Rendering Tallow

A few weeks ago I bought about 15 pounds of untrimmed tri-tip roasts.  My plan was to trim the fat off the meat and make Beef In Red Wine Sauce – which was fantastic! Now, what to do with all the fat trimmings?  Render it down into tallow!  I used to do this years ago, when I was learning a few homesteading skills.  My purpose for rendering the tallow at that time was to use it in deep fat frying. Unfortunately, that’s when we started hearing more and more about how bad it was to fry food in animal fats, so I stopped doing it. What a shame. Of course, the trend is sliding the other way, and now it apparently isn’t so bad after all! 🙂 However, I hear that tallow also makes a wonderful soap, and since I have always wanted to learn how to make soap from scratch, my first step into soap making will be to render a nice batch of tallow!

Here we go!

How to render tallowI started out with a big bowl of fat that I had kept cold in the refrigerator, which makes it easier to work with. The first step is to cut most of the meat off the fat.  You don’t have to get every single piece, but I understand that too much meat left on the fat will give your tallow just a tad bit of an odor. If you are cooking with your tallow, this isn’t such a big deal, but since I want to make soap from this tallow, it was essential that I get most of the meat off.  Of course, I guess if I wanted meat scented soap…

Don’t laugh!  I hear bacon scented anything is the rage now! 😉

Once the fat is clean of the last bits of meat,How to render tallow to make soap you can either cut it up with a knife into small chunks, or use your food processor to get smaller chunks, or do as I did and grind the fat in a meat grinder.  For me, this was the easiest and quickest way.  Whichever method you choose to get small pieces of fat – keep your fat cold or even frozen!  If the fat gets warm, it is really hard to work with, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, the smaller your pieces of fat are, the faster it is rendered, which means the less energy you will use to render it!


As you can see, I started with 3 pounds, 5-3/4 ounces of ground beef fat.tallow for soap making Warning:  rendering tallow or lard can be a stinky enterprise!  If you want a sweet smelling house, render outside! 🙂  I love canning and cooking outside, so rendering the fat outside is fun for me anyway. How to render tallowPlace the pot over medium low heat – not too hot, but warm enough to melt the fat.  You also don’t want it bubbling so rapidly that it will make a terrible mess.  Trust me.  Keep it down to a happy simmer.  Once you start to see some fat separating, give it a good stir, then stir it about every 5 minutes or so. How to render beef fat The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big (or small) your fat pieces were to begin with and how much fat you are rendering.  What you want to see is that the pieces in the pot are starting to look crispy when you lift them out with a spoon, and the fat in the pot is an amber color. Pull the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare your jars.  I like to wash my jars out, fill them with water and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes.  I then take out the very hot jars (careful), pour out the boiling hot water and dry them quickly.  Not only does this sterilize the jars, but now I have hot jars to pour a hot liquid into!  Never pour a hot liquid into a cold jar or, worse, cold liquid into a hot jar!How to get pure beef fat Next, just pour the melted fat through a strainer into your jar or bowl.  Be very careful while doing this, because we are talking about molten lava  very hot melted fat at this point!how to render beef fat  Not a time to have kids and dogs running through the kitchen!  You can see that I got almost exactly one quart (four cups) of beef tallow.  Since I am going to use this tallow in soapmaking, I wanted to get out as many impurities as I could.  When you look at the bottom of your bowl or jar, you may see a thin layer of “sludge” at the bottom.  Since I didn’t want any sludge impurities in my soap, I poured about a cup of hot water into the hot fat, stirred it a bit, then let it set.  Since fat floats, and the impurities fall to the bottom due to gravity, once the fat solidifies all you have to do is lift it off the water and pour the water and impurities down the drain.  rendering beef fatWipe off the bottom of the now creamy white solidified pure tallow with a paper towel to get the water off, pop into a freezer bag, and throw it into your freezer.

Done! Getting pure beef tallow from fat

Perfect for soapmaking!

Now I need to find a good recipe to make soap.  Hmmm…. I’m thinking one with goat’s milk and/or olive oil would be fun to start with!  Do you have any good, easy (remember, I’m a first timer) soapmaking recipes you think I should start with?

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28 thoughts on “Rendering Tallow

  1. Great article. I render lard from my pigs this way to use for my homemade pie crusts. Mmmmm well worth the work. I will be interested in the soap making too. I have always wanted to try making some.

    • Hey – I wonder if I could make pie crusts from tallow? I know that nothing tastes as good as potatoes fried in either tallow or lard! I am just a bit nervous about making soap, having to deal with the lye and all, but since so many people do it and say the soap is so much better than store bought, I am going to give it a try! I will post the good, bad or even the ugly when I try soapmaking – so stay tuned! 🙂

    • Candles? I’ve never thought of that! I will do a little bit of research and see if that’s possible. Thanks for the idea, Sunny!

    • The moisturizer idea must be true, because after getting the tallow all rendered, my hands were as soft as butter! My hair didn’t smell very good, however! I am going to be looking into different ways to use tallow and lard – not that I’m going to be butchering a cow or a pig anytime soon. But, this process is so easy that it can be done with small batches here and there, that eventually add up to a lot of tallow (or lard). Thanks for your kind words!

  2. Dear Vickie,
    I am always amazed at how you do it.
    We also want to make yourself as much as possible, but often there is a lack of time.
    You do it the way it should be done.
    Keep it up.



    • Hello, Elise – Miss Frugal Farm Wife! I love the name of your blog! Yes, I hear you can make candles from tallow! It makes sense, actually, since it is a fat that will burn. I would be very interested to see how yours turn out and how you do it. Do you make a candle in a container like a votive, or can you make tapers? Right now I am going to concentrate on making soap. It’s something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Good luck with your candles – wish me luck with my soap! 🙂

  3. This is very interesting first time I have heard about this. A friend and I rendered some fat and I have it in jars in the pantry, could it still be used for soap? Can’t wait to see your end results, followed you from Family Fun Friday.

    • Good evening, Joyce. Yes, either tallow or lard has been used to make soap for centuries! In fact, the story goes that soap was first discovered in a river that was below a small hill where animals were sacrificed. The animal fat mixed with the ashes from the fire and leached down into the river. The women discovered that this spot in the river got their clothes really clean. When it was realized what was happening, humans began mixing the two together on purpose! At least, that’s the story. Anyway, I found a great recipe for tallow, olive oil and goat’s milk to make soap, so I plan to gather the ingredients and try it soon. Thanks for stopping by, Joyce!

  4. Interesting!
    I have heard about rendering tallow, but hadn’t put much thought into doing it. I’ll have to save the fat to try this, next time my Hubby gets a deer, or when we butcher the next steer.
    THanks for sharing!

    • Good morning! Yes, you can save all your fat to render. However, I have been told that you shouldn’t save it too long in the freezer (more than 6 months) or it might get an off-odor and go rancid. I think it would be better to make small batches of tallow (or lard in the case of pork fat) than to save up a whole bunch for one big batch. Thanks for stopping by. P.S. I love your “dorky”, SMILING horse! 😀

    • One reason hand made soap is so good is because it still has all the glycerin in it, which is a natural by-product of saponification – the making of soap! Commercial soaps you buy at the store have had the glycerin extracted from it. Why? Because then the manufacturer will have two products: soap and glycerin soap, which they can charge a higher price for! I hope your weekend is fantastic, Karren – Enjoy the last of August 2014!

  5. Pingback: 147th Wildcrafting Wednesday « Mind Body and Sole

    • Thank you for the featured post, Kristin! And yes – rendering tallow can be a bit stinky – so doing it outside is wonderful!

  6. I always save the fat and render it, but I usually just use it for gravy making or hash (corned beef hash with rendered beef fat – oh my!). But I have always wanted to make soap.

    • And I have always wanted to make corned beef hash! I never thought to use the tallow for that, but it sounds absolutely delicious – thanks for the inspiration! I am going to check out your blog now – see you soon!

  7. Well, definitely never tried this, but my husband and I are pondering purchasing 1/2 a cow soon, so maybe we’ll get some fatty parts to try it out with.

    Thanks for sharing this at Savoring Saturdays! Hope to see you back again this weekend!