2 lbs / 900 g skinless pork back fat (fatback) or belly fat, pork or beef leaf lard, or beef suet
½ cup / 120 ml cold filtered water
TRIM: Use a sharp knife to carefully cut off and discard any pieces of meat or membrane from the fat. Cut the fat into approximately ½ inch / 1.25 cm pieces. Larger pieces will work just fine, but they’ll take longer to cook down.
MELT: Add the chopped fat and the cold water to a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed skillet on the stove top. Over low heat, slowly begin to melt the fat. The water will help avoid the fat burning or getting too hot at the beginning – it will evaporate itself off once the fat has begun to melt. Don’t be tempted to increase the stove top heat! The goal here is to very slowly melt the fat so that it doesn’t brown or color. This helps keep the finished rendered fat from having a kind of browned, meaty flavor.
RENDER: Continue to melt down the fat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking and browning, until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated in clear fat. Once the pork or beef pieces are swimming in the fat, they will no longer touch the bottom of the pan, so you won’t need to stir as often. Let the pieces simmer gently in the liquid fat, but don’t let the fat get too hot (it will spit) or bubble up too much. Slow and steady is the aim here and it will likely take about 2 hours for beef or 3 hours for pork fat to fully cook down.
REMOVE: When there is plenty of liquid fat in the pan and the floating pieces have stopped reducing in size and are just on the verge of starting to brown, it’s time to remove them. Spoon off the cracklings into a bowl. You can either discard them now or reserve them for later to crisp up into a snack.
STORE: Divide the liquid rendered fat between wide mouthed Mason jars. Add the lids and transfer the lard or tallow to the fridge. Although the warm liquid fat will have a golden color, once cool, the finished rendered lard or tallow will be a nice white color if you’ve kept the heat low enough and avoided browning throughout. Keep in the fridge (almost) indefinitely! The amount of fat you will have rendered by the end will vary by the fat you used and the time it took to render. I find that beef renders faster, but yields less tallow, while pork renders slower, but yields more lard.
CRISP: If you like, you can return the crispy bits back to the pan along with some of the rendered fat and cook them until they crisp up and brown. The pork cracklings will crisp up like lovely croutons or lardons. The beef will do the same, but the flavor is much stronger and, some find, overwhelming. If you’re not a fan, they make great dog treats! Waste not, want not and all that.