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As I understand it, rendering fat is a culinary term for melting and clarifying hard animal fat in dry heat or wet heat for cooking purposes.

One application of rendering I have seen is heating animal fat (such as lard or tallow) over low heat for an extended period of time, until the solid fat separates from impurities like proteins, sinew, and connective tissue. The clear liquid that results is called rendered fat, which can be used for other things like sauteing vegetables.

However, I also read that rendering can make meat juicier because it allows the melted fat to penetrate the meat fibers, creating pockets of liquid that add moisture and tenderness to the meat as it cooks. Fat is an important component of meat and helps to keep it moist and juicy, so by allowing the fat to permeate the meat fibers, rendering can improve the overall juiciness and flavor of the meat.

Can someone confirm if this is indeed how rendering works? If not, if you could explain how rendering improves the flavor of meat? Thanks and any help would be great!

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  • Various methods of cooking result in fat melting and collagen softening. Done correctly, this makes meat seem juicer. Maybe not penetrating, but bathing and getting between the fibers...overdone, and meat will dry out. If you are really rendering, to use fat for another purpose, then juicy meat is probably not your end goal.
    – moscafj
    Feb 11, 2023 at 18:24
  • Lard is rendered fat. You don't render lard. Lard is not a synonym of fat. It is cooked and rendered raw fat.
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 1, 2023 at 10:24

4 Answers 4

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I suspect that what you’re reading is similar to the misconception searing meat ‘sealing on the flavors’ (it actually produces new flavors)

In this case, rendering you meat can result in a more moist cut of meat because you’re slow cooking it, which gives collagen time to soften as well. Lower heat also reduces the likelihood of you over cooking your meat, which can be quite dry as the muscle fibers contract and squeeze out moisture.

So, does it add moisture? No. Can it result in juicier meat? Yes. Does that leave flavorful liquid inside the meat? Yes, but you might get more overall flavor by searing, which is why some recipes call for rendering sausages in a little liquid, then browning once the liquid is evaporated

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Raw pork fat is rendered to make lard. You cannot buy raw pork fat, it needs to be rendered down and cooked for it to be sold safely. Rendering fat is the melting and clarifying of fat. Similar to how ghee is clarified butter.

To a certain extent fat does render down when you cook meat. I have cooked brisket in a slow cooker for three days and the fat rendered down and made the most intensely beefy gravy. It takes many hours of cooking meat before the fat renders down.

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  • Does this mean fat meat only renders using specific cooking methods? Or are just the temperature and length of the cook the biggest factors? Feb 23, 2023 at 3:16
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I would say no, what you read is incorrect. Rendering fat doesn't result in juicier meat.

You don't render tallow from meat, or at least not from meat intended to be eaten on its own. You render tallow from the animal's skin (the epidermis and the subcutaneous fat get butchered together), or from its globs of visceral fat. The part that is left over is called "greaves", and can be eaten, but they are certainly not a piece of juicy meat, but rather very crispy and fatty small pieces which are used similarly to finely cut fried bacon.

If the text you read didn't refer to the classic rendering process, but instead described taking a piece of normal meat with some marbling, and then heating it for a long time, then it is also wrong on many counts.

  1. It is very counterintuitive to call this process "fat rendering" even if the fat does melt as a side effect.
  2. Whether it will become juicy depends on the cut - meats suited to a "low and slow" cooking process will get juicy, while those unsuited will get terribly dry and unpleasant.
  3. For those meats which will get juicy, the juiciness is not at all related to any kind of fat rendering, but to the melting of collagen. The description that cooking "allows the melted fat to penetrate the meat fibers, creating pockets of liquid that add moisture and tenderness to the meat" is factually wrong, nothing of the sort happens.

To sum it up, if you want tallow, render some raw fat. If you want juicy meat, use the proper technique for your cut to get juicy meat. If you want to know in theory what makes meat juicy, read What makes a moist steak (or roast)?, or a good popular book on food science. In any case, remove the "fat rendering makes juicy" source from your reading list, it seems to be spreading misinformation.

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Certain types of animal fat on meat had to be rendered, in particular Duck fat should always be rendered. If you don't you'll end up with a very greasy and fairly unpalatable duck joint or whole duck. Rendering fat can improve the flavour of meats, if you're unsure and have a local butcher or game supplier ask them.

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