Tallow made by rendering calf suet

Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.

In industry, tallow is not strictly defined as beef or mutton fat. In this context, tallow is animal fat that conforms to certain technical criteria, including its melting point. It is common for commercial tallow to contain fat derived from other animals, such as lard from pigs, or even from plant sources.

Tallow consists mainly of triglycerides (fat), whose major constituents are derived from stearic and oleic acids.



Tallow is used mainly in producing soap and animal feed.[1]


A significant use of tallow is for the production of shortening. It is one of the main ingredients of Native American food called pemmican. Before switching to pure vegetable oil in 1990, the McDonald's corporation cooked its French fries in a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil.[2] However, McDonald's French fries and hash browns contain beef extract added during production.[3][4]

Niche uses

Many items of traditional goods are produced from tallow, which was widely available domestically. Tallow can also be used as flux for soldering.[5] It is also the primary ingredient in some leather conditioners. Tallow used to be used commonly in high-end shaving soaps, in particular those of elite British firms such as Geo. F Trumper, Truefitt & Hill, and Taylor of Old Bond Street. While these firms have reformulated to a vegetable base, tallow-based soaps still exist, including the soaps from an American firm, The Art of Shaving, as well as soaps from Turkey and Italy.

Historic applications


Tallow used to be widely used to make molded candles before more convenient wax varieties became available—and, for some time after, as they continued to be a cheaper alternative. For those too poor even to avail themselves of homemade, molded tallow candles, the "tallow dip"—a strip of burning cloth in a saucer of tallow grease—was an accessible substitute.


Early in the development of steam-driven piston engines, the hot vapors and liquids washed away most lubricants very quickly. It was soon found that tallow was quite resistant to this washing. Tallow and compounds including tallow were widely used to lubricate locomotive and steamship engines at least until the 1950s. (During WWII, the vast fleets of steam-powered ships exhausted the supply, leading to the large-scale planting of rapeseed because rapeseed oil also resisted the washing effect.) Tallow is still used in the steel rolling industry to provide the required lubrication as the sheet steel is compressed through the steel rollers. There is a trend toward replacing tallow-based lubrication with synthetic oils in rolling applications for surface cleanliness reasons.[6]

The use of tallow or lard to lubricate rifles was the spark that started the Indian Mutiny of 1857. To load the new Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that the paper cartridges that were standard issue with the rifle were greased with lard (pork fat), which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (cow fat), regarded as taboo by Hindus. Tallow, along with beeswax, was also used in the creation of lubricant for American Civil War ammunition used in the Springfield Rifle Musket.

Tallow is used to make a biodegradable motor oil by a Stamford, Connecticut-based company called Green Earth Technologies.[7]


In Germany, deer tallow ("Hirschtalg") is used as a base ingredient in certain salves preferred by sportspersons to prevent sore skin or blisters.[8]


Beef Tallow
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 3,774 kJ (902 kcal)
Carbohydrates 0 g
Fat 100 g
- saturated 50 g
- monounsaturated 42 g
- polyunsaturated 4 g
Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 109 mg
Selenium 0.2 mg
Fat percentage can vary.
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The composition of the fatty acids is typically as follows:[9]


  1. ^ Alfred Thomas (2002). "Fats and Fatty Oils". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a10_173. 
  2. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2001). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of All-American Meal. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-97789-4
  3. ^ "McDonald's Settles Beef Over Fries". CBS News. June 5, 2002. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/05/national/main511109.shtml. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "McDonald's USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items". http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/ingredientslist.pdf. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Hey Flux
  6. ^ Cold rolling mill lubricant - US Patent 4891161
  7. ^ Motavalli, Jim (5 February 2009). "Oil Goes ‘Green,' With the Help of Some Cows". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/automobiles/08BIO.html?nl=wheels&emc=wheelsa2. 
  8. ^ http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirschtalg
  9. ^ National Research Council, 1976, Fat Content and Composition of Animal Products, Printing and Publishing Office, National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C., ISBN 0-309-02440-4; p. 203, online edition

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(freed from adhering membranes)

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tallow — Tal low, n. [OE. taluh, talugh; akin to OD. talgh, D. talk, G., Dan. and Sw. talg, Icel. t[=o]lgr, t[=o]lg, t[=o]lk; and perhaps to Goth. tulgus firm.] 1. The suet or fat of animals of the sheep and ox kinds, separated from membranous and fibrous …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tallow — Tal low, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Tallowed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Tallowing}.] 1. To grease or smear with tallow. [1913 Webster] 2. To cause to have a large quantity of tallow; to fatten; as, tallow sheep. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tallow — [tal′ō] n. [ME talgh, prob. < MLowG talg, akin to OE tælg, a color, telgan, to color, prob. < IE base * del , to drip > MIr delt, dew] the nearly colorless and tasteless solid fat extracted from the natural fat of cattle, sheep, etc.,… …   English World dictionary

  • tallow — (n.) mid 14c., talwgh, from a form cognate with M.L.G. talg tallow, M.Du. talch, from P.Gmc. *talga , meaning perhaps originally firm, compact material (Cf. Goth. tulgus firm, solid ) …   Etymology dictionary

  • tallow — ► NOUN ▪ a hard fatty substance made from rendered animal fat, used in making candles and soap. DERIVATIVES tallowy adjective. ORIGIN perhaps from Low German …   English terms dictionary

  • tallow — /tal oh/, n. 1. the fatty tissue or suet of animals. 2. the harder fat of sheep, cattle, etc., separated by melting from the fibrous and membranous matter naturally mixed with it, and used to make candles, soap, etc. 3. any of various similar… …   Universalium

  • tallow — n. & v. n. the harder kinds of (esp. animal) fat melted down for use in making candles, soap, etc. v.tr. grease with tallow. Phrases and idioms: tallow tree any of various trees, esp. Sapium sebiferum of China, yielding vegetable tallow.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tallow — /ˈtæloʊ / (say taloh) noun 1. the fatty tissue or suet of animals. 2. the harder fat of sheep, cattle, etc., separated by melting from the fibrous and membranous matter naturally mixed with it, and used to make candles, soap, etc. 3. any of… …  

  • tallow — I. noun Etymology: Middle English talgh, talow; akin to Middle Dutch talch tallow Date: 14th century the white nearly tasteless solid rendered fat of cattle and sheep used chiefly in soap, candles, and lubricants • tallowy adjective II.… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tallow — tal•low [[t]ˈtæl oʊ[/t]] n. v. lowed, low•ing 1) the hard, rendered fat of sheep and cattle, used to make candles and soap 2) any similar fatty substances, esp. vegetable tallow 3) to smear with tallow • Etymology: 1300–50; ME talow, talgh, c.… …   From formal English to slang

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