Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Rendering Beef Fat and Soap Making

The other day I posted nose to tail eating, and making the most of all the different cuts of meat that come from an animal. 

One of the thinks I asked the butcher to do was to save all of the fat and mince it for me.  He wanted to know what I was going to do with it as no one has ever asked him to do that before.  I told him I planned to use some for soap making and also for cooking.  
Mum said that she didn't think she could be bothered to render the fat for use and to make soap but it really wasn't that much effort at all.  Plus we were paying for it and we already had the other ingredients for making soap so it will save us money by not having to buy soap in the long term.

These days most people buy vegetable oils for cooking but historically animal fats were commonly used for cooking.  And when I say historically I am not talking even 50 years ago.  As a child (I am in my 30's) I grew up on a farm and I remember my mum pouring the fat off the roast each week into an enamel mug which lived in the fridge.  This fat was later used to cook other dishes.  The fat carried forward the flavours of each dish into the next.

All of the fat from our cow was minced and bagged up and it spent a few days in the freezer before we had time to process it.

Bags of frozen minced fat

The process of rendering is really very simple when you have a slow cooker.
You just fill your slow cooker to the top with the solid fat, set it on low and wait. I have seen instructions to add water but I don't bother.

Frozen fat into the slow cooker

As the fat renders the volume will drop so you can keep adding more fat as there is more space.

The fat is beginning to render

As the fat melts all of the meat bits will get cooked as well.  You are going to need to strain all the meat bits out at the end so if you can skim some off the top as you go this will speed up the process.

Meaty bits floating to the top

After straining all of the meat bits out of the fat I was left with a clear yellow oil which I divided into plastic containers. 
And what to do with all those meaty bits?  We didn't want to waste them so fed them to the chickens and they loved them.

The rendered fat ready for chilling

Once the fat cooled and set it changed to a pale cream colour.  Well made tallow can be stored at room temperature without spoiling but in our hot Queensland summer I was not willing to take the risk so I have been storing them in the freezer.  It doesn't freeze but it is easier to have it in there so we can use the fridge for fresh food.

With so much tallow the plan had always been to use most of it for making soap but I wanted to see how tallow one batch of soap would actually use up.

The ratios I used are:

1.5kg Beef Tallow
198g Caustic Soda
450ml Water
Essentail Oil 
Processed at 55 degrees centigrade with the essential oil added once trace was achieved.

I will not give any instructions about the process of making soap here as there are other blogs and websites that explain the process in enough detail to make it safe.  
I like to pour my soap into silicone molds as it is so easy to get them out.  You just peel the molds away, cut the larger block into portions and leave the soap to cure.

I ended up with 24 bars of soap and these are now curing.  They smell divine and I might have over done it with the essential oil but the last batch I made had no fragrance that was noticeable to this time I was a bit more generous.
I used a blended fragrance called Romance blend which I have had sitting around for years and it really need to be used up.  It is a blend of Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang.

Once it has cured and I have given it a bit of a test I will be giving some away so stay tuned.

What kind of soap do you make?


  1. I always wonder if the smell of the fat rendering makes you gag? How clear the final product is though - well worth it.

    1. Barb I won't lie there is a bit of a smell when you render the fat but it is not bad enough to make me gag. I wonder if the strength of the smell is related to the health of the animal though?

  2. Looks great Fee! I have been thinking we should do a blog soap swap, as there are so many of us making soaps, it could be fun...

  3. Fiona your soap looks great. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    1. Thanks Kathy I hope it turns it out as good as it looks. We will see in a few weeks.

  4. oh that is on my list (not the fat rendering lol, the soap making) Wow your fat looks so clear and the soap looks amazing.

    1. AA it is well worth it as I find one batch of soap will last us at least 12 months.

  5. I love tallow soap. I use either sheep or beef. Gives a very hard wearing and moisture rich soap. Typically I also use olive oil for lather and silkiness and the smallest amount of coconut oil for cleaning quality but only sometimes as it can be very stripping. For our own soap we never use fragrance and love it pure. Everyone who uses home made soap always comes back for more. Barb raises a good question and from my personal point I quite like the smell of rendering fat. It's a bit like a roast cooking but it can become a bit much after a long time. I also find the smell of sheep tallow remains in the finished soap.

    1. Hi Tanya I really like tallow soap too. I was given some a while back and you are right it lasts for ages. This batch is 100% tallow and is still curing, it is not as hard as the one I was given but that may change as it cures. The last soap I made was 100% olive oil and it was great to use but was too soft to have a good lasting ability, The tallow does not seem to have much of a smell and I think I added enough essential oil that there will be no hint of beef smell.

  6. Fantastic post Fiona. I had heard about slow cooker rendering and plan to give it a try with our first pig harvest. I should try soap with my rendered goat fat. I have some goat milk waiting in the freezer for a soap making event, but it would be great to use goat tallow too.

  7. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Fat freezing

  8. I buy vegetable seedlings each spring and autumn and also try to grow some interesting veg from seed each year.
    Buy Vegetable Online
    The tallow does not seem to have much of a smell and I think I added enough essential oil that there will be no hint of beef smell.


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