Tallow cooking is almost dead in the United States. But it was the traditional way of cooking in the country before the discovery of vegetable oils. Suet, which was once the most-commonly used fat, is taken from the cow’s intestinal cavity and then, rendered into beef tallow. Though tallow was used in cooking in the ancient times, it was also used in soap and candle making. In the modern era, we use tallow for several industrial applications, its recent use being in the production of biofuel (biodiesel).
Why tallow for cooking? Tallow is an extremely stable fat and has a high smoke point. Due to its high degree of saturation (56%) and low level of polyunsaturated fatty acids (3%) it is ideal for deep frying and cooking. But with the invasion of hydrogenated vegetable cooking oils, tallow cooking has been pushed to the back burner. Several studies that analyzed heart disease in the early 20th century claimed that saturated fats were responsible for high rate of heart diseases. Immediately, there was a wave of change in American cooking habits and people shifted to vegetable, unsaturated fatty oils. The fast food industry aggravated the change with production of a series of popular, vegetable oil food items. However, recent discoveries reveal that saturated fats have little role to play in causing Coronary Heart Diseases (CHDs). It has been proved by few that the fat surrounding the human heart is similar to that of beef fat and that the heart needs at least 50% of saturated fats to sustain itself in a hale and healthy manner.
With so much confusion about whether or not saturated fats should be avoided, you might wonder why one should risk one’s life taking tallow. The reason is simple – tallow has its own set of benefits which cannot be offered by items cooked in hydrogenated or processed vegetable oils. Here are a few health benefits of using beef tallow in cooking:
1. Stable, not easily rancid: Tallow is stable at room temperature and does not generally go rancid quickly. It has a high shelf life if rendered free of impurities. Added to that, it can be used for any sort of deep frying (like pure olive oil) as it has a high smoke point compared to other oils or fats.
2. Bone health: Framingham study mentioned in the ‘Nourishing Traditions’ (a book) points out that at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated. This is because calcium can be be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure only in the presence of saturated fats.
3. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Recent research points out that conjugated linoleic acid or CLA is a potent cancer fighter and fights all three stages of cancer – initiation, promotion and metastasis. Since most anti-cancer agents block only one of these stages, the high concentration levels of CLA present in grass-fed beef tallow can help in preventing and fighting cancer in humans.
4. Immunity builder: Tallow is a great immunity builder owing to its antimicrobial properties. When used in cooking, it can give instant energy to the body as a saturated fat.
5. Omega-3 retainer: Beef tallow retains Omega-3s in tissues than many other hydrogenated oils or animal fats. This is another plus to tallow as it accomplishes this only on account of its composition as a saturated fat.