job, keep it up and spread the word!!

  8. My mom and I were just talking about this today. My grandma made here own laundry soap with beef tallow, my mom said it really works well to take out stains. She said she did not remember how she did it. So I will be waiting to see how yours turns out. I just found your website last week, I found it funny that we have chicks about the same ages yours and are working on our coop too.

    • Crossing my fingers my beef tallow/lye soap will turn out! You have chickens too? Oh how I love mine, today we let ours out in the yard and they are getting too fast to catch! 😉

    • I would think that homemade laundry soap made with tallow (and other ingredients) would be great getting out greasy stains as the tallow soap would be able to bind to the fats in the stain and make it water soluble.

  9. I think it is awesome that you made your own tallow and I agree with you that it is sad that it has been lost and replaced with less healthy options. As for me, I was pretty proud of myself when I started making my own chicken broth this past winter and I think I’ll just stick with that for now. 😉

    • Oh cool! I have been making my chicken broth’s so much thicker and better than the canned stuff. I might have to add that to my homesteading series, thanks for the idea.

  10. Some hydrogenated oils…? Don’t you mean all of them? I was under the impression that hydrogenated oils are the worst of the worst.

  11. Rachelle Benson says:

    I am so proud of you Karrie! Yesterday we had to butcher a couple of lambs for the freezer ( no judging from those who don’t eat lamb! You are missing out…) but I told hubby…. next time I am taking all the fat and rendering it out as well. I was just too tired! One can never have enough supplies on hand to be self sufficient when the time comes..
    Dutch oven cooking is fantastic… you can control how to heat it with coals ( not to be confused with briquets)… and I bet you could render that way too… (in case there is no power for the crock pot)… We use ours outside alot year round to cook in. The kids love it… and saves the kitchen from icky smells…
    Remind me to tell you about “Chelle’s Canning Camper” we put in the back yard for this canning season…

    • oh yeah, I LOVE dutch oven cooking. I really do, and have done a lot of dutch oven cooking camping. The only thing is that I would need to keep the coals on so might be a bit harder, but yes I can do that. 🙂

      I am curious to how sheep tallow would smell – and wonder how hard it gets too? You will so have to let me know, that is so cool! And yes, I want to know more about your canning camper, I saw a picture of it, but I am not sure how it will work. 🙂

  12. You make me smile with this series and I am thinking about doing this…especially with the whole crockpot in the garage idea. I am wondering though, does that tallow smell like bacon when melted? Wonder if the candles will smell of bacon? Maybe for a father’s day gift because I have priced those bacon smelly candles and they are pretty spendy! Keep us posted! 😉

    • NO Heather, tallow does NOT smell like bacon. It smells like …I don’t know..nasty oil? LOL..I really don’t know how to explain the smell… Rendering pork fat might smell like bacon though.

    • Oh and I don’t think rendering pork will be as waxy and hard as tallow for candle making. It’s more like shortening, so it’s a bit softer than tallow.

  13. I have rendered my own tallow for soap making before. DH’s family are beef farmers. i asked for some beef fat from around he kidney (it is the cleanest/least meat). i received a whole large garbage bag full including the kidney! I rendered it outside on the side burner of our gas grill. Now I always look for a grill with a side burner. It does smell bad. I need to start making soap again. I have not made any for years.

    BTW, pork fat does not make tallow. Rendered pork fat is lard. Trust me, just buy it at the store already done. Tallow and lard are not interchangable in soap making. Tallow makes better soap (or everyone would just use lard).

  14. My Dad made beef tallow for the reasons you mentioned here but also for first aid applications. When you mix a small amount of tar medicine (not sure where to buy this today – I have a 20 plus year old jar) with the beef tallow it makes an incredibly strong drawing salve. It is super effective on bug bites and bee stings and even on my sisters ex husbands boil (yuck, both the boil and the ex). I do remember the horrible smell when he would cook the tallow.

    • michele fout says:

      Love this page, I’ve been trying to learn the primitive and pioneer ways of making things from scratch also, as well as going back to some old recipes grandma had…I’m learning something new everyday 🙂 I’ve found tar medicine (now called coal tar) in the pharmacy and some larger grocery stores, it usually comes in a tube and is sold in the sections for boils…hope this helps.

  15. I think this is a good recipe that I will be trying soon. can you use this to make pastry dough?

  16. Melissa says:

    over at Wellnessmama . com she has a lovely recipe for lotion bars. (easy too, like 4 ingredients.) Basically lotion in bar form, like soap. It calls for tallow. And is said that tallow is great for the skin because its fatty acids are so much like our own that our cells can easily absorb it. You might wanna check it out. ^.^ I wrote it down and will be trying it as soon as I can find some tallow. We’re swimming in lard in all the stores here but no tallow. I’m thinking of asking the butcher at one of the stores if they have scrap beef fat that they can sell (or give, even better ^.^)

  17. I just made some tallow and it kind of yellow and not very hard, it solid at room temperature, but really soft. It also has a very strong smell. Can you tell me what I did wrong. I been trying to look it up on the web, and can find much help. I want to use it for soap, but the smell is bad.. Can I fix my oil, if so how? Also can you tell me what I did wrong so I don’t do it next time? Hoping you can help thanks

    • Hi Margie, I have only made tallow once, so I am not an expert at this yet. But maybe you had a lot of meat still in your fat when you rendered it down? I think the more meat you have in with your fat you will get a beefier smell. Someone said also to try and melt it and add in some potatoes or something…that they will absorb the smell, but I haven’t tried that yet. Sorry yours didn’t turn out great, mine smells bad too but I think that’s just how it is.

    • just wondering, since i’ve only done it a handful of times (5)……..
      how did you filter the tallow??
      did you cook it long enough to render out all the moisture??
      did you overcook it??
      i have noticed that when we have fat from cooking hamburgers or beef, that it is still soft even after a day in the frig (plus, it still has the layer of drippings on the bottom of the bowl under the fat- the stuff that normally makes great gravy) but this is stuff that i have not cooked out the moisture (because we save it to use in dog treats that we make) where the tallow that i have rendered for soap and lotion making is hard (cut it with a knife hard for when i’m adding 1-2 tablespoons of tallow to the dog treats when we don’t have left over grease from food cooking)

      • What kind of dog treats do you make? I have a finicky dog that will not even eat doggy ice cream…she thinks she needs all people food thanks to the elderly 91 year old aunt that insists on sharing her meals.

    • Hi Teresa,

      I render tallow from sheep, goats, and for the first time in Feb of 2015 will use beef. I am currently rendering pork as I type. I have only rendered from animals I raised, but using fat from my neighbors now. My sister and I are having a debate over the best approach to cut the smell. I have come to the conclusion IT IS JUST GOING TO STINK!!!! I used to boil it in water with baking soda. That didn’t work, nor using some vinegar.
      Try adding some tea tree oil when making your soap.

  18. I love your site it is very informative and fun to hear about your experiences. I live on a ranch in Colorado and we raise our own cows, pigs, chickens…a little of everything and I have to say that homemade is best. When we make lard we use the burner from a turkey fryer, it works great. We also use a three burner (cabelas) for canning outside. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  19. I love your blog. I read it whenever I have a “free” moment 😉
    I am now going to add this to the forever long to do list. It will be before other things as I am going to make some soap with it as well. Its kind of ironic to make some fat soap to help get clean though? Especially with the laundry.

  20. Oh any idea if this can be done in a crock pot?

  21. I’m so impressed with you and your thirst for knowledge. I found your blog quite by devine accident and have thoroughly enjoyed reading the archives. I have to commend you on your willingness to personally respond to almost every comment. Thank you for your “breath of fresh air attitude ” towards life. I’ve bookmarked your site and look forward to keeping up with you. If you are ever in Virginia Beach look us up, I’d love to meet you! -Monica (Mom of five)

  22. Hi, have you tried to make soap and candles yet? 🙂

  23. I use any rendered fat for soap and it all works great. I use rabbit fat-we raise our own meat rabbits-it looks and tastes just like lard from a pig. I also make lard, a local pig farmer (organic) gives us fat to render. I know that in pioneer days tallow was used for soap, lard for cooking but that was because tallow tastes yucky to a lot of people. Lard is still fabulous for soap! I personally like it best for shaving my legs as its a bit softer. The tallow soap is better for laundry.

    • Hi Amanda, Would u b willing to share your soap recipe that u use to shave with? We just had our hogs butchered and I kept the fat! I am so excited! Lol

  24. Dianne Andrews says:

    your fat looks like not-grass fed fat to me. Grass fed is very yellow. I’ve got some in my freezer I should really melt down one of these days!

  25. HI, I am in love with your website!! I find myself on it when I should be working!!! Lol. I was wondering if you have had a chance to make candles from tallow?

  26. I so enjoy reading your experiences with being a resourceful lady!
    I have rendered beef fat and also have used bot just fat and suet… the suet definately makes a nicer tallow.
    I make goats milk soap, milk from my own little goats that I milk by hand… no machines here.
    I do use beef tallow as well as lard in my soaps, definately a nicer feel to the soap than only using plant based oils, I personally do not like the feel of a castile type soap made from only olive oil and coconut oil… too slimey feeling.
    I was raised in a poor, self sustaining home and was taught that Waste not, Want not and every bit of everything raised or hunted was used and to this day, though I have more than what my parents did, I still follow that philosophy.
    Keep up the good work, you are a role model for those who want to learn the pioneer ways.

  27. I just happened upon your site today and can not stop reading. It so brings back memories of my childhood. I live on a small farm and once a year we butcher beef, hogs etc and so much goes to waste. Not this year I’m not sure when I became in my words so unmotivated. Maybe working 60 hours a week and trying to raise my children and keep the farm going I just got tired. Now that the children are all married and gone I find myself still working a 40 hour week, but trying to find things to fill my time. I have a huge garden and can most every thing I can from vegetables to soups to meats always looking for more things to do back to basics. Keep up the excellent work.

  28. Hi! I’m assuming the towel you used for filtering had to be thrown away? To simplify things I will use an old (but washed) t-shirt so I can use it as fire starter for the next campfire. I do the same thing when rendering beeswax—use rags and t-shirts so I’m not buying cheesecloth etc.

  29. I remember making bear tallow with my dad when I was a kid… glad I found you! Not only for the good ideas and advice, but for the memories! 🙂

  30. I thought rendering was supposed to be done outside. That’s how I did it. I used a Coleman gas camp stove. Worked fine. But I never did strain it. I added water equal to the amount of what was left after cooking several hrs., stirred it together good, and let it sit over night. The next day I was able to lift the slab of tallow off. Wouldn’t consider doing it indoors.

  31. We raised two “beef” this year and we kept all of the fat and it is in the freezer. I have always used it to make suet for the birdies. Hummm…this time I am going to make tallow and some soap and possibly some candles. Nice to read all the comments. Love your real approach to making things the “old” way. Absolutely love it. I do make the laundry soap…works great. The dishwasher soap doesn’t seem to get the dishes clean. I use vineager for the rinse. Any suggestions? I have always thought the rendering of the fat to be really stinky too. I plan on doing it outside this year. Just have to keep an eye on it.

  32. I just learned how to make lye from wood ashes, and I read that when using homemade lye, it’s vital to use beef tallow to make the soap harden. Without beef tallow the soap suds and cleans nicely but it stays soft and pliable, not very nice to see. I was so thrilled to find your step by step instructions, so I can also get away from using store purchased items to make my laundry detergents. Very cool demonstration. Thank you very much for taking the time to make this instructional!! I can’t wait to try it, and use real beef tallow in my cooking and in my soap making now. I wonder if using beef tallow in candles will produce a greasy aroma as the candle burns, but it’s nice to have a plan “B” if I ever need it. Thanks again!!

    • I grew up with a pioneer grandmother who taught me a lot, but my mom was decidedly a city girl, so it’s been a struggle to retain all of it as I’ve aged. Now that I’m the “grandma” I am striving to regain/remember all that from my childhood, as it’s inevitably healthier, plus good experience. However, most of my family thinks I’m nuts. . .
      That said, once I do it, they’re impressed, and my hubby loves saving money. My daughter, the youngest of my three biological kids, seems the most willing to learn. The grandkids are all too little to care
      I like the “turkey fryer outside” idea, as you can render a larger amount at once. Since I have friends who are Muslim, I’d go with the beef rather than pork. Don’t want to gift them with homemade soap made with pork! Not that I’ve tried soap yet because hubby and I live in a tiny 1br. apartment with no room to do much, but I’m going to!
      Please share the recipe for homemade wood ash lye! That would be skilz! Wish I knew someone with a big farm who would like another family to move on the property and join them in the lifestyle. No one in our family has enough money to buy one, plus it would be amazing to have mentors 🙂 Great posts, thanks for sharing!

  33. great site, i have been reading up on tallows and such.
    saw on another site that to try to clean the tallow (and help with the smell) you need to ‘clean’ it.
    which involves putting the hardened tallow back into the pot with equal amount of water, filtering it and then letting it harden and repeating until the water and tallow come out clean.
    have not tried that yet but plan to with the 4 pounds of tallow i’ve rendered over the 5 sessions i’ve made tallow.
    i do cook my tallow in the kitchen but i have to start it early in the morning (normally done by 11 or 12 as it only takes me about 3 hours to cook it down) and i’ve quite gotten used to the smell. the dogs and i think it smells very nice, actually. nobody else in the family does
    i filter through coffee filters over a wire strainer then use the cracklin’s in dog treats i make. the dog treats take longer to cut out then the cracklin’s or tallow do to make.hah. but the dogs love them and i know what went into them.
    cool site.
    let me know how your soap making went and i’ll let you know how mine goes.

  34. I wonder how long the tallow will last if you seal the jar hot to vacuum seal it?

  35. Please point out to your readers that it IS important where you get your fat [beef or pork] from if you are going to be using it for food, i.e. cooking. Every chemical [immunizations, medications/antibiotics, wormers. . .] leaves trace amounts in the fat of the animal [same is true for humans!], so you are getting a dose of everything that animal has been fed and treated with. With all natural raised, pastured animals, this should not be a problem. It is a problem [for me and possibly many of your readers] in confinement raised animals. I render lard and tallow from our animals only as I know what they have been treated with, basically nothing! DE for wormer is about it. Also, purchased lard from a store contains the preservative BHT which has been banned in many countries around the world as studies have proven it causes [among other things] brain hemorrhages in children. It should be avoided when ever possible. Thanks for a great site!! I so enjoy reading your articles and learning new things! Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Hi Ferna,
      I also render from animals i have raised and my neighbor. We are careful about their feed.
      I use all the fat I can get and I don’t chop it up. We just slaughtered 2 sheep, too much to chop. I render outside in large pots.
      Have you rendered from sheep or goats? If you have, how was the aroma? I think they will always stink.
      Feb 2015, we will have our biggest render yet, 3 cows. PHEW!! Hopefully we have a caldron by then. Anyway, just wondering how it smells for you.

      Thanks for a great sight Karrie.

  36. LOVE THIS!! Some day I plan to make tallow when it either become necessary or get the other myriad of things done I have already planned! Too many projects! One of the things I want to use it for is homemade facial moisturizer. I’ve heard it is better than any other oil or fat for your skin. Someday…….

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey! I find it very inspiring!

  37. Greetings Sister and Brother Homemakers!! For ALL those who state that rendering down Beef Fat is Smelly and can bring one to being “Sick” From the Smell….Let me be CLEAR as to EXACTLY what the smell, well, smells like. Have you ever fried up Plain Hamburger Meat, say, for a Casserole? Or Fried up simple Hamburger Patties for a Deluxe Gourmet Homemade Cheeseburger? Well then, you are in LUCK!! Because that Heavenly Aroma of that Juicy Hamburger is the EXACT Aroma that comes wafting from your Oven and or Crock Pot. How do I know? Well, its because for several Hours I have been CRAVING A CHEESEBURGER…LOL…We are in the Current Process as I Write this, of rendering down 20 Pounds of Beef Tallow ( The Fat around the Kidneys specifically). Its WONDERFUL…not icky or gross and does NOT make me want to Vomit!! Yes, I would TOTALLY encourage all of those wana be Tallow makers, to give it a try NOW…that’s right…Don’t wait till the weather is nice, don,t wait for it to stop raining, Don,t even wait for Daylight. Right now it 11:35 PM Here in North Dakota and ALL our windows are shut, and we are melting down what we call….CHEESEBURGER HEAVEN 🙂
    Now, we are ALL not the same…so, if you say it stinks, well then, for YOU, it surely does. But for the GENERAL population who makes Homemade Cheeseburgers or Casseroles for their family, this is a smell that has MOST family members running to the kitchen yelling out “IS DINNER READY YET? ITS SMELLS SO GOOOOOOD” …Just saying….no that,s MY two cents worth of thought 🙂

  38. lmloscar says:

    ok, we did this yesterday, but have some questions. #1 we did a whole cow’s worth of bones/fat. 80 to 100 lbs. #2 we don’t have a food processor so we cut it = larger pieces than would come out of a food proccessor. Most under 2″ square to start. Still have some large pieces under 1 inch sqauare left in the pot. We’re trying to reheat them because when I squish them more fat comes out. #3 hot liquid tallow was more amber than yellow #4 cooled lard is more tan than white. Do I need to recook the tallow to turn it white? I was afraid I was burning it but now I don’t know, maybe I didn’t cook them long enough. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks. Lynn

    • lmloscar says:

      Rereading that, I didn’t make it clear that we made beef broth with the bones. We didn’t include them in the beef tallow rendering process.

    • Hello Lynn- my tallow was amber at first, but cooled to a whiter color. You don’t need to recook it to turn it white. You might have had more meat in your stuff, that might have affected the color. You used bones in yours? I only used the fat when I rendered mine down. Does it taste good when you cook something with it?

      • No, we didn’t use bones in ours. We did two different processes at the same time. Separated the bones to make the broth with and used the fat to render for tallow. Maybe the meat particles did make it darker. It smells and tastes like bacon and isn’t completely solid on the top. I haven’t used any yet. We’ll see. Not neutral flavor as crisco. Not sure what I’m aiming for. Haven’t done it before.

  39. I accidentially unplugged my crock pot during rendering. Can I put it in a jar and refridgerate and rerender it tomorrow. It probably had another 3 hrs to go before I unplugged it

  40. onematchwoman says:

    I just tried this! I decided to make my tallow into emergency candles, based on your emergency candle recipe. The only thing I would strongly suggest is that you inform your readers that a plastic colander and bowl for the hot tallow will melt! We nearly had a major disaster, but thanks to my hubby’s quick thinking, all was spared. Use an all metal colander and bowl, because the tallow is incredibly hot! Now my kitchen is all clean, and I am excitedly waiting to see how my candles turn out! This was fun, even if my choice in using plastic was somewhat inadvisable! Thanks!

  41. Erin Ballard says:

    I did this in a crockpot in the house and was threatened by my entire family that if I was ever to do it again, I was out of the family! So now it’s in the garage in the crockpot! Stinks so BAD! But, the finished product is amazing! If you are old enough to remember why McDonald’s French fries tasted so good as a child(I’m 39) and now there just ok, it’s because back in the day, they use to fry in tallow! Amazing oil!

  42. I made tallow from suet in my kitchen as well for soap making. Me and my wife are both sensitive to smells (especially her) and neither of us noticed any foul smell. From my recollection, the smell if any was a light airy oil smell as if someone was cooking a roast or even making bacon. I did use a slow cooker though so maybe that made a difference. Or maybe we just have a different idea of what a bad smell is. In either case I don’t think it should smell bad unless possible the fat had previously spoiled, but from your pictures it looks fresh…

  43. Hi! I have to say I love this site! It is so nice to see there are people like me out there in the USA. I grew up in Arkansas and moved to California. People here cannot understand even the idea of growing herbs in the window. But I grew up understanding that these skills, although not always needed, are very important. People here think I am nuts because I make my own bread when I have a grocery store across the street from me.

    A friend came by not long ago and ate real butter I made for the first time. Even though she loved it, she didn’t even know butter could be made at home.

    I hope nobody round you thinks you are nuts! I have no clue where you live (just found your site last night) but in Southern California, it is a different world!

  44. Another way to obtain tallow that is basically free…when you fry ground beef, say you drippings…once you have enough, you can clean the tallow thru boiling with water and then separating after it cools…it smells a little but nothing like rendering from scratch, and it is utilizing a waste many ppl throw away

  45. Hi. I enjoyed your tutorial and I was wondering how much tallow did you get from the four pounds of fat? I’ve just started making my own soap and, living in France, there are a million butchers so I can get fat very inexpensively if not for free. Thanks for the info!!

  46. I have a friend who made her own tallow-based soap and while it was lovely and smelled great, after using it a while, it caused my husband and I to both stink by the end of the day. I use all vegetable/olive oil when I make my soap.

  47. Hi, I just found this site, looking for information on rendering beef fat. Actually it’s the same as rendering pork fat which I have done. So, thank you.
    I have a question: after rendering the tallow out, can I pour it into canning jars and process it in my pressure cooker to keep for a long time? Like say, 4-5 yrs.?

  48. Sandy Steele says:

    Love your site! I am definitely going to try this out in a crockpot outside I think. However the pork rendering sounds like it may be ok with smell. I can go with a bacon smell although it will make everyone hungry! I am interested in cooking with it. I use a commercial brand lard to make pie crusts with. Lard makes pie crusts so much better tasting and flakier! I am looking forward to trying this, however I too am a bit concerned with chemicals in the lard from medicines and stuff in the feed from the animal. So I need to make sure what pork or beef fat I get is chemical free. Great site!

  49. Interesting thread. I stumbled into the whole tallow question by accident a couple of days ago For years I have made a beef/barley/split pea soup that is a family tradition. Usually make it once or twice a winter. (Although I love it, it’s a fair amount of work, even with a pressure cooker, and I’m not an enthusiastic cook.) I always toss a lot of fat after refrigerating the soup. The pots and especially the plastic refrigerator containers are quitegreasy, too. But the smells are my lovely soup smell, with vegetables and dill.

    This time I used only three big marrow bone piecess with almost no meat on them. Any meat or gristle was rendered lovely and edible by the cooking. I skimmed the fat with one of those ittle tools that let the fat come up through holes, leaving the soup mostly behind, then put the hot fat in a jar in the fridge. Got most of it that way, and most of the rest off the top of the refrigerated soup later.

    Long story shorter, I was at the same time fussing over my winter-dried skin and looking at ingredients in lotions, etc., looking at what is used that has natural origins and is not petroleum based. At the same time I noticed that the hardened fat from skimming the soup was a lovely white (it was light yellow before it cooled) and it felt WONDERFUL on my hands. No as yellow as it usually is, and almost no odor at all. Perhaps the fat in the marrow (which this was) is very pure – the marrow itself stayed in the soup, but it always generates lots of fat on top. But I usually use some meat, too – this time I didn’t./

    Eureka! I had just looked at Google for the lotion ingredients, and I was reminded of the word “tallow.” I melted it in a little pan with raw shea butter I brought back from a trip, beeswax, coconut oil, olive oil, and, just as an experiment, a little bit of solid (waxy) perfume that I like a lot.

    It came out great. I needed to remelt to adjust the amount of beeswax so it wouldn’t be either too hard or too soft. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure carefuy, but probably about equal amounts of the various ingredients by volume to start, chilling some for a test, and then adjusting the beeswax. And just a tiny bit of the perfume – it would be fine not to use any.

    Thanks for a great site!

  50. Margarett says:

    I recently rendered tallow from a grass-fed steer we split with our farmer friend. I used the crockpot method, also. My experience was almost exactly like yours, even down to the smell putting me off eating the cracklin’s. I like pork rinds, so I was excited to try the fresh, home made cracklin’s. I just couldn’t get past the smell. The finished product only has a slight odor, and is good for cooking eggs. I want to try my hand at soap making. I am going to make lye using wood ashes from our wood stove.

  51. Lynn McDowell says:

    I’m curious as to whether you tried to make body butter with your tallow. I’ve heard it absorbs into the skin much better than coconut oil. based body butters.

    • Gia Jacobson says:

      Absolutely! It makes a lovely creamy body butter, I mixed mine with equal parts Shea butter and a bit of olive oil and a few drops of lavender oil. Melted down, cooled until almost solid and whipped in my stand mixer and it’s wonderful. Use it anywhere you’d use lotion.

  52. Lynn McDowell says:

    Also, I have a pint of pure beef fat from simmering beef and bones for 48 hours. Would that be considered usable as tallow?

    • Yes, I would think so! Just make sure you dont have any residue of broth or it could go rancid faster.

      • Alice Klatt says:

        Hi! Found your site three weeks ago. I was looking for how to render. All I remembered from the past was my mother-in-law rendering lard, was going to call her when I went to my laptop, there you were. Thank you. we had just had two grass fed beef butchered for the winter, got out the fat, ground it in my meat grinder, cooked it while my pregnant daughter-in-law was gone, but found out that there was no awful smell :)! Hope you have found some grass fed fat that cooks like mine did. Turned out great, but I only made a small first batch, so gotta do it soon again. Thank you. Alice (I grew up in Milwaukee!) We are running 185 cows, began with 65.

      • I just reserved my tallow from making bone broth. To get the residue off of it, would it work for me to now just melt the tallow and pour it through a filtering cloth? Would that be enough to clean it?

  53. I’m so excited to try this – thank you for the great descriptions and pictures. I’ve had a bunch of non-rendered tallow just hanging out in the freezer for awhile… I think it is TIME 🙂

  54. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that today I made some beef tallow, I fallowed your dirrections. My house dint stink up though, or it maybe that I ont mind the smell.
    Anyway thank you so so much, its sitting in a tall jar and turning a lovely white. I am going to use it as a skin conditioner. 😀

  55. So I made some of this and it looked about the same color as yours but it smells a little burnt. I am wondering if I burnt it or over cooked it and if it is still good to eat.

  56. Christine says:

    I’ve been really enjoying your blog, which takes me back to my days of reading Little House on the Prairie and its relatives. However, seeing you handle things like lye and hot tallow, I want to share something. I am an optician and a blind rehabilitation therapist, and am always nagging people to wear safety glasses. In my work, I have seen some horrible, tragic eye injuries that could have been prevented by proper safety glasses that can be had for less than twenty dollars at the hardware store. Sporting goods stores also sell safety shields. They should be made of polycarbonate, and be large enough to cover the whole eye area. Side shields are available on some types. None of us expects to have an accident, but none of my patients anticipated a lifetime of blindness. It is truly heartbreaking to see. End of rant. I have subscribed to your blog, and looking forward to more of your ideas, and will probably try some. I’m considering the dishwasher detergent tablets.

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