Fat has always been one of the most confusing things to understand. Is it good for us or bad for us? Why are some of its liquid (vegetable oil) and some of it solid (coconut oil)? Indeed, what’s the difference between fat and oil? Why are some of them opaque while others are cloudy and still others are translucent?
To make these issues more confusing, customers of WSB now have to contend with a new fat: beef tallow. Why do we give you beef tallow with your Beef Share and what are you supposed to do with it? In fact, where does the fat even come from?
Each Beef Share contains a 500mL container of solid white beef tallow. In the winter months, if the side of beef we’ve received from the farm that week was over 450lbs, the container may be full to the brim of hard white fat. In the summer months, when the steer is eating more fresh grass and rely less on sillage and hay, the animals lean out a bit and the fat yield is a bit less.
When we break the beef, we harvest most of the fat in a separate container and separately grind and render it. To render beef fat, we simply grind and boil the hard fresh fat. Once the boiled fat cools, the water content of the fat separates out, leaving only hard beef tallow in a solid white cap. We portion this beef tallow into 500mL containers and one goes in each order so you can use it in your home cooking.
So what should you do with your beef tallow? Where should you store it? How long will it last?
I keep my container of beef fat in the door of my fridge. I never freeze my beef fat: not because it won’t freeze well, but because it will last several months in your fridge. There is so little available water in the tallow that its shelf life far exceeds the proteins that you get in your bin. Think about how long vegetable oil lasts, or even how long butter will keep in your fridge compared to say carrots or chicken breast. Fat in the fridge will not spoil before you can use it all.
In fact, what causes fat to spoil is light. Both saturated and unsaturated fats are prone to going stale when exposed to constant light sources. This is why butter is wrapped in tinted foil and olive oil always comes in coloured glass. Luckily, your beef fat will be in the fridge and the light will go off when you close the door.
My favourite use of beef fat is cooking potatoes. I start with a hot cast iron pan and drop a little vegetable or canola oil in the pan. This will keep the smoke point down. Then I add a tablespoon of hard beef fat to the pan. It will melt, mix with the oil in the pan and start to smell amazing. Potatoes are a great compliment to the nutty aroma of frying beef fat.
At Richmond Station, one of the most beloved side dishes is Pommes Kennedy, which is essentially scalloped potatoes cooked in beef fat instead of clarified butter or bechamel. It can be a bit of a process to make, but here’s a home cook-friendly recipe.
I also use beef fat in my stir fry as well and its a great flavour profile for sauteed broccoli, kale and tofu (I know I know, it’s not vegetarian then). Tofu is a great staple for any kitchen and fun source of protein that accompanies almost any side or sauce. Seared in a little beef fat, tofu takes on a whole new life.
You should keep your WSB beef fat in the door of your fridge and use it as a cooking fat when you’re pan searing or oven roasting meats and vegetables. Don’t worry about freezing and it doesn’t be in a rush to use it: the shelf life on it is great. One warning is that the flavour is really strong and it’s not a great fat selection for chicken breast or a delicate fish.