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Liquid gold: how to render fat
Rendering your own fat at home is a great way to get the most from your meat purchases. Even better – use that tallow and lard to cook up some delicious dishes.
Remember how the McDonald fries of your youth seemed to taste so much better than the modern incarnations? Well, it’s not your imagination – they are different now to how they were back then. Back in the day, they used to fry in tallow, which made those golden strands unquestionably more delicious.
Now, I’m not here to tell you the health benefits of using tallow and lard. There are plenty of mom blogs who can tell you about oleic acids and vitamins. But here’s why I render my own lard at home and why you should, too.
1) It’s a frugal use of fat you’ve already purchased. You paid for that brisket, fat and all.
2) It’s a responsible approach to being a meat eater in terms of using as much of the animal as you can.
3) IT MAKES ALL THE STUFF YOU COOK/FRY IN IT TASTE AMAZING!
Why do you render fat?
Fat is the major vehicle of flavor in meat, so it’s not surprising that melting down pure fat makes for an incredibly tasty oil substitute. That’s pretty much what rendering is – breaking down and melting animal fats. After melting, the fat is then strained to get rid of any impurities leaving you with a paste-like substance once it cools.
What’s the difference between lard and tallow?
The difference between lard and tallow is a simple one. Both are animal fats, but lard is made from pork fat, and tallow is made from beef fat.
What happens if i don’t render fat slowly?
Lots of people will tell you it takes HOURS upon hours to properly render fat. And it does… sort of. It certainly does take some time, but there are speedier versions. My method takes about 2 hours all up. The main difference in the time it takes is in the quality of the final product.
If you use extremely low heat to melt the fat VERY slowly over the course of 6 or 8 hours, your finished fat will be whiter and smell more neutral. If you speed it up, the fat may brown during cooking. This makes the finished product yellower in color and smell a little more like the animal it came from. The slow version is somewhat purer and will last you a little longer, but even my speedy version still lasts 2-3 months in the fridge.
The only time you really need snow white fat is when you are using it for baked goods like pastry or pie crusts, or even biscuits. I use the majority of my fat as a flavor base in savory dishes, so it’s not really a problem if it has some taste to it.
What can I cook with lard or tallow?
What CAN’T you use it for? The most crispy and indulgent roast potatoes. Use it as a fat to make phenomenally flakey biscuits, fry up steak in its own fatty goodness with these beef chicharrones, even use it to make pork or duck fat caramels.
You can actually even make your own body butter using tallow (and trust me, it’s great for your skin). Or if you want to keep it simple, just use the fat in place of traditional oils when cooking.
What equipment do i need to render fat?
A deep saucepan or stock pot, a sieve or strainer, some muslin (I actually use reusable wipes you can get at the grocery store!), and a jar for storage. You can also use your instant pot or slow cooker on the low settings, but it will take quite some time. I also find that its very difficult to pour liquid-lava hot fat out of a slow cooker, which is why I prefer a saucepan.
Step by step photos – recipe instructions below:
How to render fat
- 2-5 lb Beef or Pork fat
- In order to have it melt more easily, cut your fat into chunks no larger than 1.5 inches.
- Place the fat into your pan, then add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about half an inch.
- Place the pan over a medium flame, until the water starts to boil, then turn heat down to low.
- Cook gently for 1-2 hours, stirring every so often until most of the fat has rendered. It should be a translucent yellow color. Though it may look appealing, if it starts to develop brown colors your temperature is too high.
- The fat will have silverskin and meat attached, so it will never completely render to liquid and you can expect to be left with floating crisp-looking pieces. Warning - the pork ones will taste delicious, the beef ones sort of taste like ear wax, so approach at your own peril.
- At this stage, the fat is searing hot, so be cautious when handling it. Over a heat proof bowl, set up the sieve and line it with the muslin or straining material. Carefully pour the rendered fat through the sieve, being careful to set the pan back down on a heat proof surface. Discard the muslin. I prefer to pour into a bowl first rather than pouring it straight into a jar, in case you need to strain it twice.
- After 10-15 minutes, pour the contents of the bowl into a clean jar - it will still be very hot and will heat the glass quickly. Seal and store in the refrigerator for up to three months.
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