Best way to store rendered beef fat - and to render it

liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)April 10, 2008

Hi everyone. I've read in the Harvest Forum, but don't think I've posted here before.

I'll soon be buying a side of beef for the first time. I plan to ask that the butcher save all the beef fat for me to render. Of course I've no idea how much that will be. If I render it to a relatively pure stage, what's the best way to keep it? Ideally I'd like to keep one small jar in the fridge, with the rest in the freezer, but I'll keep it all frozen if it stays fresher.

In the past I've rendered small amounts in a skillet. But some of the articles I've read talk about covering the fat with water and rendering it that way. Since these articles seem to be mainly concerned with making soap, I wasn't sure if the method would be the same for a fat to cook with.

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readinglady(z8 OR)

The methods are the same. The advantage of rendering in water is that any "bits" don't brown, so the flavor of the rendered fat is not affected by the toasting. This is an advantage if you end up using some of the fat in pastries. I'm thinking of pasties and British-style savory meat pies. The same is true of lard.

I think your idea of keeping a small amount in the fridge and the rest in the freezer is fine, though if there's any doubt about how quickly you'll use it, I'd freeze it all.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 10:28PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

When I do the bird suet, its just slowly melted beef fat that is heated until the leftovers are just small cripsy brown bits, which I toss out (yes!). The liquid is nice and clear amber color. I mix in hulless bird seeds, peanut hearts, and hulled sunflower seeds, as well as a little bird grit, oyster shell grit and whatever else I think they will like. The mixture is spooned into small plastic molds (like the commecial cakes are sold in). These are chilled, then frozen. They last that way for years. And without all the added bird stuff, the fat would also keep very well for years too. Thats basically what lard is, except they add preservatives so it doesn't go rancid.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 10:56PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

Thank you both. I've done a small amount (from a couple of chuck pot roasts) both ways. Now I'll see how I like them for browning beef, and if the white version seems to impart beef flavor to other foods. I might even get brave and try some of the white rendered fat in Thanksgiving pies. I've always heard lard makes the best pastry, but have never eaten it - that I know of. Pies are about a once a year event around here.

The amber version tasted a little "old" when I used it a month later from the refrigerator. But I had missed just a few fine browned bits when straining it. I think I've kept chicken fat in the fridge for over a year without any off taste. I haven't tried using the white version of water-rendered beef fat yet.

Carol, about how long do you think these would keep in the fridge?

~ Liz

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 3:06PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I had an aunt that made the flakiest pies. She had trouble burning water. She used lard for the pie crust, the store bought version, and it made pies very flaky due to the small amount of moisture it contained . The larg heats up, turns the moisture to steam and makes the dough 'puff up' slightly. Chicken fat= Smaltz

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 3:12PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The beef fat is suet, which is wonderful used in mincemeat and the meat pies I mentioned above. I "doubt" you'd enjoy it in something like a fruit or pumpkin pie, but I could be wrong. Let us know how it works.

Lard is pork fat. The best lard for pies is leaf lard (kidney fat) because it has a higher melting point, resulting in the flakiest crust.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 4:42PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

Carol - I'll take your word on that! If I made fruit pies regularly, I might try it, but pies are too special around here to risk it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 5:30PM
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What are guys talking about?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 7:46PM
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CA Kate

Liz: after rendering the fat -- usually slowly in a medium oven -- and allowing it to cool a bit, I pour 1/2 to 1 cup in zip-lock bags and lay flat to freeze -- squeezing out as much air as possible... I want a thin layer of fat. I then freeze these on a sheet pan -- so they are indeed flat. This makes using it frozen very easy since you can just break-off as much as you need. I do the same with the marrow fat too; and chicken fat.

I have ever had the leaf-fat to try, so I don't know about it.

readinglady: You've taught me something new.... I didn't know that lard was from a pig!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 8:04PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Leaf-lard is difficult to find, ever more difficult now when most meat departments in groceries do nothing more than cut up big chunks of meat into smaller ones. You have to find a real butcher willing to set it aside and render it yourself or mail-order it. There are a few heritage farmers of old breeds of hogs who do sell it and a few butchers (Pennsylvania Dutch, for example).

When you do find lard it's more likely to be just regular pork fat. Avoid the stuff in blocks on the shelves. That's hydrogenated like shortening and quite likely to be rancid or have a disgusting aftertaste. One reason so many people who've tasted lard don't like it is because the lard is bad.

Mexican groceries are a good source of lard because it's integral to many dishes, especially such things as tamales.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 10:05PM
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HI Liz -
This is a bit of a tangent from rendering beef fat but I am about to get my first cow from a local farm and will have it butchered at a local butcher. I want to get the most out of it and have a wide range of things I will eat. I also have dogs that could eat things that I wouldn't want to. How do you suggest I tell them to butcher it and what extras (other than all the fat that I now know I should ask for) should I get? I just don't know even what to ask for. I appreciate any and all suggestions...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 12:37AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

The more the butcher has to cut and trim, the more costly it can be for cutting up the whole cow. I think they have a time limit for the whole processes, and its based on how careful you wish to go with fat and some inedibles that are trimed off. Some of the fat can easily be trimmed off at home and you would bo a much better job at removing than a butcher would. Some fat runs wide, through a meat cut and if its tender small size cut of meat, they usually leave it in (rib eye for instance). Also, things like tenderloin need to have the fiberous muscle removed (peeled) off the length. If its not, its tough and stringy. Cut against the grain for things like brisket and flank. Most of the meat should have some marbling of fat in the tender parts, which give more moistness and taste. Also, chuck, and top of the round are great for hamburger. Bottom of the round is a bit bland, and can be used for meatloaf that gets highly seasoned. A Food Saver machine would be a great investment to protect all the frozen meat from getting freezer burn, discoloring, and loss of moisture (that icy buildup inside the bags). Using Freezer paper and then a plastic bags might offer a couple of extra months to the frozen parts, but the FS bags are 3 times thicker and hold up very well to freezing, as they also remove air from the bags before they are heat sealed. They also take up less space compared to freezer paper and zipper bags. Before the meat is cut into the specifics its always a good idea to age it a bit beforehand. The longer the aging (sometimes many weeks!) the better the taste and texture. Long aged beef is expensive as it also has to take into account some surface loses due to a little mold or drying. That is called 'Prime' meat, then Grade A (not usually very common) and then 'Choice' which is usually most Supermarket cuts. Choice is not aged very long and has more moisture inside and is a bit tougher. I have bought some tenderloin and wrapped in a big kitchen towel and stored in the meat drawer of my fridge. Its left about 2-3 weeks, then the towel is changed and its placed back in the fridge another 2-4 weeks. The end result is a more mellow taste and very tender! The various beef cuts have been renamed (some years ago) and have also been very confusing when it comes to the actual names they now use to describe each cut. Beef based sausages are also great if you have a stuffer and meat grinder and like some summer sausage, pepperoni, or salami. If the butcher gives you back everything, including many big chunks of fat, its rendered by slowly heating in a big heavy pot, which can take a few hours. You end up with small brown pieces that the dogs would go crazy for once its cooled. I make bird food with rendered beef fat (suet) that was previously frozen. The rendered fat gets mixed with hulless bird seeds and the woodpeckers are flocking to it daily, as most other birds would also do once its cold enough outside. The dogs would also like some BONES, and any muscle fiber and cartilage. Beef ribs are a good cut for people, but do take up a bit more freezer space, unless cut with a meat/band saw. Most all bones and tiny bits of meat can also be simmered down to make beef broth, which can also be frozen. The rule of thumb is if originally raw then frozen it can be cooked and refrozen again. If its raw, and not previously frozen, you can cook and freeze as usual. Grinding meats at home can also be done with a decent food processor, but consistancy of the various sizes of the small pieces will vary greatly. This is great for a meat chili, where you want a few small bits bigger than hamburger. Most hamburger is made with really tough cuts (chuck) and is run through a grinder twice with 1/8 inch or smaller holes in the plate. Then, there are the internal organs like liver, and some others, which people or dogs relish as well.

Happy butchering!!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:17AM
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robin_d(8b Tacoma WA)

I ask the butcher for the long bones (legs, etc.) cut into 6" length. Those can just go in a plastic bag, no need to wrap, since I will use them for stock (then they go to my friend's dogs). I also use the tough outer muscle fibers and other "too tough for humans" (aka "dog meat") in my beef stock - it makes an intensely beefy, very rich stock (as opposed to broth). The dog meat doesn't need nice wrapping either, so the butchers don't seem to mind.

I rend the fat also, beef, pork and chicken, in water, and freeze in zip-locs. I haven't found a better method yet. A very rare treat, but beef fat makes bomb french fries!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 11:04AM
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I use suet in my boiled or steamed puddings and it is hard to find in the U.S. because like said, unless you find a local abattoir, the stores now just cut up primal cuts (large sections received from a packing house and absent things you'd have if you butchered youself). Like readinglady says, suet is the dry, flaky fat found above the kidneys and is not at all like the tallow you'd cut off other sections of beef when butchering it. Tallow is not lard.

When you buy beef to be butchered, you pay for the hanging weight of the side/whole/quarter on the hook after the obvious parts are disposed of. Hooves, head, etc., and it's sectioned. That's how our local butchers do it, anyway. It's your call within bounds what you want off it and how you want it since you have paid for it by the weight. Most trimmed fat just goes in the waste barrel, so your butcher might think it's a pain in the yahoo to keep it clean and in a separate container so you might run into some resistance.

Back on the farm, my MIL kept all the tallow to render. But I don't remember whether she rendered it in water or not. I would if I were doing that. Also there is fat and there is fat. Much of the trimmings is mixed with other tissue and it's not all the nice clean hunks you may envision.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 2:13PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

robin_d - Do you remember when McDonald's french fries were so good? They formerly used a small amount of beef fat in the shortening. I try to avoid junk food, but I would make an exception for those fries! I can only imagine how good they would be in all beef fat. We did get our half cow last year, and have enjoyed the meat very much. Unfortunately, my request for the fat and all the bones for stock was passed from me to DH to the butcher. The result was that I got the usual soup bones, but all the long bones and fat were disposed of.

The butcher did tell DH that we could have all the bones we wanted any time, because most people don't want them. One of these days I'll take him up on the offer, and I'll ask for all that connective tissue as well. Since the butchers normally pay to get rid of these, I imagine other butchers would be glad to get rid of them as well.

Fat is one thing that I don't like to store in plastic, as it absorbs molecules of plastic quite easily. I imagine this absorption no longer occurs once frozen, but would be even faster than normal when the fat is warm. I realize that this isn't a concern for most people!

".........When you buy beef to be butchered, you pay for the hanging weight of the side/whole/quarter on the hook after the obvious parts are disposed of. Hooves, head, etc., and it's sectioned. That's how our local butchers do it, anyway. It's your call within bounds what you want off it and how you want it since you have paid for it by the weight........"

calliope - that's the system used around here as well. We also paid a slight fee for the wrapping, that was either based on the pound or the number of pieces wrapped - I forget which.

One reason I didn't go back and get some fat from another cow was that I particularly wanted the healthier fat from a grass-fed animal. It occurs to me now that I can call up the farmer who sold us the cow and ask when they are taking another animal in to be butchered. Of course the 100 mile drive was also a factor! Fortunately there are some great German restaurants in the town where our butcher is located, so it makes a nice outing.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 3:08PM
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I grow my own grass fed beef and have for my whole life, my granddaughter is the 4th generation of my family that has eaten meat packaged by the same independent meat cutter.

My butcher, Carl, shrink wraps all the meat he processes and he'll cut me anything I want from an animal. I always kept the heart, tongue and liver to cook and use as dog treats, and he trimmed the rib bones too, left me the bones for the dog and ground the meat to burger.

I've always gotten pieces of leg bone and "knuckle" trimmed for dog bones, but I've asked for all the soup bones, which I roast and then make beef stock out of for canning.

I make sure I get the brisket, not ground, for the smoker, and the suet for the birds, although I did can mincemeat one year.

I usually get the "good" steaks, i.e., Porterhouse, T-bone, Sirloin, rib steaks. Then I get chuck roasts and round steaks, the brisket, and everything else gets ground to burger, and I get all the soup bones for stock. Very little is wasted and Carl just started cutting and packaging the tails for me, oxtails are over $5 a pound at the grocery!

Lard is a whole nother animal, as Carol pointed out. Suet is from cattle, as is tallow. Lard is from pigs.

And now I have 30 ducks on their way, in 12 weeks they are supposed to be freezer sized. I wonder what in the world can be done with duck fat....


    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 3:21PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

Annie, I'm glad you mentioned the tail. I'll remember that with the next side of beef. As for duck fat, friends who have had it tell me that it is the most flavorful fat of all, great for many things, though potatoes is the one thing I remember. You might ask your question on the Cooking Forum here on GW, or the COOKS forum on CompuServe (where I remember discussions praising duck fat)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 4:00PM
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robin_d(8b Tacoma WA)

Liz, I do remember when The Golden Bozos still had decent fries - the only thing they ever seved worth eating, lol. I don't do fries per se, but more like wedges, oven-fried in beef fat. Oh my, those are some tasty spuds!

d'Oh, the TAIL!!!!! How could I have forgotten that?

We're getting ready to order another side of grass-fed moo; this time we aren't going in on it with others, as I ended up having to accept all my steaks only 3/4" thick. As one who eats her steaks cooked "half hour at room temperature", it is nearly impossible to get a nice Black and Blue steak unless they are really thick. Wound up with far more hamburger than I wanted too, and the butcher threw out the organ meats because the one who did the actual ordering "forgot" that I wanted them. It was a bummer all the way around. This time we are flying solo.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 4:15PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I've attached Nigel Slater's paean to duck fat. Which has half the saturated fat of butter (though I think butter used judiciously is also wonderful).

Potatoes, roasted in duck fat. Root vegetables roasted with duck fat, seasoned with thyme. Use half duck fat and half butter in pastry (i.e. pie crust). Same half-and-half for mashed potatoes. Used to baste eggs.

Of course some are more sensitive to new tastes than others and may want to use just a bit of duck fat with other fats or oils to try it out.

Rendering is messy business. But then, a lot of food preparation at the root is. Maybe that's not a bad thing. It connects us to the source and teaches us a due respect. There's a huge difference between butchering a chicken, scalding and plucking the feathers, eviscerating and then preparing as opposed to buying anonymous portions nestled in styrofoam and sealed in plastic. "Slow food" indeed.

We used to collect all the tallow and render it in a huge boiler over a fire outside and use it for soap-making. It makes me sound 1,000 years old, but even today some who have more tallow than they can use might find making a few boutique bars for gifting an appropriate use.

Rendering in water is less smelly, for those susceptible to odors or living in small spaces.


Here is a link that might be useful: Nigel Slater on the Virtues of Duck Fat

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 6:33PM
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We butcher ourselves. My g'son raised the steers this year and the ox tail is precious and makes the best soup in the world! I made sure we got the tail! I laugh because if you tell someone you are making ox tail soup you usually get a grimace, but then they could never have tasted it.

Ox tail at $5 a pound is a bargain compared to what it is here. I presume it's so dear because of the method of using primal cuts. It's a special order.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 8:47PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

Gosh, I've enjoyed re-reading this! People who cringe at ox-tail are probably aware of the gourmet dish osso bucco, even if they have no idea what it is!

We're getting another 1/2 cow in April, and I look forward to a lot of good stock and rendered fat this time - as well as the steaks, of course!

We just roasted several knuckle bones & made stock from them. The fat at the bottom was skimmed from the roasting pan. The colored fat was skimmed off the stock, and has some salt and color from the vegetables. My tentative plan is to put the jar in hot water to melt, so any liquids and impurities will settle to top or bottom, then freeze in small quantities. Do you think the fat from the stock will keep as well as the pure stock from just the bones?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:27PM
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