Beef tallow is a rendered form of beef fat that's used for cooking. It's also commonly used in the production of soaps and candles as it's cheap, burns slowly, and doesn't have an offending smell.
In the world of barbecue it's becoming increasingly popular for smoking meats; More specifically, for beef brisket.
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A lot of websites will use the term "suet" and "tallow" interchangeably; However, they are not the same thing.
Suet is the crumbly, hard, saturated fat found on the inside loin - it's the hard fat that surrounds the kidney's; It's white in appearance and somewhat dry to the touch.
Different parts of the steer or heifer have different types of fat. The texture, taste, nutrient profile, and use are different based on the type of animal, where the fat was sourced from, and how it's rendered.
Suet has a relatively low melting point - between 113 - 122F (45 - 50C). However, it's smoke point is quite high at roughly 392F (200C).
Put simply, beef tallow is rendered beef fat.
Rendering means to separate fat from bones and meat protein through heating. More specifically, this process takes waste animal tissue and converts it into a shelf stable, usable product by means of filtering, cooling, and simmering. When suet is rendered and allowed to solidify, it's called tallow.
However, tallow comes from all over the animals carcass. The fat from the kidneys - also called leaf fat - is more prized because it contains more nutrients.
Note, other species of animal waste tissue can also be rendered, however, they're not called Tallow (apart from mutton/sheep).
Here's a list of animals and their rendered name:
|Rendered Animal||Rendered Fat Name|
|Beef / Mutton||Tallow|
|Chicken, Duck, Goose||Schmaltz|
The flavor from the beef tallow itself is rather unassuming and subtle. It's a relatively simple fat and will impart a slight meaty flavor.
Beef tallow can also be made with herbs and spices and can take on these aromas and flavors. However, even with the addition of these ingredients, the flavor is still mild.
The primary use for beef tallow is to function as a cooking oil - you can fry with it, bake with it, sear steak with it - essentially it can be used for any savory dish that requires a cooking oil or added fat.
Beef tallow has a high smoke point of 400F or 205C and is shelf-stable (solidifies at room temperature).
It has sort of become fashionable to use beef tallow for smoking meat - especially beef brisket; This is mainly because of Aaron Franklin.
Most people in the barbecue world have heard of Aaron Franklin - the Owner of Franklin Barbecue - either through his appearances on Television or YouTube. He's best known for his Brisket and a number of people have tried to figure out his secret(s).
In early 2021, two people attempted to decipher what the primary differences might be. They are Harry Soo of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ and Jeremy Yoder of Mad Scientist Barbecue.
Essentially Jeremy surmised that Aaron Franklin must be wrapping the brisket with Beef Tallow as the butcher paper was entirely too wet when pulled for slicing.
Harry's video came out roughly a month after Jeremy's. Harry created an 11-part series using the scientific method where he would change certain control variables. Unfortunately Harry didn't create a playlist on YouTube for this but you can watch Part 1 here.
In my opinion, to think that wrapping in tallow is the "secret" is naive.
Upon watching several videos from Johnny White (Jirby BBQ on YouTube) of Goldees BBQ you sort of get a peak behind the Texas Barbecue curtain. Johnny worked as a Pitmaster at Franklin Barbecue and has shared some of his stances on smoking meat. While Johnny hasn't made any definitive statements, it's not super hard to read between the lines:
You sort of get the idea and maybe now understand why beef tallow has become fashionable.
Making tallow is a relatively simple process - However, it's a definite time investment. If you forsee this as being a regular thing, I'd suggest investing in a meat grinder and a slow cooker/crockpot.
In order to make beef tallow at home, you will need:
If you only have a stockpot, not much is different:
After that, nothing is different in terms of filtering with the mesh sieve and coffee filter.