Alternative Energy

Chewing The Fat



Chewing The Fat

Any time that you are cooking meat, odds are you're going to have a little extra fat left on your plate but before you scrape it into the trash or give it to your dog you might want to think about how you can turn this trash into a treasure.

I know you’re not going to eat ALL of it.  We are all too health conscious to do that.  But fat is not good for the plumbing either and if you toss out, you attract bugs and other critters that may decide your home is now theirs.

So what do you do with it?

The best possible thing you can do is to reuse it!  Our grandparents and great grandparents were masters at making the most of everything they had and leftover fat was no exception.

It’s time we get back to our roots, stop wasting that leftover fat and put it to good use!

There are two basic methods to rendering fat:

The Wet Rendering Method

Fat that has already been cooked has bits of meat and other solids in it.  It has water with it when you drain it from hamburger.  When you put your meat in the fridge, it’s the white substance that comes to the top.  Scrape this off your stew or meat, and put your fat into a pan with some water and bring it to a slow boil.

You can do this with chunks of other fats as well.  You boil your chunks of uncooked fat in water until you get a nice layer of oil on top.  This is your tallow.

Now, put your pan in the fridge overnight.  In the morning separate the chunks of white tallow from the broth and water below, and you have fresh tallow for cooking, making soap, or candles.

The broth and water, of course, can be used for soup stock, if you want.

The Dry Rendering Method

Depending on where you get it, please wash it first.  You don’t want bits of waste, dirt, hair or other impurities in your end product.

Dry rendering really isn’t dry.  Nothing about rendering fat is dry, but it doesn’t use water, which is why it’s called the dry rendering method.

There are two ways to render fat using this method.  The first is the crock pot method.  You can also use a large soup pot on top of the stove.  The idea is to cook everything very slowly.

Start with trimmed fat, kept in the fridge overnight.  Cold fat is MUCH easier to work with.  By trimmed fat, I mean you trim off bits of bone, meat and gristle and use the rest.  If the trimmed bits are clean, they can be used in a wet rendering method, if you want.

Run the chunks of fat through a food processor so that it’s all ground up before you begin.  Then set your crock-pot to the low setting, or your stock pot onto the lowest setting on your range, and let it cook.  The fat will melt, and the top will be filled with impurities.  When the top layer is filled with crispy bits, then your fat will be rendered.

Scrape off the top layer of cracklings, and then run the remainder through cheesecloth to further remove the impurities.  You can place your cheesecloth directly over clean, wide-mouth canning jars and slowly pour the fat through the cheesecloth into the jars.  When you seal the jars, just as if you were canning vegetables, the tallow will keep for years.

Remember, the more air that gets to the tallow, the less time it will have to keep from turning rancid.

The second dry rendering method is to fry it, much like you would fry bacon.  If you cut your fat into one-inch pieces or strips, all relatively in uniform size, you will have some nice cracklins for snacking on or adding to other food.  The problem with this method is that you need to watch closely so that you do not burn them.  That will add an unsavory flavor to your tallow.

Storing Tallow

The problem with tallow is that it must either be used, sealed or frozen otherwise it will turn rancid rather quickly.  Canned tallow can keep for years.  It will keep in the fridge for months.


Tallow is beef fat.  Lard is pork fat.  Rendered chicken fat is schmaltz.  All can be used in the place of shortening or oil for cooking, and all can be used to make candles, or soap.

Check out these related articles from our site:

Chef’s 5 Minute Meals… Not Much Of A Deal

Would You Eat These Great Depression Meals?

Nothing To Eat In A Fridge Full Of Food?

Continue Reading


  1. Mariowen

    January 10, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    I have done the dry method of rendering for the first time this summer. When I finished, I put the renderings into quart jars and put the lid on right away. Since it was hot – right from the slow cooker – it actually sealed the jar as it cooled. Here is my suggestion. Put these renderings into smaller jars (pint or half pint) so you don’t have to open and use the whole quart at a time. I think it will last longer, because once you break that seal, you have to use it rather quickly, in the event you don’t have refrigeration as an option.

    • hijinx60

      January 13, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      If you invert the jars, the fat will store indefinately. If you kill your own pork, you will find “leaf lard” connected to the intestines and internal organs. This is easily ‘rendered’ by placing in an oven pan and heating on about 350 degrees until there is a great deal of liquid (since it is hot). This will store for years if immeadiately canned and sealed invertedly. The remainder.. when strained to called cracklin’ and when added to a cornbread is delicious. Cracklin ‘ is also delicious if eaten seperately..and a great source of protein.

  2. Amy

    January 10, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    I use the water method for soap, because you can do it several times. After each time, cool off the water, either in the fridge or outside in winter. After it’s cold, fat rises, junk is under the pad of fat and can be scraped off for the birdies or trash. This purifies the fat better and it has little or no smell after several washes.

  3. Frank

    January 10, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    living out of a rucksack on field duty in Germany, I carried griebenschmalz. It was just bacon fat with bacon bits. I mixed it into my soaked lentils, dried onion bits and beef bouillon to make soup. None of us carried the MREs. they were too heavy. I found out that dried lentils are by volume and weight, the most nutritious food you can carry. Just need to soak them in a zip lock bag a day before use and dump the soaking water in the canteen cup, too.

    • Larry

      January 10, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      Thanks Frank. I didn’t know that about lentils, as far as being so nutritious. And my wife, 2yo son, & I LOVE them too. A great product to add to our BOB’s. Thanks for your service to our Country, or whats left of it’s former self. I had 4yrs in the 82nd Airborn Div. myself.

  4. Don

    January 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    You can keep it longer IF you skim off the top portion while it is warm.
    Let is cool , then heat it again and skim off any additional impurities. This way it will last for several years w/o refrigeration as long as it stays dry.

    We do this when making pemmican. Pemmican consists of DRY jerky (not the commercial junk) and DRY berries of your choice. Pulverize the jerky until it is a dry powder. You can do this with a hammer and a bag or a food processor. WARM the tallow until it is liquid. Be careful not too hot or it will partially cook the powdered jerky and then you will have a deadly potion. Stir in the powdered jerky and dried berries, if you like or leave the berries out. Your choice.

    This product will last for up to three years w/o refrigeration as long as it doesn’t get wet. High in protein with virtually no ash. That is your body absorbs almost all of it. Old Shawnee family receipe.

    • Larry

      January 11, 2013 at 12:01 AM

      What do you mean, deadly potion. Seriously, it would be poisonous? It sounds great enough to try, but the whole poison thing scares me.
      Please clarify for me as to why.

      • Cassandra

        September 9, 2014 at 10:00 PM

        I would guess by poison it means that the dried jerky would be reconstituted and bacteria will grow in it.

  5. mark

    January 10, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    I have been doing this for years ,I make soaps and tallow candles (mostly for fun at first ) and the fats are great for cooking with ,the beef tallow after its been boiled and cooled, I remelt it into jars and seal ,it seems to last foever.Its also the best tasting fat to fry potatoes in bar none !Makes em crispy and succulent

  6. Maxiyn

    January 10, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    Just a couple of words of caution: your fat cannot contain any salt or the soap will fail. Also the soap will not be any harder than the fat at room temperature. Hard soap is made will tallow, soft soap with schmaltz. Also, be very careful to follow the formula exactly; if fat, water, and lye are not added in the proper order, that lye mixture can explode and burn you.

  7. Beverly

    January 15, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    On the farm as a child we also utilized it to soften our hands. We put on a good amount and a pair of gloves before going to sleep.

  8. gena

    January 29, 2013 at 2:41 AM

    I’m guess you do each type of fat separately? It appears that the fat from different species have different uses and qualities? You do not just gather a lot of fat from different sources and cook it down together? I’m totally new at the idea of this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *