Suet and Tallow


One thing that my wife and I have noticed is that many people have become so dependent on prepared foods that they don’t know how to cook from scratch.  Terms like suet and tallow are foreign to most modern cooks.  But in case of a long-term grid down situation, you need to understand these terms and how to use them.

Suet is raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys.

Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet.  It is solid at room temperature.  Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration, provided it is kept cool and in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.  Tallow is used like oil or shortening in cooking.  It can be used for deep-frying and saved and reused.  It is one of the main ingredients in pemmican.

Alternate uses of tallow includes the following.  Tallow can also be used as flux for soldering.  It can be used as an ingredient in leather conditioners.  Tallow was commonly used in homemade soaps.  Prior to the current wax candles becoming available, it was commonly used to make candles.  Tallow and compounds including tallow were widely used to lubricate locomotive and steamship engines at least until the 1950’s.  The use of tallow or lard to lubricate rifles was common in the 1800’s.

To render beef tallow, you need to get your hands on some raw beef fat often call suet.  The best fat for rendering is going to be solid and firm. Most suet comes from the tissue surrounding the kidneys and the loins, but any hard beef fat will do.


The following instruction on rendering tallow comes from a 1918 cookbook.

“Run the fat through the household meat grinder or chop fine in the chopping bowl.  Then heat in the double boiler until completely melted, finally straining through a rather thick cloth or two thicknesses of cheese cloth, wrung out in hot water.  By this method there is no danger of scorching.  Fats heated at a low temperature also keep better than those melted at higher temperature.  After the fat is rendered, it should be slowly reheated to sterilize it and make sure it is free from moisture.  The bits of tissue strained out, commonly known as cracklings,  may be used for shortening purposes or may be added to cornmeal which is to be used as fried cornmeal mush.”

I know that some of the uses of fats seem to be contrary to everything we are told today, but under survival conditions, we will need the extra calories.



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4 thoughts on “Suet and Tallow”

  1. Matt in Oklahoma

    I’ve been learning how to render deer tallow and will try it on the next wild hog we take as well. Fats are not always bad for you but our lifestyle changes combined with it are. When I was young I worked the fields with my Grandparents and they ate heavy grease and everything labeled as bad for you but they didnt suffer any effects and lived long lives.

  2. Can lard be stored at (cool) room temperature – like root cellar cool? If so, what is the shelf life of it? We have a good source from a local butcher that we could stock up from.

    If you store lard, does it need to breathe or should it be stored in airtight containers?

    Thanks for all your info!

  3. Pete
    Store in an airtight container. If you keep it cool it should have a reasonable shelve life. Maybe a year or two. Check it periodically and if it smells rancid throw it away.

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