I love cooking and baking, and one of my favorite oils to cook in are animal fats. Previously I’ve only rendered pork fat into lard. But this year, after processing the chicken carcasses into broth I had a lot of beautiful fat that had to be skimmed off before canning the broth. I didn’t want that to go to waste so I scooped it off and set it aside in the freezer. When I had 4 lambs processed this fall, I asked the butcher to save any fat trimmings for me to render down as well.
Rendering fat is super easy, and although its a little time consuming, it’s easy to do while you’re already preoccupied in the kitchen.
Over the last week I took pictures of the process I use when rendering sheep fat – this process can easily be used for pork and beef fat as well.
Step one – break out the crock pot or a large stock pot. I love using the crock pot for big batches of pork fat, but for the lamb fat I used my stock pot on the stove. Pork fat – also referred to as leaf fat – comes in one big chunk, while its still cold, cut it into 1-2 inch chunks and throw them in the crock pot. The lamb fat I just threw whole into the stock pot and then covered with water. You want to cook this low and slow. First, we just mixed oil and water and if it starts to boil it’ll make a dangerous and sticky mess all over the kitchen. This is why I love the crock pot method. When the fat starts to melt you’ll notice a brown frothy substance on top. Using a slotted spoon scoop that up and throw it away.
Step two – after 2 – 4 hours you’ll start to see the fat settling on top and the gristle and water below. At this point I take my ladle and carefully place it in the fat so the fat rolls into the ladle but not the water below and start to ladle it into a bowl or my 4 cup measuring cup. As the fat layer gets thinner you’re bound to get water in the ladle and that’s A-OK. I usually add a cup or so of water to the stock pot to make sure the pieces of fat are able to float up off the bottom and let it simmer for another 2 hours to get some more fat off then repeat ladling the fat into the bowl. Let the fat solidify in the bowl either on the counter or in the fridge. You can discard whatever is left in the stock pot or crock pot.
the water and oil are still mixed to the left but on the right they have separated
Step three – once the fat is solidified you can cut it into smaller chunks and put it into a clean pot and add one cup of water. This time keep a close eye on the pot as you’re just looking to melt the fat back into a liquid. You do not want a boil or a simmer. Once all the fat is melted give it a stir and pour the fat and water through a flour towel or cheese cloth to remove any big chunks that were left in it. At this point I pour it into my 4 cup measuring cup. Again, you want it to solidify so into the fridge it goes.
Breaking it into smaller chunks increases surface area and makes the fat melt faster.
look at all the gunk that got strained out!
Step four – When you remove the fat from the fridge you’ll notice the white up top and down below will be cloudy, dirty water. We’re going to drain off the dirty water below by poking a hole in front of the spout and a hole on the opposite side. This will leave the fat suspended in the measuring cup while the water below is drained out. Once the water is out you should be able to push down on the fat and it’ll pop out in one piece. We’re going to repeat step three, but from hear on out we shouldn’t have to strain it any more. So just put the fat and 1 cup of clean water into the pot.
Using a tooth pick to make holes to drain the water out
Step five – Yup you guessed it, we’re “washing” the fat again by repeating step 4. But before we place it in the pot were going to flip it upside down and notice the brown spot. I take a butter knife and scrape this off to put in the trash.
the water is getting lighter and the fat is getting whiter!
that brown spot is impurities in the fat, it’ll make the fat gritty. its so satisfying to scrape the fat off
Step six – Repeat step five! the brown spot should be smaller now
Step seven – when you take the fat out of the measuring cup hopefully that brown spot is all gone and the water below the fat was clear. If not repeat step five. Otherwise carry on to the next step.
Snow white! Pat it dry! cutting into fourths and the eighths
Step eight – now that the fat is all clean were going to remove it from the water and pat it dry with a paper towel. We’re getting ready to put the fat into a jar and we don’t want any water in it as it will spoil the fat. Once the fat is toweled off and on the cutting board I cut it into 8th’s. I put 3-4 pieces in a clean wide mouth jar and then put the jar in a small pot with water half way up. Make sure no water gets in the jar with the fat. I put the stove on low and as the water heats up it will melt the fat, as the fat melts in the jar I’ll add more pieces of the solid fat in. When you think everything is melted give it a stir and look for any white shadows as these are pieces of fat that haven’t melted down yet. And don’t boil the water – the bubbles from boiling could know the jar over or break the jar.
slowly warming up the water Little bubbles like this are ok The fat is starting to melt – time to add more
See the white shadow? not all the fat has melted The fat that’s still melting the fat has liquefied in the jar, I’ll put it in the fridge to solidify
Once it is all melted I put a lid on and pop it in the fridge to use for cooking. I’ll soften it in the microwave if I need a lot for making a pie crust or cookies – or anything that calls for margarine. If I just need a bit for making eggs or greasing the cast iron i use a spoon or butter knife to scrape it out.
Lard – 2 jars of chicken fat – 1 jar of lamb fat