Beef Fat and Biscuits

Rendered fat has gone from a kitchen staple to something of a novelty (that might be experiencing a resurgence). As far as I’m concerned, Crisco is the freakish novelty — not fat from free-range animals.

I spent the days leading up to 2013 rendering beef fat (tallow) that I got from Rose Ranch. It’s a time-consuming process perfect for wintertime, since it keeps the kitchen warm. This is only about half of the tallow I got from Don and Vicki, so I’m thinking I need to learn how to make candles or soap with the remainder of unrendered fat in the freezer.

I typically get these questions when people learn that I am enthusiastic about fat:

What is rendering?
Rendering is the process of melting fat so that the connective tissue and/or skin can be filtered out. It is homogenous, which makes it more suitable for using in recipes or scooping into a skillet.

Why go to the trouble of rendering animal fats?

There are a couple of reasons I embrace freshly rendered animal fats:
Most of the animal fats I’ve used were given to me. Free is a pretty powerful motivator. And as I’ve said before, my transition from vegetarian to omnivore included an increased appreciation for the whole animal. In addition, I find satisfaction in knowing where my food comes from and how stuff works. I’m not interested in using animal fats from factory farms.
Animal fats have a bad reputation, but I already embrace butter (in moderation) as a cooking fat. Tallow has less saturated fat than butter. I’m no expert, but compelling arguments exist for refocusing toward sugar the societal disdain currently aimed at fat.

What do I do with animal fats?
Lard and tallow are great for deep-fat frying, pastries, and biscuits, and can substitute shortening or butter in some recipes. Schmaltz, or chicken fat, is delicious in gravy, dumplings, and for pan frying. I don’t make these items very often, so luckily fat keeps for a year or so when stored in the freezer.

Breakfast on New Year’s Eve: biscuits made with freshly rendered tallow; topped with wild blackberry jam.

2 thoughts on “Beef Fat and Biscuits

  1. I have rendered pig fat (lots of jars of pretty white lard in my fridge), and have some unrendered beef fat in my freezer. Can you use lard and tallow interchangeably? It’s a lot easier to find recipes for lard than tallow, I’ve found, so I’ve been hesitant to render it ’cause I don’t know what to do with it!

    • Hi, Angela. I know. If it weren’t for Fat by Jennifer McLagan, I wouldn’t know of any tallow recipes.

      I’ve had good luck using tallow in a biscuit recipe that calls for lard. I don’t have much experience with tallow yet, but I’ll likely use it in recipes calling for lard, as long as they aren’t sweets. Tallow has a stronger flavor than lard, so I think it could be off-putting in a dessert.

      Please let me know how it goes.

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