Beef Tallow: Is It Healthy For Cooking?

What is beef tallow? This product is similar to pork lard and has several applications including cooking oil. There are several other uses including soap bar, laundry detergent and skin balm.

Beef tallow in a wooden bowl

Are you looking for new cooking oil? In recent years there’s been a shift back to animal fats including beef and pork varieties like beef tallow. What is beef tallow? This is animal fat that’s rendered from beef. It’s mainly used for cooking/baking although it has several other uses as well. In recent years animal products like bone broth and animal cooking oils have been trending due to diets like Paleo. This is the “caveman diet” that focuses on whole foods and minimally processed foods. It also only allows pre-agriculture options so grains, beans, and dairy aren’t allowed. This is one of the reasons beef tallow has been trending in recent years as a cooking oil.

The most common uses of beef tallow include cooking/baking. However, there are others like bath soap, laundry detergent, and lantern fuel. These uses make the rendered fat even more practical since you can use it for several everyday uses. In fact, it has several more uses compared to regular cooking oil. This makes it more flexible. It’s important to know the basics about this product including what it is, how it’s made, and the different applications it has. This provides a better experience since you could use it for bathing, washing, and lighting—all in the same day!

What Is Beef Tallow?

Beef tallow has been used for quite a while for different purposes. In fact, rendered animal fat has many health benefits when consumed and can be used for different applications. Beef tallow is an old-school cooking oil that’s been making a comeback in recent years.

Vegetable oils/fats have been trending in recent years. Fun fat: Crisco vegetable shortening was launched over a century ago in 1911. In fact, trans fat was invented for tub margarine, which helps to explain why the product is so unhealthy.

Highly-processed vegetable oils have been trending for several decades. However, there’s been a shift in recent years back to omega-3 oils like palm, coconut, and olive oils. Due greatly to low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets animal fats like pork lard and beef tallow have also been trending in recent years.

Beef tallow is actually rendered beef fat. It’s slowly cooked over low heat until it becomes liquid. It can then be stored and used for cooking purposes later. Interestingly beef tallow was the most popular cooking fat during the early 1900s.

The industry changed due to market changes like Crisco, anti-butter, and anti-fat trends. The result was omega-6 fats like canola oil became more popular. Low-fat foods like margarine became more popular versus butter. The situation has changed in recent years as health experts have stressed the importance of “good” fat over “bad” fat.

Factors like the American Heart Association (AHA) anti-fat reports and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid argued that animal fats were unhealthy and triggered heart disease. It turns out animal fat isn’t unhealthy but is actually healthy.

Ironically it was the omega-6 seed oils that replaced coconut/olive oil and animal fats for cooking oils. Fun Fact: high-fat foods like whales and seals are regular parts of the Alaskan Inuit diet yet they have lower rates of high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.

How Healthy Is Beef Tallow?

The historical use of beef tallow tells the tale of society’s perception of fat. In all fairness, society didn’t have the same know-how during the early 1900s as they do now. However, one thing they got right was that animal fat is a healthy ingredient for cooking.  

The situation changed greatly due to the teachers of American physiologist Angel Keys. He studied the effects of diet on health. Keys suggested that dietary saturated fat triggered heart disease and thus people should avoid the substance. Various health organizations/agencies and study reviews have supported this idea.

However, some doctors/nutritionists have criticized Keys’ theories. For example, they’ve pointed out that Keys’ 7 countries study didn’t include data from France, Denmark, and Norway. Those countries have high-fat diets but low rates of heart disease.

You might be wondering whether or not you should cook with beef tallow since it’s pure fat. That’s right—there are no proteins and carbs in the food. However, the fat does contain vitamins, which add to the nutritional value besides the healthy fatty acids.

Here’s a summary of what you get from 1 tablespoon (13g) of beef tallow:

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 13g
  • Saturated fat: 6.5g
  • Carbs/Protein: 0g

The main takeaway is that half the fat is saturated. Normally this would be considered unhealthy. However, in this case, it’s actually a good source of fat. You probably shouldn’t consume beef tallow like gravy. However, using a little as cooking oil can provide a good source of healthy fat.

In fact, tallow is a popular ingredient with chefs. The reason it is an ultra-high smoke point over 400-G. Unlike other oils, it also doesn’t become rancid. Tallow is a stable fat because it has a high amount of saturated fat. Tallow can also be used for various functions like soaps, moisturizers, detergents, candles, and lanterns.

Top Health Benefits of Beef Tallow

FAT-BURNING

This might be a surprising one since every pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. In order to lose weight, the ultimate goal is to intake fewer calories than you are now. However, an irony is that boosting your fat intake can actually help you burn fat faster.

Here’s how it works. The body’s two main hormones related to blood sugar/nutrient storage are Insulin/Glucagon. Insulin stores nutrients and glucagon help them move through the body.

When you go on diets one of the goals is to get into a state of “ketosis.” This results in high glucagon and low insulin. This causes the body to release nutrients like stored fat. It then turns your body into a fat-burning machine, which results in weight loss.

SKIN-FRIENDLY

Skin membranes are about 50% saturated fat. That’s about the same as tallow so it can moisturize the skin and nourish cell membranes.

STABLE COOKING FAT

Tallow is a good option due to the fatty acid profile. It’s half saturated fat and 46% unsaturated fat. It’s a complicated issue related to high school chemistry but the high saturated fat content makes beef tallow a more stable cooking option than others like sunflower and canola oil.

*** NUTRIENTS

Beef tallow includes lots of nutrients like fatty acids and Vitamins A/D/E/K. Healthy fatty acids are important for various health benefits like heart, brain, skin, and hair. It also helps to absorb certain vitamins. As a result, there are actually several of these vitamins in beef fat.

Nutrients are important for the human body to function properly. Several of them also contain antioxidants that can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Fatty acids including DHA are critical for brain function/growth and they’re provided by foods including the one related to what is beef tallow.

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