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How to Store Suet Long-Term and Maximize Shelf Life
For decades, there was a common misconception that animal fats were unhealthy. Now, that we know they are incredibly healthy, nutritious, and a good source of energy, animal fats have shot to the top of people’s grocery lists. Among cooking fats, tallow stands out as one of the best overall fats. And through suet, you can make some of your own tallow at home.
However, you may not want to use all the beef suet at once. So in this article, we will discuss how to store suet long-term, the shelf life of suet, as well as other popular uses for suet. But first, what is beef suet?
What is Beef Suet?
Beef suet is the hard fat located around the kidneys and loins of cattle. This is distinct from the fat around the muscle of cattle. Beef suet differs from tallow in how tallow is the fat rendered from the suet. So basically suet makes beef tallow by separating the melted fat from the hard fat. Tallow rendered from internal organs such as the kidney is known to be richer in flavor than if extracted from other parts of the body. Another important influence on the quality of suet is diet, where pasteurized grass-fed cattle are best.
Historically, suet had been an important cooking ingredient for Northwestern European cuisine. But over the past 100 years, beef fat, and animal fats in general, have gotten a bad reputation. Canola oil and vegetable oils took their place as people’s go-to fats. But we now know that these oils are harmful and cause heart disease. And animal fats, are safe to eat, help the body function properly, and improve cardiovascular health.
In recent years, suet along with beef tallow has become popular foods, because they are healthy fats that are nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory, making them good choices in paleo diets, carnivore diets, and ketogenic diets.
Suet has a melting of 122°F (50°C), and rendered tallow has a smoke point of 392°F (200°C), meaning it has a higher resistance to heat than other cooking fats and oils. For comparison, the smoke point of butter is 302°F (150°C). The high smoke point of suet makes it a good cooking option for frying and sauteing.
Suet can also be rendered from mutton as well, but this will differ in flavor and texture. Still, the best storage practices are similar.
What are the Nutrition Facts about Beef Suet?
Below is a breakdown of the type of fat in beef suet for 100g.
Type of Fat Grams (g)
Saturated Fat 52g
Monounsaturated Fat 32g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Total Fat 94g
Extending the Shelf Life of Beef Suet
Beef suet has a much shorter shelf life than other fats, so it should be stored in a refrigerator for no more than 7 days, or in a freezer for up to 6 months. Beef suet should NOT be stored at room temperature as it will go rancid within a couple of days.
When compared to beef tallow, beef tallow can be stored for 12 months at room temperature, 18 months in the fridge, and over 2 years in the freezer. Still, you should not pick tallow over suet because of the shelf life. You should consider the purpose you’d like to use suet or tallow.
Below is a table of the shelf life of suet compared to tallow
Beef suet bought at a supermarket may be hydrogenated to extend the shelf life, but by adding trans-fat you’re making it less healthy. If you do not intend to use beef suet right away, you can cut the suet into cubes and store the smaller pieces in the freezer. Then you can take what you intend to use. When possible, you should purchase beef suet from a local butcher. A local butcher can provide you with more information on the quality and where the suet was sourced.
If you store beef suet in the freezer, it should be kept in a vacuum-sealed bag. These bags are effective at preventing exposure to air and moisture, as well as preventing the odors of other foods to attach themselves to the fat. The main downside of vacuum-sealed bags is that over time they may lose their effectiveness at keeping air out of the bag.
Additionally, suet can be stored in a freezer-safe glass jar. An airtight mason jar will prevent air or moisture from entering the jar, and interacting with the suet.
How do I know if Suet has Gone Rancid?
Fortunately, it is simple to determine if suet has gone rancid. Simply rely on your sense of sight, smell, and taste, and follow the three-step approach below:
- Sight: The first step and most obvious indicator of rancidity is discoloration. Suet that has gone bad may have mold or bacteria growth. If you notice any of these signs, you should dispose of them immediately.
- Smell: If you did not notice discoloration, but still have doubts about the quality, you can give it a quick sniff. Rancid cooking fats have an off, soapy smell when they’ve gone bad. Suet that is still good, will smell like beef.
- Taste: Lastly, if you are still unsure after a sight and smell examination, you can taste a small amount of the suet. Suet that has gone bad, will taste rancid, telling you immediately it has gone bad.
If your suet passes this three-step approach then it is likely still safe to eat. However, you should always be mindful of rancid animal fats. Although you will not get sick from eating small amounts of expired fats, there is almost no nutritional value from eating them, and they can ruin a dish because of the unpleasant flavor.
People Also Ask
Common questions we hear about beef suet are:
How to give Suet to Birds?
Suet is popular bird food. People often make suet cakes, which are suet mixed with cornmeal, fruit, peanuts, seeds, or dried insects. Now, you may be wondering why you want to have a bird feeder on your property, but by inviting non-invasive birds to your property, you can mitigate the threat of pests such as mosquitos and moths. For homesteaders or people living near water, this can be an affordable way to rid yourself of annoying pests. However, you should know that suet spoils quickly, so it should be replaced every few days during warmer months. In the winter, you can space out replacing the suet feeder.
It is safe for birds to eat suet since suet is high in fats, and can be a good source of calories for birds. This is especially the case in winter months when food sources for birds are harder to come by.
Are Beef Suet and Beef Tallow the same thing?
No, however, suet can make tallow. Suet is the hard fatty material that surrounds the internal organs of beef. Suet would then need to be heated at a low temperature, allowing you to separate the melted fat from the chunks of meat. The melted fat will then solidify at room temperature, and become beef tallow.
Additionally, where suet is specifically the fat around internal organs, tallow is often regarded as the fat of any part of the cow.
How to Dispose of Animal Fat?
If you find yourself with expired animal fat, there are many uses for it after it has gone bad. Some of the potential uses are:
- Add to compost
- Use as a lubricant for rusty metal
- Make DIY soap
- Make DIY candles
- Add to a bird feeder
Related article: How to Dispose of Cooking Oil Environmentally
Can you Freeze Suet?
Yes, beef suet can be stored in a freezer for up to 6 months. However, it can only be kept in a fridge for 1 week, and it should not be kept at room temperature.
How can I make Tallow from Suet?
Lucky for us, the process to turn suet into tallow is simple. Simply place the suet in a frying pan. Simmer the beef suet on low heat for one hour until the meat starts to float to the top of the pan. At this point, you can start removing the pieces of meat from the pan. Once the pieces of meat have been separated from the liquid, you can wait until the liquid cools down a bit, and pour it into a glass jar. The leftover liquid is referred to as the tallow.
Healthy Alternatives to Tallow
If you are looking for healthy alternatives to beef tallow, you should consider it.
- Lamb Tallow
- Goose Fat
- Lard (Pork Fat)
- Duck Fat
- Chicken Fat
- Unrefined Avocado Oil
- Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Unrefined Olive Oil
To sum everything up, beef suet is the hard fatty material around the kidneys and loins of cattle. High-quality beef tallow can be rendered by separating the liquid from the meat chunks by slow cooking it in an oven. Once the liquid solidifies, it can be used as a tallow.
When it comes to shelf life, beef suet can be stored in a fridge for 1 week, or up to 6 months in the freezer. Additionally, you should store it in a glass container, or a vacuum-sealed bag. Using these types of storage methods will help ensure its protected from air and moisture.
Whether you are using it to make a nutritious cooking fat, looking to make a suet cake for your bird feeder, or one of the many other purposes, there is always something you can do with beef suet.
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