image of ashley with jar of tallow

How to render lard and tallow: Using animal fat 

image of ashley with jar of tallow

How to render lard and tallow: Using animal fat 

Rendering your own lard or tallow will provide a nutrient dense cooking oil in your pantry that’s far superior to olive oil, canola oil or other seed oils! Follow along on the homestead to hear a brief history lesson on cooking oils, the difference between types of animal fats for cooking and exactly how to render your own animal fats to have mason jars full of heart healthy, natural cooking fats right by your stove. 

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A brief history lesson

An issue of Popular Science summed it up this way:

What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890.”

– Popular Science

You should do your own research, but eating foods cooked in lard and butter was the standard until Crisco was developed to make use of unused oil in cotton production. However, Crisco had trouble convincing people to cook with something made from cottonseed, so they began blending it with other oils, otherwise known as hydrogenation, to make it more similar to the lard and butter all homemakers were familiar with. Crisco even began removing cottonseed oil from the label of Crisco to be able to better brand their product to consumers! It was known as “100% Shortening,” why no mention as to what “shortening” was actually made from. Fast forward to recent years, and plenty of research has been done to show the dangerous effects of hydrogenated oils on our health, yet almost all food in the pre-packaged industry today contains soybean oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil– why? 

Because they are cheap to produce.

This Crisco “scandal” is one of the first instances of the food industry focusing on families buying into the branding of a product while not fully disclosing the ingredients or impacts. 

But don’t risk your health on these oils, in this post you’ll learn exactly how to render your own animal fat and be well on your way to replacing all your cooking oil with nutrient dense animal fat! In recent years, there has been a trend back to ancestral cooking with leaf fat, pig fat, beef fat and other animal based cooking oils– and we are here for it! 

Tallow, leaf lard and pork fat: What’s what? 

1. Tallow is the rendered fat from a beef, particularly a special type of fat that is found near the kidneys of the animal. It is a neutral tasting cooking oil. Beef tallow is the most versatile fat, but typically less accessible unless you have acquaintances in the beef industry. 

2. Leaf lard is the fat from a pig, found neat the kidney’s of a pig. It is neutral tasting. 

3. Pork often has other fat that can be rendered and used for cooking. It is often just called pork lard, and may have a slight pork flavor but it is still optimal for frying foods! 

These are different options than bacon grease, as bacon grease is the excess fat from a salted and cured pork belly. While bacon grease is a delicious way to season foods, we are talking about a different product! 

Benefits of Lard and tallow

  • Lard and tallow both have a high smoking point. This is important because if you cook in something with a low smoke point at a high heat, oxidization will occur. Oxidization leads to cancer! Anything above a sauté should be cooked with a high smoke point oil, making these animals fats a top choice.
  • While lard also has a high smoke point, it also has a high melting point, which is what makes those flaky homemade pie crusts! 
  • Both lard and tallow are high in Vitamin D, which is super important for strong bones and calcium absorption.
  • Great source of dietary cholesterol, which aids in reducing inflammation and hormone support. 
  • Particularly, lard from pastured animals has higher ratios of omega-3 fatty acids, making the quality matter.

Sourcing Quality 

While you couple buy already rendered lard at a grocery store, the price is much cheaper to do it yourself. Often when people buy a whole or half animal from a local locker, the lard and tallow are left there! Ask your friends for theirs and be sure you are getting all the parts of your animals when you buy locally! 

In any case, buy the best quality you can afford! An animal raised on pasture and fed a diverse diet will be much better for your health than a confinement animal, but any animal fat will be much more beneficial than using a seed oil! 

Storing Lard or Tallow

When properly rendered and strained well, lard or tallow will last for well over one year. We render ours as described below and store in glass jars in our basement for more than one year! If you are buying your lard at the grocery store, it may be blended with other oils or stabilizers, and would therefore require different storage methods. If you get your fats rendered by your local locker, or purchase from a farmer already rendered, it is frozen and supposed to be kept in the fridge because it is an animal product. The shelf life of lard in a sealed jar and no oxygen exposure should be a year, but you can extend the life of the product by freezing or refrigerating if you prefer. 

Not ready to render your own?

Using different types of animal fats 

While these three types of fat are very similar, they should be used differently in the kitchen or skincare routine.

Beef tallow: Since tallow has identical cell structure to skin cells, it is best for making any skin care products or soaps. As a secondary use, tallow makes delicious fried potatoes with a golden color. 

Leaf lard: Flaky pie crusts, the best biscuits will come from the leaf lard as it if more flaky and neutral in taste than that of the back of the pig. 

When shelf stable, lard and tallow are solid fats, but when heated they turn to a liquid state. This liquid fat is the secret ingredient to season a cast iron pan to keep it beautiful for years to come. 

Troubleshooting: tips and tricks

mold: The purest lard or tallow will not mold. If you rendered at home, it is likely it needed strained better. If your lard was purchased, it may have had stabilizer added or not been strained well.

smell: Tallow and leaf lard should have no smell. Sometimes the pork back fat will have a slight pork smell, but it is not overpowering and rarely noticed. 

Watch our Youtube video if you prefer to see lard rendering in action, otherwise the steps below explain exactly how to render animal fats! 

How to render lard or tallow

The entire process of rendering lard will only take about two hours of hands on time for a year’s worth of cooking fat, but it does typically take two overnights of the crockpot or roaster running. 

In basic form, you are going to melt your fat, strain it, then jar it up! This step-by-step rendering process will have you feeling comfortable with rendering your own pure fat from an animal to use in your cooking all year long! 

1. Start by cutting the fat into small pieces. If you have a meat grinder, you can leave the pieces in 1 inch cubes, but if you do not have a grinder, .5 inch cubes would be better. After it is all cut, run it through your grinder. A grinder will speed up the process, but it is not necessary. 

2. Fill a crock pot or roaster with your animal fat. I like to add about half a gallon of water if I am using my large roaster, or a cup of water if I am using a crockpot. Turn the crockpot or roaster on low heat. This slow cooker method is the easier way to set it and forget it without worrying about it being on your stovetop. 

3. Typically, overnight your lard or tallow is turned from a solid into a liquid. You will see small bits or meat and other floaters in it, and that is the sign it is ready to strain. Use a fine mesh strainer and a cheese cloth to strain your fat into another container. Let your fat come to room temperature and check the bottom to see if there are any other impurities that sunk to the bottom. Typically after this first strain, you are ready to reheat and perform a final strain! 

4. Put your chunk of lard back into a crockpot or roaster without any water. Once it is a liquid, strain it into your final jars! We use half gallon or quart canning jars to store our lard and tallow in a cool place for future use. We keep whichever jar of lard or tallow currently in use at room temperature in our pantry. 

How to Render Lard or Tallow

Author: Ashley Wenke

Equipment

  • 1 crockpot or roaster pan
  • 1 fine mesh strainer
  • 1 cheesecloth
  • mason jars or storage containers

Materials

  • pork leaf lard or beef tallow

Instructions

  • Start by cutting the fat into small pieces. If you have a meat grinder, you can leave the pieces in 1 inch cubes, but if you do not have a grinder, .5 inch cubes would be better. After it is all cut, run it through your grinder. A grinder will speed up the process, but it is not necessary.
  • Fill a crock pot or roaster with your animal fat. I like to add about half a gallon of water if I am using my large roaster, or a cup of water if I am using a crockpot. Turn the crockpot or roaster on low heat. This slow cooker method is the easier way to set it and forget it without worrying about it being on your stovetop.
  • Typically, overnight your lard or tallow is turned from a solid into a liquid. You will see small bits or meat and other floaters in it, and that is the sign it is ready to strain. Use a fine mesh strainer and a cheese cloth to strain your fat into another container. Let your fat come to room temperature and check the bottom to see if there are any other impurities that sunk to the bottom. Typically after this first strain, you are ready to reheat and perform a final strain!
  • Put your chunk of lard back into a crockpot or roaster without any water. Once it is a liquid, strain it into your final jars! We use half gallon or quart canning jars to store our lard and tallow in a cool place for future use. We keep whichever jar of lard or tallow currently in use at room temperature in our pantry.

Let us know if you’ve tried rendering or cooking with animal fats! We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to share this with others if you found it helpful!

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