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Finally a Good Use for Fat

I confess to being utterly disgusted by gross quantities of fat, grease, or fast food. It makes me feel very much like taking a shower and running several miles (not that I could run several miles if I tried) and then taking another shower — perhaps even remember to exfoliate. Nah.

Anyway, rendering fat cut from beef, a.k.a rendering beef tallow, is a very antiquated activity. Our ancestors rendered fat in their very own kitchens and backyards. Yep. Why? For one thing, it’s really nice not to waste any part of a slaughtered animal. After all, it did die so that we could enjoy that nice juicy steak — why not honor it by making sure that nothing is wasted? Why indeed? Especially when we can make some very useful stuff called soap that can be used in the shower that follows the shiver that follows the eying of mass quantities of fat. How about that for some stream of logic?

So this is the first entry in a several part series where I will walk you through rendering beef tallow, making old fashioned soap, and making beef scrapple or panhas. Keep in mind that all of this can be done with pork fat but there is no pork allowed in our home. None.


The first step is to make friends with your local butcher and ask him/her to save the trimmings of fat from the steaks and cuts of beef that come in. My butcher does not charge me for this service at all and I am forever grateful. I think I’ll give him a bar of soap tomorrow. In fact, I may just give one of you a bar of soap for part two of this post. Because I like you.

sieve and pot

lined with cheese cloth

Back to the fat. You’ll need to gather a large pot, sieve, and cheese cloth. Set them up so that you can drain the fat into the pot. Now grind up the fat or have someone else do it because it is sort of gross. **Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!** You can also use a food processor. I’m a traditionalist, though, and decided to pay homage to the pioneers of yesteryear by cranking away with a cast iron meat grinder. And yes, my arm is still very tired. I can only nod to the pioneers. I cannot wave.

grind the trimmings

Would you just look at that begging? For shame!

ground trimmings

Take the ground trimmings and put them in a kettle with 1 Tbsp of salt per pound of trimmings and cover with water. Let this mixture slow cook on low heat until all that remains is a gray bubbling brew with gray hamburger meat floating in it. Be sure that you keep the fan on above the stove and some scented candles might be a nice touch. Rendering fat is not a fragrant form of cooking.

cover with water

let bslow cook

Pour the contents of the kettle into the sieve which is lined with cheese cloth and let it strain out. The little brown bits of meat will be used to make the panhas. Do not throw them away. If you have lots of trimming to process still — refill your kettle with water, salt, and ground trimmings. Continue processing until all is finished. Now refrigerate the drippings.

The good stuff

To be continued…

  • Christina - OMY…. just leave me hanging… so not fair! I want the whole thing NOW! (temper tantrum)

    Ok so I am hooked….

    Have a great day!


    PS send me your address!
    the original coffee company at yahoo dot comReplyCancel

  • Jana - That’s pretty cool! You know EVERYTHING!!!!

    P.S. I think you are absolutely gorgeous too! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Auntie Katydid - Its all like Fight Club and stuff. I’ll come over and we will render fat and then go outside and beat the snot out of each other. Sound fun?ReplyCancel

  • Sheri - Auntie Katydid, you are cracking me up!!! Can I be a recruit?! I’ll be out on the porch just in case…ReplyCancel

  • Sandy (Momisodes) - Okay, leaving us hanging? So not cool!

    This is so Martha 🙂 I love it 😉ReplyCancel

  • CrossView - This is interesting! I can’t wait for the next part.
    So far, I can handle it…ReplyCancel

  • YDavis - I love that picture of your dogs begging! “Give me that fat, give me that fat now!” LOLReplyCancel

  • Tipper - So interesting!ReplyCancel

  • Ann - Tease! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • marky - The dog pic is too cute.ReplyCancel

  • Applie - Interesting post. As much as it looks like fun, I won’t be doing it. I’d rather leave the soap making to you. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Finally a Good Use for Fat, Part Two : Razor Family Farms - […] After having rendered the tallow, poured it through a strainer with cheese cloth, shoved it in the refrigerator for the night, and blown out all those scented candles (lit to help with the odorous process) the fat is ready to scoop out.  (Did you miss all those beginning steps?  Check out Finally a Good Use for Fat, Part One.) […]ReplyCancel

  • Dawn - I have not done beef fat before. I have done chicken and goose. We don’t have pork in our house either. Now I am going to read part 2.ReplyCancel

  • Robbyn - OK, I had no idea you could substitute tallow for lard in soap recipes!! We don’t do pork, either, in any form. I’m really excited to see your tutorial with pictures on this…thanks so much, Lacy!ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - Soap-making is something I’ve always been interested in but I’ve just never done it. I’ve heard you can use shortening to make soap too!

    We don’t do pork, either. We try to follow the biblical food laws. When I see someone make a comment like you did above about pork (or other unclean foods), I wonder if it’s because of the same reasons as myself.ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - It took us some time, but we’ve gotten pretty good at staying away from shellfish and catfish, as well as pork, but here in the south it’s at every turn. The most difficult thing for me right now, is the eating of a medium cooked steak, which I absolutely love. I’m like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, on the one hand…. but on the other hand…. On one hand the Torah says not to eat blood…. but on the other hand where does the blood go once it’s cooked? It’s still there but in a different form.

    Let me clarify though that I don’t believe following or not following the biblical food laws will get you in heaven nor keep you out of heaven. It’s just our way of trying to please our Creator because he knows what our bodies are meant to handle. If He says it’s unclean for our bodies, then it’s best for me to leave it alone.ReplyCancel

  • nan johnson - I would like to know how long you have to cook pork to get the fat out for making lye soap. I have always used the lard already processed but for some reason I wanted to do this myself. ThanksReplyCancel

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