I hardly ever hear of people who cook with beef suet, even in ancient circles. I hear about lard, duck fat, ghee, butter, olive oil, and avocado oil, but rarely about sebum. Hey, these are all great, delicious fats and they deserve their prestige, but I like standing up for the little guy. I like an outsider. In this case, of course, the little guy comes courtesy of a big clawed ungulate.
Another reason to try suet: those of you experimenting with the carnivore diet will want to mix up your cooking fats here and there. Everyone has a different nutritional profile.
Find out how to do it.
Download your quick guide to cooking fats and oils right away
How to render beef suet
To render beef suet you need to get your hands on some raw beef fat.
It’s called suet and the best material to render will be solid and firm. Most of the suet comes from the tissues that surround the kidneys and loins, but any hard beef fat will do. I bought steak and roast from a butcher. Grass-fed and grass-ready is best, but if you can’t find that, look for clean, organic meat. It should be inexpensive. If you can find a good butcher who deals in grass-fed meat, I would imagine that buying the fat waste is still quite cheap and well worth the extra hassle.
I don’t know if my batch was suet or not (I suspect there was at least a little, judging by the thick, hard pieces that felt like cold butter when you sliced them), and she looked a little ragged and hastily thrown out, but it was still fat. I didn’t let a little insecurity hold me back, as I was armed with the knowledge that fat can always be made again.
With a chef’s knife, cut off any leftover handkerchiefs (it will be red or hard) and cut the fat into cubes. I had read tons of conflicting information about particle size, with some recipes calling for larger 1-inch cubes and others claiming finely diced or shredded fat gave the best yield. When I was making pre-shredded buffalo kidney fat, I was shredding. This time I chose dice so that I can test both options. Chopping and dicing work perfectly.
After completely cutting off the fat and removing any clinging muscle meat and bloody tissue (this step is critical because meat and blood only burn and ruin the purity of your sebum), I got small cubes. Tiny red spots are fine. You will make an effort later.
Dry rendering vs. Wet rendering process
Here I could choose to do dry render or wet render in a high quality saucepan over the stove to get the potentially purest sebum by boiling fat and then separating it from water. I had read about different ways to render fat, but I picked two that seemed to make the most sense. The wet render sounded tempting, if a little messy and time consuming, but I eventually passed it on. I opted for the traditional dry plaster with extremely low heat on the stove. I used enameled cast iron pots and about a pound of diced fat each.
Griddle dry rendering method
The fat on the stove began to render almost immediately, even with a tiny flicker of flame doing the heating. After about 20 minutes, the first signs of “cracklins” began to show: light brown shriveled (former) pieces of fat that bubbled around in the newly rendered fat. At first I was afraid that I would go too fast too soon, but that wasn’t the case. The cracklins were great and they never burned. The fat remained pure and clear.
I used a fine mesh strainer and it worked fine. The result was pure, delicious sebum that turned white in the refrigerator and was easy to scoop. If you look carefully you can see some stains on the bottom of the glasses, but you would really have to look for them.
In my experience, both methods work equally well. If you enjoy staying in the kitchen and taking care of your dishes, choose the stove top method. As long as you keep an eye on it and the fat doesn’t stick to the bottom, your fat will be rendered a lot faster that way. If you have other tasks to do while rendering, use the oven method. Aside from keeping the heat low and stirring and scraping quickly on occasion, all you can do is set the clock and forget about rendering.
Has anyone ever used the wet render method? Do you have any tips for my next batch of sebum? Let me know!
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Marks Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal Food and Lifestyle movement, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, which describes how he combines the keto diet with an original lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which is credited with the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving optimal wellbeing, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples manufactures.
If you’d like to add an avatar to all of your comments, click here!