Rendering and Cooking with Animal Fats

Add flavor to your food and a self-reliance skill to your repertoire when you render tallow, lard, and poultry fats at home.

Photo by Keller + Keller Photography

When you render animal fats at home, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll also add a wide variety of flavoring options to your pantry. Batch size doesn’t matter. Render a little at a time, or render in big batches — whatever works for you. The only real drawback to rendering your own fats is the time it takes.

Luckily, regardless of the type of fat you work with, the process will be pretty much the same. First, chop the fat into small pieces (1-inch dice or smaller), place the pieces in a heavy pot, and add a small amount of water to prevent scorching until the fat begins to melt. Melt the fat over low to medium heat, stirring frequently; don’t let it bubble furiously. When the solid bits start to color, begin removing and straining the fat through a fine-mesh strainer into storage containers. Ideally, the fat will be entirely neutral in taste, but the longer the melted fat remains with the solid golden or browned bits, the meatier the fat will taste. If your fat tastes too “porky” or “beefy” to you, it’s probably been allowed to sit with the browned bits for too long. So be vigilant and watch for browning, especially if you’re working in large batches.

When cutting up tallow or lard, it’s helpful if the fat is very cold — even frozen. For smaller pieces, use a meat grinder or food processor.
Photo by Keller + Keller Photography

Some people like to render in a covered roasting pan in an oven at 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, they avoid the necessity of keeping watch over the rendering. However, the process takes longer in an oven, and more odors accumulate. It’s also hard to judge when to start pouring off the rendered fat, so there’s more danger of letting the fat develop the meaty flavors I try to avoid.

Beef, pork, or poultry odors will accumulate in your house when you render fat. If you don’t have good ventilation in your kitchen, you can render the fat in a slow cooker set outside on a porch or deck, as I do sometimes. I start it at high heat, and then reduce the heat to low once the fat starts to render. Leave the lid off so condensation doesn’t drip back into the fat.

12/5/2019 9:34:21 PM

Growing up when pork fat was rendered we used the cracklings to make cookies. My mom called them Griffin cookies & were one of my favorite cookies.

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