Rendering our own tallow was a fun adventure. If you're going to make your own soap, you mine as well jump in with both feet and do as much of the process yourself as possible, right? If you can.
If you're looking for more detailed step-by-step directions, I suggest you click that link and check out The Spruce's website on how to render tallow. I'll show photos and summarize my own way below.
Since we had a lot of beef fat, it seemed like a good idea to do this process outside on our propane burner in a big stock pot. We could do it in two big batches as opposed to many smaller batches on the stove, and we wouldn't stink up the house. Win-win.
Step 1 - Dump your beef fat into your stock pot. For this rendering, our beef fat already came in small chunks. If yours are not in manageable chunks, or is attached to some pretty large pieces of meat and gristle, chop off the large meat chunks and then run the fat through a grinder (if you have one) or ask your local butcher if they can for you. Smaller chunks will render easier. We had to do some chop and grind on some beef fat we got from a friend this past December when we needed to render more tallow.
Step 2 - Add enough water to just cover the fat, and about 1 tablespoon per pound of fat. We had 10 pounds of beef fat and broke it up into two batches. So it wound up being about 5 pounds of beef fat per batch.
Step 3 - Time to start the flame! Heat the mixture to boiling, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer, simmer, simmer! The chunks will start to release liquid fat. Continue to simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is just melted fat, meat, and gristle. Go ahead and use a masher to mash the meat to help it release every little bit of liquid fat it can. Simmer time will depend on the amount of beef fat you are working with, and the size of the chunks.
Step 4 - Strain the meat. When you are left with just chunks of meat and gristle with no more attached fat to them, you are ready to strain. We used a colander first, mashing the meat with a masher to get every last drop of liquid fat out, and then strained again using a sieve.
Round 2! We set the first batch aside, and then since Sam took the reins on the first batch, I followed steps 1-4 again and did the second batch myself.
Step 5 - Let the fat cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge overnight. The next time you look at it, you'll have a pretty white disc of beautiful tallow on top! (Water and yuck will be at the bottom, you won't need this).
Step 6 - Separate the tallow. We used a butter knife to loosen the edges of the tallow from the pot until, when we tipped the pot, the tallow eased right out. Rinse the tallow under cool, running water, then pat dry.
Step 7 - Cut your tallow for storage. The smaller you make the tallow chunks, the easier it will be for use in soap making, so take your time and cut it well. My chunks were smaller than Sam's, lol, and later, when melting for use in soap, my chunks melted quicker.
Store the tallow in an air tight container or ziplock in the freezer until you are ready to use, for up to a year.
For 10 pounds of beef fat, we wound up with just about 6 1/2 pounds of tallow. Not too shabby! Each bag contained about 3 batches of soap for me.
Rendering our own tallow was super fun and super easy. And the pride I felt knowing we rendered the tallow that would go in my handmade soap for my family to use? Priceless and worth the little bit of effort.
Happy tallow rendering!