This post was originally published in February of 2011… but our love for tallow and lard beats on.

One of the most important changes to our family’s diet over the past few years has been to only use stable fats for cooking. Before this I used olive or canola oil to cook just about everything and because I was told it was healthy I never questioned the slightly rancid taste that is the result of heating an unsaturated fat.

Now I only cook with tallow, lard, coconut oil, and occasionally butter. I use olive oil for salad dressings, but I am developing more cultured dairy based salad dressings since it seems more likely that we will have our own milk before we have our own olive trees.

The Science is in Favor of Saturated Fats

What is most disturbing to me about the smear campaign that lard and saturated fats have gotten is that people don’t even question it. If anyone truly wanted to know the science behind which fats are healthy they might have found out that very basic chemistry teaches that saturation = stability = less inflamation and free radicals in the body. And that it is ignorant to say that simply because a fat is solid at room temperature it will clog your arteries.

Or perhaps they would tell you that both lard and tallow contain only 1/3-2/3 saturated fat, the rest being mostly monounsaturated. (source) But don’t bore them with the details, they’ve got subsidized crops to push and no one makes money when you butcher an animal and render your own fat.

So yes, lard and beef tallow are healthier cooking fats than vegetable oils, including olive oil. They were the main cooking fats used in this country BEFORE the onset of the now epidemic diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But the USDA recommendations are more about pushing policy than they are about true science.

How to Render Tallow or Lard

There are many ways to do this, all involving a slow and low-heat cooking process. You can do it on a stove top, in the oven, or in a slow-cooker. This is how I do it:

  1. Cut tallow (suet) or lard into small pieces, about 1/2 inch each. This increases the surface area so that it will melt more readily.
  2. Place in a large pot (for the stove top), a large pan (for the oven) or your slow-cooker insert. Some people also add a tiny bit of water, though I never have.
  3. Place your pot over very low heat, your pan in a low oven (250 degrees or so) or turn your slow-cooker to high until it begins to melt in earnest and then turn it down to low.
  4. Cook down until a clear liquid fat has been rendered from the small pieces of fat. I don’t know that there is an exact science to this, your goal is to get as much liquid fat out of those solid pieces as possible, without burning the fat. So this takes me 6-8 hours in a slow-cooker or a few hours in the oven or stovetop.
  5. While fat is still warm strain it into quart jars, being sure to strain off all solid pieces. Straining off the solid pieces will help keep the fat from spoiling for a much longer period of time.
  6. I currently store mine in the refrigerator, though I am researching a few of the ways it was stored before refrigeration. It should keep for months in the refrigerator.

How Others Do It

Have you tried rendering lard or tallow?