Mastering different fats is key to distributing flavors evenly and achieving certain textures we all know and love.
So how do you get good at it? Experimentation and practice, of course! Animal fat differs in texture, taste, and nutrition depending on the specific animal, the type of fat collected, and how the animal was raised.
One beloved fat is beef tallow. Beef tallow is often used in cooking, but as you’ll see, its uses reach far beyond taste.
We’re going to cover what beef tallow is, why you should consider using it more often, and what separates good tallow from bad beef tallow.
What is beef tallow?
Beef tallow is rendered fat from cattle, often derived from suet, which is the hard, saturated fat found around a steer’s kidneys. It is used in a variety of applications including frying food, making candles, and even skin products.
Commercial tallow often includes a mixture of fats from other animals and plant sources like pigs, sheep, and seed oil, though [*].
Beef tallow has:
- A high smoke point of 420° (meaning it’s good for higher heat cooking like frying)
- A mild beefy flavor
- A soft texture similar to butter or coconut oil
Even though suet is popular, you can cook down fat from any part to make tallow, including the ribs, sirloins, or any other cut. Rendering is just a low-heat cooking process that separates the pure fat from any connective tissues or membranes that would cause the fat to spoil faster.
Beef tallow is malleable at room temperature, and you can substitute beef tallow in for any vegetable oil or animal fat, as long as you’re okay with a little bit more beef flavor getting into whatever you’re making.
Beef tallow uses
Beef tallow is used in an incredible number of ways, including: high-heat cooking, making fries, baking, as an ingredient in candles, making shortening, as an industrial lubricant, for biodiesel, medicine, rifle grease, and more.
You’ll sometimes see beef tallow used as a sort of fancy butter to dip bread into as well, but tallow in cooking circles has largely been replaced by vegetable oils and other meat fats such as lard. For example, McDonald’s cooked their fries in tallow for decades before finally switching to vegetable oil in the 90s [*].
Beef tallow is also one of the main ingredients in pemmican, which is a sort of primal energy bar made from a concentrated mixture of fat and protein and first championed by the Native Americans.
While not as popular as it was decades ago, tallow is becoming more popular as people return to the idea of using the entirety of an animal, though! And for good reason — it is delicious!
Cooking with beef tallow
Think of beef tallow as a supplementary ingredient you cook with — just like any other fat like olive oil or bacon grease.
Beef tallow is great simply spread on bread with a bit of salt, but we also like to use it for:
- Stir-frying vegetables
- Cooking eggs
- Searing steaks
- Baking savory pies (pot pie with tallow is dangerous)
- Making home fries or potatoes for brunch
- As the fat source in casseroles (spread it on the bottom of a casserole dish)
- To drop a bit into a hot skillet before adding aromatics
You can easily make your own tallow by collecting the fat that pools up after cooking some beef. Just remove any solids, strain, and pour it into a ceramic or glass container. You can even flavor the tallow with herbs like thyme or your own seasoning blend to have a sort of compound fat you can use as well. Just remove the extra ingredients before freezing if you want it to keep longer.
What does beef tallow taste like?
Beef tallow does have more flavor than other fats like lard, but the flavor is still subtle and mild. The taste of beef is in no way prominent. This means it’s easy to use in dishes and baking without imparting too much beef flavor, so don’t worry about that!
Is beef tallow healthy?
1 tablespoon of beef tallow has 115 calories, 13 grams of fat, 6.5 grams of saturated fat, and 14mg of cholesterol. There are no dietary fibers, sugars, or proteins [*].
So assuming you get it from a good source that raised the cattle as nature intended, 100%. Beef tallow has a good amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and choline, a nutrient that impacts liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, nervous system, and metabolism [*]. It also has zero carbs, making it ideal for keto and other low-carb diets [*].
It’s still a fat, so you need to use it in moderation, but fats eaten in a balanced diet are healthy and important for your diet!
Beef tallow vs. suet
While similar, beef tallow and suet are not the same thing. Tallow is often made from suet, but suet is a hard, crumbly fat taken from the kidney area of a sheep or cattle. Suet isn’t as shelf-stable as tallow and is popular in baking due to its melting properties and resulting texture.
Where to buy beef tallow
As mentioned, commercial tallow can be a bit of a mixed bag, and you are likely to get a blend of different fats and oils instead of pure beef tallow. This means opening yourself up to having unhealthy seed oils and fats mixed in with your beef tallow.
Beef tallow from cattle raised in unhealthy environments directly affects its nutritional profile. The feed given to industrially-raised cattle is specially formulated to maximize production at the lowest possible cost. These feeds may contain antibiotics, arsenical drugs, rendered animal carcasses, and other ingredients that may lead to the introduction of harmful contaminants into our bodies [*].
So this is not a closed loop. What your food eats, you eat, so to speak. If a cow is fed a lot of unhealthy corn, feed, and antibiotics, that is passed directly to you [*].
This is problematic for a myriad of reasons, but the point is that you should buy beef tallow from fresh sources that prioritize health and quality over profit.
Most supermarkets only carry tallow-derived products such as shortening, so your best bet for good tallow is directly from a local butcher, higher-end supermarket, or grass-fed & grass-finished beef tallow producers that can deliver to your door.
If you are in a supermarket, look for tallow in the same aisle as stocks since it is shelf-stable. And since beef tallow is so stable, it’s definitely something you can buy in bulk to cut costs.
How to store beef tallow
Professional, pure beef tallow can be stored on a shelf for months at room temperature, assuming it is in an air-sealed container. If you made your own tallow, you may want to keep it in the fridge and use it within a few weeks to prevent contamination.
Beef tallow recipes
Here are a few delicious ways to use and make beef tallow:
1. Grilled Steak With Tallow Béarnaise
What do you get when you combine beef fat, white wine, and tarragon and pour it over a 100% grass-fed and grass-finished steak? Perfection.
2. Beef Tallow Potatoes With Spicy Paprika
Beef tallow and potatoes are a classic combination for a reason. Whip these up and serve them alongside a good burger for a deadly combination.
3. Homemade Beef Tallow
Interested in making some beef tallow at home? It’s not as hard as you may think! It’s also a great way to reduce meat waste as well.
4. Beef Tallow Chicken Fried Steak
I’m not sure I need to say anything else to convince you that making beef tallow chicken fried steak is a good idea, but the gravy in this recipe is absolutely dangerous as well.
5. Beef Tallow and Herb Crusted Prime Rib
If you’re feeling something fancy for a romantic night in or holiday celebration, then this beef tallow and smoked herb-crusted prime rib may be the move. This recipe uses the tallow to rub down the roast and act as a sticky surface for the fresh herbs to stick to.
Beef tallow is rendered fat from ruminants, a fantastically versatile product, is usually shelf stable and is used for everything from frying to making candles.
For the best taste and nutritional results, be specific with your sourcing, and don’t settle for anything that’s not real, healthy beef tallow. A lot of cheaper products tend to mix oils and fats together instead of being pure beef tallow. Good luck, and happy cooking!
Order our grass-fed beef tallow to make sure your recipe comes out perfectly.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.