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Survival Friday: Learning to Render Fat

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 24, 2021
Survival Friday: Learning to Render Fat

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Homemade rendered fatOld habits die slowly.  For years we have been told that animal fat is bad and to be honest, I personally subscribe to a diet plan that is primarily plant based.  That said, there is a place in my diet and my kitchen for organic meat and meat products, including the fat that is typically discarded after the fact.

For the longest time, something I absolutely tossed out was cooking grease. Healthcare experts, government and public health agencies and even the editors of popular cooking magazines all jumped on the fat is bad bandwagon. Low fat was good, no fat was better and animal fat? Forget it.

The result of all this blather was an epidemic of obesity and heart disease as well as a bunch of inexplicable diseases.  Now understand this:  I am not a medical professional and by no means am I suggesting a diet heavy on animal fat.  But, as with everything else in life, a bit of fat used in moderation may not be so bad and most certainly can add a dimension of flavor and satiety to your food.

If indeed we were in a SHTF situation, every possible scrap from the kitchen should be used for some useful purpose.  This is what families did during the Great Depression – they used what they had and every bit of it.  So with that in mind, today I share an article from my friend ‘Above Average Joe” as he describes how to render animal fat into tallow.

And by the way, beef fat is called tallow and pig fat is called lard.


Chewing The Fat

Any time that you are cooking meat, odds are you’re going to have a little extra fat left on your plate but before you scrape it into the trash or give it to your dog you might want to think about how you can turn this trash into a treasure.

I know you’re not going to eat ALL of it.  We are all too health conscious to do that.  But fat is not good for the plumbing either and if you toss out, you attract bugs and other critters that may decide your home is now theirs.

So what do you do with it?

The best possible thing you can do is to reuse it!  Our grandparents and great grandparents were masters at making the most of everything they had and leftover fat was no exception.

It’s time we get back to our roots, stop wasting that leftover fat and put it to good use!

There are two basic methods to rendering fat:

The Wet Rendering Method

Fat that has already been cooked has bits of meat and other solids in it.  It has water with it when you drain it from hamburger.  When you put your meat in the fridge, it’s the white substance that comes to the top.  Scrape this off your stew or meat, and put your fat into a pan with some water and bring it to a slow boil.

You can do this with chunks of other fats as well.  You boil your chunks of uncooked fat in water until you get a nice layer of oil on top.  This is your tallow.

Now, put your pan in the fridge overnight.  In the morning separate the chunks of white tallow from the broth and water below, and you have fresh tallow for cooking, making soap, or candles.

The broth and water, of course, can be used for soup stock, if you want.

The Dry Rendering Method

Depending on where you get it, please wash it first.  You don’t want bits of waste, dirt, hair or other impurities in your end product.

Dry rendering really isn’t dry.  Nothing about rendering fat is dry, but it doesn’t use water, which is why it’s called the dry rendering method.

There are two ways to render fat using this method.  The first is the crock pot method.  You can also use a large soup pot on top of the stove.  The idea is to cook everything very slowly.

Start with trimmed fat, kept in the fridge overnight.  Cold fat is MUCH easier to work with.  By trimmed fat, I mean you trim off bits of bone, meat and gristle and use the rest.  If the trimmed bits are clean, they can be used in a wet rendering method, if you want.

Run the chunks of fat through a food processor so that it’s all ground up before you begin.  Then set your crock-pot to the low setting, or your stock pot onto the lowest setting on your range, and let it cook.  The fat will melt, and the top will be filled with impurities.  When the top layer is filled with crispy bits, then your fat will be rendered.

Scrape off the top layer of cracklings, and then run the remainder through cheesecloth to further remove the impurities.  You can place your cheesecloth directly over clean, wide-mouth canning jars and slowly pour the fat through the cheesecloth into the jars.  When you seal the jars, just as if you were canning vegetables, the tallow will keep for years.

Remember, the more air that gets to the tallow, the less time it will have to keep from turning rancid.

The second dry rendering method is to fry it, much like you would fry bacon.  If you cut your fat into one-inch pieces or strips, all relatively in uniform size, you will have some nice cracklins for snacking on or adding to other food.  The problem with this method is that you need to watch closely so that you do not burn them.  That will add an unsavory flavor to your tallow.

Storing Tallow

The problem with tallow is that it must either be used, sealed or frozen otherwise it will turn rancid rather quickly.  Canned tallow can keep for years.  It will keep in the fridge for months.


Tallow is beef fat.  Lard is pork fat.  Rendered chicken fat is schmaltz.  All can be used in the place of shortening or oil for cooking, and all can be used to make candles, or soap.

By ‘Above Average’ Joe

About ‘Above Average’ Joe:  I am just an average guy with a passion for learning. I am excited to share the things I learn with you but I am most interested in learning from you. Survival Life is more than just one man. It is a growing and living community of individuals; all with the desire to be prepared to survive and thrive no matter what this world throws at us. I want to welcome you to the Survival Life community and look forward to growing with you! Thank you, Gaye, for inviting me to share the Survival Life with your readers!


Three years ago if you mentioned saving and actually using bacon grease for anything other than a smelly trip to the garbage bin I would have cringed.  These days, every bit of fat is carefully rendered and stored either in the refrigerator or freezer.  I use a smallish spoonful to add flavor to fried foods (along with a my new cooking fav, uber healthy coconut oil).

Perhaps it is all a delusion and what I am doing is not such a good thing.  Still, if hard times come, I know that having some fat in my diet – even animal fat – will be better than none at all.  In addition, the tallow will make a dandy oil candle or, when used with a bit of cotton, an effective fire starter.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  One of the best places to seek out survival gear is the outdoor and camping section of your local sporting goods or hardware store.  Here are some basics from Amazon to set you on your way to having the right gear available to do the job without spending a ton of money.  Don’t forget a Rothco Pack to carry it all.

Emergency Fire Starter:  Hugely popular with my readers, this inexpensive magnesium emergency fire starter will do the job.

Survival Kit Military Style Can Opener:  This is a no frills P-51 military surplus can opener.

Rothco 550lb. Type III Nylon Paracord:  Pick your poison, color-wise, just be aware that some colors are more expensive than others.  What to do with Paracord?  Read: 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.

SE 7-Inch Hunting Knife with Fire Starter:  Another inexpensive option for a highly rated knife. It has a full-tang stainless-steel tanto blade and  includes a green cord-wrapped handle a belt sheath with a Velcro securing strap, and a magnesium alloy fire starter. 

Tinder-Quik Fire Tabs:  There are times when your DIY fire starting materials may not be available.  These fire tabs will fit the bill nicely.

Chainmate Survival Pocket Chain Saw With Pouch:  This is a survival chain saw that includes a belt loop pouch. Here is what one of the reviewers said: “This thing EATS wood and weighs nothing!! It takes a little bit of effort but you can chew through a hardwood tree half a foot thick in literally a couple minutes; half that if you use two people (one on each end).”

Cyalume SnapLight Industrial Grade Chemical Light Sticks:  You know how I love my light sticks.  Keep them in drawers next to the bed, your kitchen junk drawer, your car, your backpack – everywhere.  Read:  Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.



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3 Responses to “Survival Friday: Learning to Render Fat”

  1. I know this is late for this article, but I heard of new info about Lard. I wanted to share. Great news! Lard is healthy for us!

    New research is coming out everyday which is finding what was once believed about lard being bad for our health just isn’t true. From Dr. Andrew Weill:
    “Nutritionally speaking, lard has nearly one-fourth the saturated fat and more than twice the monounsaturated fat as butter. It is also low in omega-6 fatty acids, known to promote inflammation; according to lard enthusiasts free-range pigs that eat greens, not grains, have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Lard has always been prized as a cooking fat because it has a higher smoking point than other fats. For that reason, foods fried in lard absorb less grease. It also has the reputation of producing ultra-flaky pastry crust.

    Cans of lard are available in supermarkets, but most of these products have been hydrogenated so they’ll last longer and are probably not what you want. The best lard is considered to be minimally processed “leaf lard” from the area around the pig’s abdomen and kidneys or fatback lard from the pig’s back. You can get these at high-end specialty markets or online.”

    If you know or patronize a local butcher and know what type of meat he sells, you may be able to get pork fat and fat trimmings from him for free or almost free. Another alternative is your local Farmers’ Market. Get to know the local growers and chat with them about what they feed their livestock and what types of medications they also give them. There is something about the

    My grandfather rasied hogs. So I have gone back to the sources of my uncles. As a young girl we grew using lard for cooking, candles and salves. The pigs were slaughtered around August so the lard would keep through the cold part of the year in the spring house.
    So…if you’re baking and don’t want the smell of pork in your baked goods, or you’re making candles…choose the neutral flavored lard—- called the ‘leaf’ or kidney fat—which is found along the loin and encases the kidneys. Reserving the ruffle fat (around the gut) and the back fat (which is the smelliest) for making soap. You can preserve it by canning but if some goes rancid, don’t toss, it just goes to soap making too. BTW: another reason for August rendering…it could be done outside which allowed for keeping the house cool and the smells outside too.

    10 pounds should yield about 1/2 gallon of lard

    There is another method if doing small amounts of pork fat. From Mary…

    fat from pig (can be purchased from a butcher or place that processes meat)
    Directions Step-By-Step
    1 Cut the fat into large pieces removing meat. Place fat in large roaster or the roasting pan and rack with comes with many ranges. If that isn’t available, use a rack so the fat can drain off, makes for easier clean up.
    2 Place is a 200 F degree oven and allow to melt.
    3 Melting can take a while, but a hot oven will burn the lard. Be patient! When melted strain through a strainer lined with 2-3 layers of cheese cloth.
    4 I use an ice cream pails to strain it into. It will appear brown. Allow to cool and you will have white fluffy lard.

    Hot tip: If you use strong smelling foods such as onions, the next time you go to warm up your lard for deep frying, put a few slices of raw potato in the cooled lard as you begin heating the lard back up. Fry the potatoes until well browned which will help absorb the flavors/odors.

    Never heat your lard above 400 degrees Fahrenheit and be sure to clean out food particles of the burnt piece will unpleasantly flavor your fat.

    * When you’re using lard as a substitute for shortening add a ½ cup extra flour for every ½ cup of lard you use.

    From personal experience. Lard keeps for at least a year in the fridge or in a cool, dark place (i.e. basement).

    For ordering online: //

    Just for extra measure—-if you have a local butcher shop you can request grassfed beef tallow. Alternatively, you can request grassfed beef suet and then render tallow yourself (just google, “how to render tallow”)

  2. Living in the South, I have always rendered bacon grease, keeping a container of it in the fridge to add flavor when cooking vegetables and cornbread. I’ve always frozen the broth from boiled chicken to use later for stock, leaving the fat on the top and keeping much of it when making soup. However, the methods for rendering beef and pork (other than bacon) fat were new information and really informative. Thanks for printing this article!

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