Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Rendering Step-by-Step

These photos will show exactly how I render fat. In this example it is pork fat, but the principle is the same for all fats. The fat is cut into 1-inch/2.5cm pieces. You can cut them smaller and speed up the process slightly. Water is added about 1/3 cup /75ml per 1lb /450g of fat . I have about 2.6 lb /1.2kg of fat here so I added just over 1 cup/250ml. Now it
goes in the oven at 250F/120C.

This is the pan after 30 minutes. You can see the fat has melted a bit and you can see the water in the pan. It pays to have a thermometer in your oven they are not always accurate at low temperature.

Now 2 hours later (2 1/2 hours since the start). The fat is melting but there are still big pieces. Stir the fat and press the larger pieces against the side of the pot so they break up

Another 2 1/2 hours have passed (5 hours total). Note the fat is not all melted.

Here it is 2 hours later. This is the time to strain before the fat starts to colour. This has taken 7 hours.

Here is the fat in a very fine strainer over a glass-measuring cup. As you can see there are only a few lightly coloured pieces. Once the fat is drained you can return these fat pieces to your pan and continue to render. You will obtain a little more fat but it will be stronger in flavour.

Here is a wonky view of the fat in the measuring cup. My fat yielded a little over 4 cups/1l. It was also clearer the flash has added a golden tone.

Here it is chilled and you can see it is creamy white, perfect for everything from pastry to deep-frying.

I turned the glass upside down to show you that you will probably get some deposit that shouldn't be left with your fat. It could be used in a pork dish; it is a light pork jelly.

That's it very straight forward. All you need is time, and to look at the fat from time to time and, most importantly make sure your oven is not too hot.


Athenaeus said...

Thanks for the how-to, it really does seem quite easy. Forgive my ignorance, but what should I expect to pay per pound for pork fat from my butcher?

Jennifer said...

It should be really cheap Athenaeus. My relationship with my butcher is close - he gives me the fat as no one else wants it - I've never had to buy it.

Aimee said...

I'm feeling a little confused because this is exactly what I did the first time; my fat even looked like yours, but it didn't have a neutral smell. It definitely seemed to be more smoky. I said before that I suspect my oven was too hot, which might still be the case. I'm calling tomorrow to get some more fat and will try again with an oven thermometer and let you know. What a great thing to know how to do though.

Jennifer said...

Let me know how it goes Aimee. There was no smell associated with my fat at all. Can you tell Athenaeus how much you pay per pound? Any Canadian prices I can give him will not be much help.

Aimee said...

Athenaeus, I bought mine from a local farmer who sells at the farmer's market. They charged me $1/lb and said that that covered the vacuum sealing. If I'd had a CSA with them they would have thrown it in for free. Some farmers will give it away, and supposedly in some states (Ohio, I think?) it's actually illegal to sell it (at least that's what a friend told me). I think most butchers would just give it to you, especially if they knew you were a regular customer. As Jennifer has said though, you want to make sure it's high quality fat. I wouldn't pay much more than $1 / lb.

Athenaeus said...

Aimee & Jennifer - Thank you for your tips. Over the weekend I talked to a butcher at a gourmet market I frequent and he said that most of the time it gets discarded or it's taken home by the butchers themselves, but that he'd set some aside for me free of charge.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a more in-depth how-to than I am used to seeing, but I was wondering one thing-

"Once the fat is drained you can return these fat pieces to your pan and continue to render. You will obtain a little more fat but it will be stronger in flavour."

How long should this process be? Could you please do a kind of step by step from this point on?

Thank you very very much, getting information about lard/rendering has proven to be incredibly difficult for me to find thoroughly explained processes of it.

Jennifer said...

Just a note about further rendering for silvius-holmes. You can keep cooking the fat until it turns a dark golden a - you will have a roasted pork smell filling your kitchen, probably about another hour or so. You will get some more liquid fat, which will more intensely flavoured, just strain it off and proceed as before. You'll be left with a pork scratchings or what some call crackling. To me they are tasteless and real cracklings are made from pork skin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you- that helps so much.

I’m also glad you wrote about the scratching/crackling because I often read about them (Being left over in the process) and get confused; I thought real cracklings were made from pork skin (I’m glad I know that that is true)- it’s so incredibly nice to have that cleared up finally.

dansch said...

Perhaps a silly question, but are you keeping the top on or off in the oven - should the water be slowly evaporating as the fat melts, or should it all be contained under the lid?

Thanks, -Dan

Jennifer said...

It is not a silly question Dan. I render my fat uncovered just so the water can evaporate off. Covered, the water would build up on the underside of the lid and drip back into the fat.

Not a serious problem because when the fat cooled it would sit on top of the water, but would require one more step in the process. The water's role is to stop the fat catching before it begins to melt.

AC said...

Quick question, what kind of pan/pot do you recommend for a gas oven? I tried a cast iron and it seems to have rendered it quicker than I expected. Or, perhaps the quality of the fatback (grassfed pigs) may have accelerated it as my experience with grass fed meats is that it cooks quicker? Thanks, Antony

Jennifer said...

Hello Anthony,
I use an enameled cast iron pan like the one pictured - mine is Le Creuset.
I think you problem isn't the pan but the oven temperature. Most ovens aren't very accurate at low temperatures. Do you have an oven thermometer? You should check your oven and make sure it is no higher than 250F/120C. If you still find your fat rendering too quickly lower it. Your comment about grass fed beef and fat is interesting - I haven't found that but perhaps other readers have.

AC said...

I did have my range tested about 6 months ago but it seems it operates as it should. Nonetheless, I'll put a thermometer in next time to monitor just to be sure. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

I tried this and got the most wonderful, white, neutral smelling lard-so beautiful I kept opening the fridge door just to look at it's lovely creaminess one more time! I chickened out and quit after 4 hours of cooking and not squeezing out pieces or doing anything that might make it porky.(Got mexican lard last time from using another neutral lard recipe) Now I wish I had let it go on and seen really how much I got out of all that fat. I bought a cheap oven thermometer at the grocery store and made sure my oven was at the right temp while it cooked (250)Thankfully, my oven did a great job maintaining that temp. I used a turkey roaster pan and it was perfect. The cookies, buscuits, bread, chocolate cake have been so satisfying and full-flavored with this stuff.
The doughs and batters are so soft and full-bodied...THANKS!!! How long will this keep in the fridge? Grateful Texan

Jennifer said...

You can keep it a couple of months in the fridge or even longer in the freezer, up to a year. I usually freeze my lard in small containers and often use it straight from the freezer. Just remember to label it well Now you can move on to duck fat.

Anonymous said...

Great! My husband and boys are avid duck and goose hunters==can't wait for duck season!

Thankd for the encouragement--Grateful Texam

Anonymous said...

I have a question about timing:

After 4.5 hours, my leaf lard looked overcooked. The fat pieces were wrinkly, fairly solid, and golden yellow, like golden raisins.

I began with 1/4oz of fresh leaf lard, an oven temp of 250F, a Le Creuset casserole dish and about 100ml of water. I cut the lard into 1" pieces - unable to make cubes because actual leaf lard generally isn't that thick to begin with. (You used "pork fat" that could be made into 1" cubes for demonstration purposes)

After 1/2 hour, my rendering looked like your 1/2 hour photo above.
After 2.5 hours, it looked like the 5 hour photo above.
At the 4.5 hours, the fat turned a wrinkled, yellow raisin-ish color and the strained pieces did not look like a soft stew, as shown in your photo above. I lost my nerve at that point and drained it. I'm sure it will work, but I'm afraid that i overdid it; the fat was indeed a darker color, as you mentioned could happen.

Could you say a few words about how to tell when rendering is really done - based on its appearance rather than hours in the oven? You did say it would take less time to render if your pieces are smaller, but I never imagined that it could be 2 or 3 hours less. Perhaps you could also add photos of "overdone" so that us kitchen nerds will really understand what we're looking for.

Otherwise, thank you for a wonderful visual explanation of how to handle rendering. I hope you'll have time to post a response.

Jennifer said...

Hello Anonymous(wish you had a name) thanks for you comments.
The fat doesn't have to be in exact cubes any sized pieces will do, but the smaller the pieces the faster it will render. The first thing you should do is check your oven temperature. I find many ovens run hot, especially at lower temperatures. It sounds like the oven temperature was too high. Also the time to render is not as important as the result - the composition of the fat varies with what the animal's diet. Judge by looking rather than time. I sure the fat you have will be fine, I am not sure it can really be "overdone".
Often I pour out the liquid fat about halfway through the process and then put the pieces of fat back in the pan and continuing rendering them, the second lot of liquid fat is often a little darker - I use this for frying and the first lot for baking.
Do try again and let me know if you would like step-by-step posts of other techniques.

Anonymous said...


You just reminded me that I am using an oven I'm not accustomed to. Our temporary U.K. kitchen is set up with a Tricity Bendix "Fan Oven" (BS621), an oven system I've never used or heard of. Quoting from the manual, this oven "generally requires lower temperatures than conventional cooking", and, "as a guide, reduce temperatures by about 20-25 degrees celsius for your own recipes." Ah.....

So, while the independent oven thermometer confirmed my rendering temperature of 250〫F, the oven fan circulated the heat, making it a much faster-cooking oven than the average oven. I look forward to returning home to my "unintelligent" oven!

I would like to add one piece of advice about how to separate the membrane from the lard before cooking:

I discovered that it is best to begin with a VERY cold piece of lard since the membrane and lard can be separated far more easily when it is deeply chilled. At room temperature, it becomes softer and harder to grasp. I mentioned this to my butcher the next time I saw him. He said he always puts the lard in the freezer for a few minutes before beginning.

Many thanks for your help, Kacey

Jennifer said...

You're like me - you like it simple. I have a gas oven and range - you turn it on, you turn it off - no computer technology to go wrong. Fan forced ovens can really speed up the cooking time and you need to lower the temperature unless you can turn the fan off.
You are right about keeping the fat cold - it is easier to work with cold or even frozen. I always freeze suet before grating it.
Wishing you a happy fat filled Christmas and New year.

Anonymous said...

I've had unrendered lard in my freezer for almost a year. Is there any sense in trying to render it now? How long does rendered and unrendered lard stay good frozen?

Jennifer said...

Yes you can try. Defrost the pork fat and give it a good sniff. You will be able to tell if it is good or not. Rancid fat smells bad. If it smells clean render as normal and use up in the next month or two. I have kept lard rendered and unrendered frozen for over a year and it has been fine.

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