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How to Melt Animal Fat

Copyright August 14, 2007 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.



Important Information: Raw animal fat can quickly become rancid. Therefore raw animal fat should not be saved and then converted into grease at some future date. The best procedure is to melt animal fat into grease while the fat is still fresh. Melted animal fat has a much longer storage life than raw animal fat. If you have some animal fat and you cannot process it immediately then freeze it until you have the time to process the fat.

Intended Use: If you intend to consume the animal fat in some type of food recipe then you should make sure that the raw animal fat is not contaminated before you begin to process it.

Types of Animal Fat:
  1. Beef fat is called tallow and pig fat is called lard.
  2. Poultry fat is too soft to be used by itself in most applications. However, depending on how you intend to use the melted fat, you might be able to use poultry fat in a ratio of about 10% with tallow or lard. You will need to conduct a small test using a little poultry fat to see if it will work in your intended application. (Note: Melted poultry fat can be used in small quantities in some recipes in a manner similar to bacon grease. A very small quantity of melted poultry fat may impart a subtle chicken flavor to the food being cooked.)
  3. The fat from farm animals, such as sheep or goats, may also be used.
  4. You may also use the fat from a variety of wild animals, such as beaver, opossum, raccoon, and groundhog.
  5. Bear fat may be used but it must be melted (rendered) quickly after the bear has been killed because bear fat will quickly become rancid.
  6. If there is any lean meat still attached to the fat then you must cut it off and make sure you only use the fat to make grease.

Raw Fat Cut into Small Pieces (See Copper Penny on Red Handle) Partially Melted Fat after One-Hour over Low Heat
Glass Lid on Skillet to Prevent Splattering Melted Fat After Removing the Tiny Pieces of Unmelted Fat
Note: The white spots in the above pictures are the reflection of my camera flash on the melted animal fat or the glass lid.

Melting the Animal Fat:
  1. Melting animal fat is called rendering.
  2. Rendering should be done outdoors or in a well ventilated area because the smell of melting animal fat can make some people nauseous.
  3. If possible use a pot or a skillet that has a lid cover. The lid will help to protect you and the top of your stove from the melting animal fat when the hot fat and grease occasionally pops and splatters.
  4. Just barely cover the bottom of the pot with a little rainwater or distilled water. Do not start with more than 1/8 inch of water in the bottom of the pot. The purpose of the water is to keep the fat from sticking to the pot and burning when you first begin to apply heat to the fat. The water will gradually evaporate as steam after you add heat to the pot.
  5. Cut the animal fat into small pieces about one-quarter inch cubed (or smaller) and put the fat into the pot so that you just barely cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer of animal fat. I recommend cutting the fat into very small cubes between 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch in size in order to reduce the total amount of time required to melt the fat into grease. (Note: Animal fat is easier to cut into small pieces if the animal fat is partially frozen.)
  6. Slowly add low to medium-low heat to the pot. I recommend the use of low heat because low heat minimizes the risk of burning the fat and ruining the grease.
  7. The animal fat will melt into a relatively clear or transparent grease when you first begin melting it. However, with the passage of time the grease will gradually become darker in color as the fat in the pot turns darker in color.
  8. After you have a shallow pool of melted fat in the bottom of the pot then you may gradually add more fat to the pot. Stir the mixture occasionally to keep the hot grease and solid pieces of fat circulating. As you stir be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent any fat from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  9. Do not burn the fat or allow it to smoke. If it starts to smoke then you are applying too much heat and you are burning the fat or the grease.
  10. It will usually take 3 or 4 hours, or longer, to melt the animal fat into grease depending on: (a) the type of animal fat, (b) the size of the pieces of animal fat, and (c) the amount of heat being used.
  11. One pound of fat will yield about 2.25 cups of grease. Most of the fat will melt into a liquid but some small solid particles will not melt and these are called cracklings. There may also be a few larger soft pieces of fat that will not melt. These soft pieces may be discarded or they may be used as you believe appropriate.
  12. After melting the fat, allow it to cool just a little, and then strain the melted fat through a clean thin cloth (or a clean paper towel). If you do not need the melted animal fat immediately then store it inside a sealed container until it is needed.
  13. The cracklings will be on the top surface of the straining cloth. If you wish you may save the cracklings for use in cooking recipes. The flavor of the cracklings will depend on the type of animal fat used and the heat at which it was melted. Some people enjoy the taste of the cracklings and some people do not.


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