What Is Beef Tallow?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Beef tallow

milanfoto / Getty Images

Beef tallow is the rendered fat from a cow that's used for cooking, typically, but it also plays a role in making soap and candles. While it's not an ingredient in high demand today, beef tallow historically was used for cooking pemmican, a Native American staple of beef tallow, dried meat, and dried berries. Try this ingredient the next time a dish needs some oil for cooking or as a binder, and get to know this unique fat. 

What Is Beef Tallow? 

Beef tallow is fat that's cooked down from rump roast, ribs, steaks, or any other cut of meat of the cow. It can also be the pure fat skimmed off the meat and melted into a liquid before settling back in a solid, more malleable substance. When kept at room temperature, beef tallow remains pliable, almost like soft butter. Cook with tallow in lieu of olive oil or butter. The ingredient has a high smoke point, too, so it's great for deep frying and any cooking that requires high heat. Overall, beef tallow is a lot like lard, though lard comes from a pig and beef tallow from cows.

Historically, tallow has been used in so many ways beyond cooking. Beef tallow has been converted into a biofuel, incorporated into medicinal salves, and used to make candles, and grease rifles. Today, tallow is more of a throwback or novelty ingredient, used by chefs to make statement dishes such as beef-fat candles to dip bread in before the meal, and as a flavorful spread for toast. Some cooks use beef tallow for frying, roasting vegetables, cooking french fries, and sautéing as well, but it's still not as popular as other fats. It's an ingredient that's embraced by people who are very interested in using traditional means of using the entire animal for cooking and letting nothing go to waste.

How To Use Beef Tallow

One doesn't cook beef tallow as much as to use it in cooking. Fat must be rendered from beef by cooking down and melting it off the meat. Once a pool of fat appears, remove solids, and pour off the hot grease into a glass or ceramic container. When the fat is hot, simmer herbs and/or spices, along with it to add more flavor, then strain out any solids before cooling and storing.

The beef tallow will cool in the dish and then can be used as desired. Try beef tallow on a slice of toast or bun, slather it over raw vegetables before roasting, or even incorporate it into baking projects, especially in recipes that call for lard. 

tallow

Natalya Shcherbatyuk / Getty Images

beef tallow

Santje09 / Getty Images

beef tallow candle

hokafaja / Getty Images

beef tallow

eyjafjallajokull / Getty Images

beef tallow

Alexsandr Ermolaev / Getty Images

What Does Beef Tallow Taste Like?

Plain beef tallow doesn't have much flavor. It's a simple fat that may impart a small essence of the meaty nuances from the meat, but it's not a prominent taste. If made with herbs or spices, the beef tallow will take on aromas and flavors from those ingredients, but it's still a more mild way of flavoring a dish. Mainly, beef tallow is used to add fat to a meal or for cooking and baking.

Beef Tallow vs. Suet 

Both tallow and suet come from the same animals (sheep or cattle), but the former is shelf-stable while the latter must be kept refrigerated. Suet is the fat rendered from the kidneys and heart of the animal. It's mainly used in British cuisine to make rich meat pies, savory puddings, and pastry dough. Beef tallow, or sheep tallow, gets used in high-heat cooking and roasting. It's a fat that can be kept at room temperature without fear of spoiling. Beef tallow also comes from all over the animal's body and proves creamier and easier to work with than suet. 

Beef Tallow Recipes 

Try beef tallow in lieu of lard, butter, or suet. It's a solid fat that can be great in all sorts of foods—from baked goods to roasted vegetables to french fries. 

Where To Buy Beef Tallow

Beef tallow isn't as easy to come by as lard in supermarkets and even specialty grocers, but many butcher shops will sell some to you. It's a shelf-stable product, so look for it in the same section as stocks and bullion.

Storing Beef Tallow

Pure beef tallow is shelf-stable, so it can sit on the counter at room temperature for days in an air-tight container. It's best to keep it in the fridge when not using to prevent accidental oxidization, though it's not necessary. The main thing to focus on is making sure the jar it's in is sealed properly. You can also freeze beef tallow for several months.