How To Render Beef Tallow From Marrow Bones

I recently made beef stock with marrow bones (sometimes called pipe bones) and in the process rendered out a heck of a lot of beef fat (tallow) from inside the bones.

Two birds with one stone, and all that.

See all the white stuff inside the bones? That’s marrow. It’s either a great culinary delicacy and the reason mankind started using tools in the first place, or totally super gross, depending on who you talk to. It’s composed of about 90% fat.

After roasting and days – days- of simmering, the bones were empty and the stock made from them was covered with a think layer of fat.

Now if I’ve made a batch of chicken broth and there’s a thin slick of oil on the surface, I consider that just about right and leave it in to give soups and whatnot a little oomph. But this stock had so much fat on it, it had to be dealt with as its own thing.
There are two ways to skim the fat off of stock.
The first is to carefully ladle out the fat by pushing the lip of the ladle just under the surface of the stock. The fat, which is floating on the surface, will roll into the ladle while the water-based stock below will stay (mostly) left behind.
I prefer the second method, which is easier but involves a little planning ahead. Simply strain off your stock into a second container, and chill it down. The fat will rise to the surface, solidify as it cools and be easy to separate and scoop off the stock.
I like to use a wide, flattish slotted spatula for this.
Transfer your fat into a stainless bowl or (probably better) a small pot.
If your fat isn’t warm and liquid, you’ll need to melt it. This is why I say a pot may have been better, but I’ll toss a stainless steel bowl directly over a flame in a pinch.
Strain your fat. I’m going from one bowl to another here and you can see my set up. The liquid fat on the right is just poured through the strainer into the bowl on the left. If you are absolutely sure there are no chucks of meat or bone or stock making residue you could skip this step, but it doesn’t add much time.
Now refrigerate your bowl-o-fat. Leave it several hours, or overnight. The fat will become very hard at refrigerator temperatures, and will solidify to a creamy white color.
When the tallow has hardened, it’s time to clean it. (Astute readers may notice that the photo below shows a slightly different bowl. That’s because I had enough tallow to do this whole process twice!) First, remove the tallow from the bowl. Slide a thin-bladed knife around the bowl and the tallow block should more or less pop right out.
Notice the layer at the bottom that I’m touching in this picture…that’s the thick, congealed stock (you could call it beef jello…we did in culinary school) that separated out of the fat as it cooled. That’s what we need to get rid of.
Flip the tallow over onto a sheetpan or cutting board. Looks like the world’s ugliest cake, doesn’t it?
Use a spatula to scrape the beef jello off the fat. I know it looks nasty, but save that stuff. It has a lot of flavor and gelatin and you can add it back into your now defatted stock, where it will add tons of body. Once it’s melted back into the stock it won’t look as gross, either.
We’re down to just fat, now, but the area where the fat and the beef jello came together is kinda soft and spongey looking. I scrape that part off too, down to the firm, hard fat. We’re looking for a solid, unblemished block of give-your-cardiologist-nightmares saturated fat.
The “soft” fat was scraped off and set to the left. A bit of hard, smooth fat below was scraped of for comparison and set the the right. See the texture difference? The left looks a bit like whipped or curdled butter, the right more like butter right out of the fridge.
When you are down to just the smooth stuff, stop. You’re done. If there’s any remaining imperfections or stock scum clinging to the outside of the fat, just wipe it off with a lint free cloth or paper towel. Now it looks like a rather nice, if uninterestingly decorated, vanilla-frosted cake.
Now, since even I can’t use up several pounds of beef fat in a week or so, this bad boy got cut into chunks, wrapped and frozen for future use.
Would you care for a slice of fat cake? (“Mmmmm, fat cake,” says Homer.)
Do you render or use beef tallow in your cooking?
Avoiding Plastic Wrap In The Kitchen
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Comments

  1. Okay so this is fascinating BUT, for the cooking challenged, what the hell do I do with beef tallow?

  2. (!) SO awesome! I got an amazing cook book for Christmas that had TWO recipes involving tallow. And I sat there wonder – where the heck am I going to get tallow to try this. Now I know. You are amazing! Thank you! Oh, I'm so excited now!

  3. I just finished making a pot of beef stock and separating the tallow- your method is a lot less messy and painstaking than mine was!

    Brianna, Beef tallow can be used in place of lard for making pastry tho I only use it for savoury pies. I've also made soap from tallow.

  4. I haven't rendered beef tallow, but I do save the fat from pork. In fact, when we bought (and had butchered) a hog in the fall, I asked for the leaf fat so I could render lard. The fat is still in the freezer…need to get to that (very) soonish.

    I also skimmed the fat from the "ham jello" from our Christmas ham and then used that fat in the buttermilk biscuits I made on New Year's Day. The jello went into the gravy. Delicious!

  5. Nice photos. Now add some alum and make your candles :)

  6. This is really interesting. Not sure that I'm ready to try this, but I appreciate the post as it may be a great reference later. I'm in the same camp as another poster though..maybe a follow up on suggestion to use the fat cakes? :)

  7. Brianna – I think you need to get a copy of Anisa's new cookbook!

  8. I need her cookbook and a whole lot more :)!

    Thanks Callie for the idea of what you would use it for.

  9. Brilliant post! This is something I'd like to try out myself now. Though I'd be using the fat for soap making as well as cooking.

  10. I've heard beef tallow is the best thing for frying potatoes, but never tried it yet. Still using lard for that occasional treat.

    • Lezley Troxell says:

      The best fat for frying potatoes is goose fat, by far. And you render it down in much the same way as the tallow.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, I tell chefs all the time to get back to using tallow, and I used it myself last night to saute some veggies (asparagus). I too, would like to know more things to try with it. I like the savory piecrust idea!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I fry up my chicken tenders in it and I swear it tastes just like KFC. My husband does too. We actually went and got KFC and did a side by side comparison. Ours was so much better but the taste was very similar. I tend to use tallow in savory dishes and lard in sweet dishes.

  13. @Briana: You can use tallow in place of other high-smoke point cooking fats. It's great for frying potatoes, yes, but also for sauteing greens, onions…really anything that goes well with beef is going to be good cooked with tallow. You can use it for deep frying–and it's safe to reuse, unlike vegetable oils.

  14. Yummy! This must be some of the best tallow you can get. However, I could never sacrifice my marrow bones for beef stock or tallow. We use joint and leg bones for our stock. We get fat to make the tallow. But the marrow? That is a delicacy and reserved for special occasions – like dessert!

    BTW, finding a marrow spoon is nearly impossible – almost all are antiques. What a shame!

    For those not familiar with tallow, it used to be what McDonald's fried their famous fries in before the government made them use trans-fats instead. Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

  15. another way to skim the fat: after i strain the solids from my broth, I use a gravy separator to pour off the broth. In the end I have mostly fat and a little broth on the bottom. I chill or freeze it then.
    My mother told me a trick for saving fat from roasts, etc.. I once roasted a goose and had a LOT of fat left over. I had to take the pan out of the oven halfway through to pour off the fat! Take all the fat and boil it in water. Cool it outside in winter (or however it works for you). All the off flavors and solids will sink to the bottom of the water and the clean fat will rise and become hard.
    I don't really care for the smell and taste of tallow. I use it when making beef dishes. The ground beef from my farmers is too lean. I save tallow from other dishes and use a bit to grease the pan before cooking ground beef.

  16. I love marrow, and the fact that I am now drooling probably indicates something about the state of my arteries!

    • Michelle says:

      Did you see the article in WSJ the other day?? We no longer have to worry about saturated fat! Woohoo!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Ah yes, I remember that process well! When we first started making soap, I would go to the butcher for beef fat and actually render my own tallow. Then when we started making six large batches in a day, I worked out that I could buy a tub of lard at the Mexican market and tweak the soap recipe a bit.

    That there looks like some great soap in the making! http://birgitts-place.dreamwidth.org/13957.html

    Birgitt

  18. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful tallow!

    I've taken mine this far and then some – one more melt-down and boiling rinse in clear water cleans it a bit more. Then repeat the other parts of the process – cool down, flip over, scrape off. You'd be surprised how much 'gunk' in still in the fat. This makes it much more usable in gentler foods, and not so meaty or savory-tasting, almost white. Also helps pull out a bit more moisture from it.

    Lady Banksia

  19. Anonymous says:

    WOW, Erica! You throw the best get-togethers.

    When we were young, and Dad had our livestock butchered for the freezer, he kept the fat. Somehow the beef fat got left in the freezer until it was ancient and had to be tossed. But, Mom rendered the pork fat and we cooked with it quite a bit. I use bacon drippings a little, but never knew what to do with the beef tallow. I might use it a little for cooking, more for candle or soap making.

    brenda from arkansas

  20. I really just had a quick question if you had a moment. I was trying to find a rough estimate for how much tallow 1 lb. of beef bones might render out. Any insight you have in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Dwellyn

  21. This is a wonderful tutorial! I plan on doing just this with the roaster full of beef stock I have going as we speak. Tallow is amazing for frying potatoes in. Also sharing on my Facebook page. :) Thanks!

  22. I’m curious to know how many pounds of bones that was in the first picture. I’ve made bone broth before but I’ve never used enough bones to have a bowl full of tallow…and I would LOVE a bowl full of tallow!

  23. mary leidy says:

    So, where can I find beef marrow bones in Hot Springs Arkansas? Beautiful bones, beautiful tallow.

  24. I’ve just started a major diet reset – but have been cooking with bone stock for years. Always end up with a freezer full of tallow around the January. Don’t let it go to waste – share with our feathered friends. Another name for this is “suet” and if you just search for recipes for suet bird feeders, you will come up with lot of uses for unused or freezer-aged tallow that may smell a bit ‘off.’

  25. On the rare occasions when I have beef tallow to render, I typically use it to make soap – lemongrass-ginger scented, usually. It needs to cure for a good three months, rather than the more typical six weeks).

    My mom used to use a mix of tallow and lard for the oil content in her bread. I may have to give that a try. :-)

  26. I have a bit concern that after days of simmering the bone broth the fat may have gone bad, oxidized? Or is it safe?

    I put marrow and rip bones in a crockpot for 48 hours and also get this layer of fat after refrigerating it.

    I would appreciate your answer.

    • Beef fat is saturated and is extremely stable. This is why the food industry is having such a hard time replacing hydrogenated oils in processed foods. Regular oils have a very short lifespan, but not saturated.

      If you want to speed this whole thing up, use a pressure cooker rendering recipe. It’s just a few hours rather than days. Get a push button pressure cooker and you won’t have to baby sit it.

  27. Yes, I understand. Many people such as yourself are more at ease with the modern synthetic tallow created by the matter/anti-matter powered online food replicator. It’s perfectly understandable.

    • This brilliant response makes me sad I already deleted the troll comment that inspired it, so I will preserve it here so that everyone who reads your comment understands how hilarious it is: Original comment, SIC, which was deleted: “disgusting and crude. and to say the least its primitive!”

  28. If you melt it again, you can pour it into a mason jar and freeze that. Keeps really well that way.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    I know this post is quite old, but I just found it and am very curious – what do you do with the fat you scrape off after removing the beef jelly, that you describe as “whipped/curdled butter” looking fat?

    Thanks!

  30. Yes! Yes I do. Nearly daily I use tallow and bone broth in my cooking. I get locally pastured grass fed cows and big bags of bones which makes several batches of broth & tallow for my family and friends. Never have I been more satisfied, nourished and self sufficient which is empowering in so many ways. Neat post. Love the fat cake. Just missing the candles…

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