Last week, I had dinner with my podcast producer at Clyde’s Prime Rib, located in Portland, Ore. Every time I go to that fine establishment, I come away with something to write about. Last time, it was their horseradish blue cheese dressing; this time, it’s leftover beef fat. As such, you need to start putting your steak fat in the Air Fryer.
I am not someone who shies away from eating fat, even big bits of it that come on the side of a steak or slice of medium-rare prime rib. I will eat them with glee while the meal is hot, but once the fat cools, it loses a good bit of its appeal.
If I am lucky enough to have leftover beef — a thing I rarely walk away from Clyde’s with — I usually skip the reheating and slice it thinly, toss it with a little oil and vinegar, and eat it on crusty bread or in a salad. A little marbling is fine, but the big pieces of white, congealed fat cap are less delicious. Instead of tossing the fat, I render it to make “lazy tallow.”
Tallow is essentially cow lard — beef fat that has been rendered and strained. It chills down hard and waxy, but fries potatoes like a dream. If you’ve never had a beef tallow French fry, you should remedy that immediately. Tallow gives potatoes (or anything you cook in it) a deeply savoury, meaty flavour, and I’m unwilling to waste it. (If you don’t feel like rendering little 2- or 3-inch scraps is worth your time, just freeze them until you have an amount you deem to be “enough.”)
How to make lazy tallow
Usually, when making a lot of beef tallow, you simmer the fat in a large stock pot until the water evaporates, leaving behind an almost-pure fat. You then strain out anything that is not fat and store it in clean jars in the fridge, where it will keep for a long time. My process is much less involved and doesn’t require any straining (because I use it fairly quickly).
I left Clyde’s with the lower third portion of my prime rib which, as you can see, came with a chunk of fat. It turned hard and opaque in the fridge, not suitable for the salad the rest of the beef was destined for. Instead of chucking it, I cut it into small pieces and tossed it into the air fryer. By the time those fatty bits were browned and crispy (essentially beef cracklin’s), about two tablespoons of tallow had pooled in the bottom of the basket, under the little tray — all from that small chunk of fat. If you don’t have an air fryer, that’s alright; you can use a pan.
How to render fat scraps in your air fryer
- First of all, make sure your air fryer basket and tray are clean and dry. Cut the leftover, cold fat into half-inch chunks, and heat the air fryer to 200°C.
- Place the cubes on the tray in the basket and cook for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much fat you have, until you’re left with golden pieces of beef crackling on the tray and a pool of fat below.
- Remove the cracklin’s and the tray, and pour the fat into a ramekin. You can strain through a sieve to extend its shelf life, but I usually don’t.
How to render fat scraps in a pan
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can also use a pan.
- Cut the fat into half-inch chunks and place in an appropriately sized pan. (If you have a lot, use a big pan; if you have a little, use a small pan.)
- Add enough water to come up in the pan by about half an inch.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer. Simmer until bits are browned and the water has evaporated, leaving behind liquid fat.
- Strain (if you like) into a clean container and store in the fridge.
Strained tallow will keep in the fridge for at least three months, and in the freezer pretty much indefinitely. (Salt and eat the cracklin’s; they’re like beef croutons.)
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