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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cleaning tallow for storage

I use tallow (beef fat*) for chips, because I think it gives the best flavour. The first time I made a big batch of chips I bought some fatty offcuts of beef from the butcher specifically for that purpose (and got some good stock and meat for pies out of the process, too). However, I'd rather use leftovers if I can.

We recently had some beef brisket, and very tasty it was too. It also produced a good quantity of tallow, which I saved. Unfortunately, I've now made as many chips as I'm going to with this year's potatoes, so I don't have a use for that much tallow in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, tallow keeps very well, provided it's clean. I don't mind dirty tallow, i.e. with a little meat juice mixed in, for cooking, it just adds to the flavour, but that won't store well.

I looked up how to clean tallow, and it's not complicated. The fat should be melted in water, then the whole lot allowed to cool. The fat rises to the top, leaving everything else to sink to the bottom in the water. If necessary, this process can be repeated several times.

Tallow melting in a pan of water

As soon as it was all melted I poured it into the Pyrex pudding basin that I usually use for stock (transparent, so easy to see how thick the layer of fat is at the top, should you be interested). I had intended to let it cool and set before separating fat from water, but it occurred to me that this wasn't necessary. The two liquids separate out well before the fat sets, so I could scoop out the tallow while it was still liquid.

I wanted to store it in a jar with as little surface area exposed to the air as possible. This required the fat to be liquid when it went in, so it made sense to transfer it while still liquid rather than let it set, separate from the water, then melt it again to pour into the jar. I took a small ladle (yes, it could be said that having a choice of ladles indicates too many kitchen implements, but it was handy on this occasion) and scooped out most of the fat into a jar. The last bit was too difficult to get out without mixing it up with the water, so I left that to set. Once set, I lifted the solid layer off, scraped the underside of anything that wasn't clean yellow fat, and broke it into a (clean, dry) pan to melt again, so I could pour into the jar.

Jar of tallow

I now have a jar full of beautiful clean tallow, which I hope will keep for most of the year until I need it for chip-making again.

Oh, and the coating of fat left in the pan after pouring? I used that to fry onions for making bolognaise sauce.


*Fat from lamb and mutton is also called tallow, whereas fat from pork and bacon is lard, and I don't know about poultry or game. Come to think of it, there's probably not enough fat on game to warrant a name for it.


  1. Do you keep the clean tallow in the fridge? And have you ever used it for making soap?

  2. Hi Dani,
    It's in the fridge at the moment, but I will move it to the store room in due course. That's a cellar-type room, fairly dark, cool and damp. Tallow should store at room temperature without problems (though I haven't actually tried it yet).

    I don't use it for soap, but only because I have plenty of lard for that purpose. I render lard from bacon fat, trimmed before using the bacon and cooked separately at a lower temperature. It makes excellent soap but isn't so good for chips.

  3. Wow I have never thought of doing this before...good idea - althoguh not for my waistline!

  4. I've come to the conclusion that I use about the same amount of fat making chips (method here) as I'd add to boiled or baked potatoes, so chips are actually healthy! Well, maybe I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's a good excuse for chips :-)

  5. My wife also makes homemade chips for the kids (to control the preservatives and salt content), and having this instruction on how to make so-called pure tallow for storage is just interesting. I will share this with her and hopefully she can make tallow and chips for the kids.

    1. Hi Mel, I suspect your wife will only be interested in this if she's already using tallow (as opposed to veg oil), but if she is, glad to be useful!


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