Beef Tallow French Fries

by Ann Marie Michaels on August 7, 2009

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French fries have been around since the Middle Ages. They are said to have originated in Belgium in the 1600s. Known as pommes frites in France and chips in Great Britain, French fries are immensely popular all over Europe, as well as in America.

Did you know French fries can actually be good for you? If cooked in the right kind of fat, French fries are nourishing, healthy and full of vitamins.

Fats in History

One hundred years ago, liquid vegetable oil was not invented yet. People cooked with lard, tallow, and butter. Cancer and heart attacks were also unknown.

Fats & Oils in the Food Supply: 1890 vs. 1990

(in descending order of market share)

Chicken Fat
Olive Oil
Palm Oil
Coconut Oil
Peanut Oil
Cottonseed Oil

Soybean Oil (70% partially hydrogenated)
Rapeseed Oil, or Canola Oil (usually partially hydrogenated)
Cottonseed Oil
Peanut Oil
Corn Oil
Palm Oil
Coconut Oil

(source: Mary Enig, PhD, Know Your Fats)

What’s Wrong With Vegetable Oil?

Vegetable oil is a highly processed modern food. It is refined, bleached, deodorized, hydrogenated, and totally devoid of any nutrients. An empty food — and harmful to boot. (To learn more about why vegetable oil is bad for you, read this article: The Oiling of America.)

Grass-fed Tallow: Rich in Fat Soluble Vitamins

Tallow, on the other hand, is easy to render in your own kitchen from beef fat you can buy from your butcher or farmer. And tallow from grass-fed cows is full of fat soluble vitamins, including vitamin K2, which is instrumental in building bones and teeth.

Who knew that eating French fries could help us prevent cavities and osteoporosis? Now you can tell your children they they can skip the salad, but they must finish all their French fries — so they can grow big and strong. (Source: Beef Tallow: a Good Source of Fat-Soluble Vitamins?)

Tallow: The Traditional Cooking Oil For French Fries

Tallow is also the fat traditionally used for French fries. And many say it is the beef tallow that makes the fries much more flavorful. Did you know McDonald’s made their French fries with beef tallow until 1983?

The taste of a french fry is largely determined by the cooking oil. For decades McDonald’s cooked its french fries in a mixture of about seven percent cottonseed oil and 93 percent beef tallow. The mixture gave the fries their unique flavor — and more saturated beef fat per ounce than a McDonald’s hamburger. Source: Eric Schlosser in The Atlantic.

Actually, in France, they used beef tallow and horse tallow — but it may not be so easy to find horse tallow these days so we’ll stick with beef tallow.

Recipe Notes

I modified this recipe from the one in The Balthazar Cookbook. It requires that you soak the potatoes in water and double fry them. Both of these steps will help to produce a crispier fry.

Regarding the tallow and possible oil substitutions: I have also made French fries with expeller-pressed coconut oil. However, you can only heat the oil to just below 350 degrees, which is the smoke point of coconut oil — hence, the fries will not be as crisp. You really want to heat the oil to 375 degrees to get the fries crisp. Beef tallow has a very high smoke point — between 400 and 420 degrees. Palm oil would also work, as would lard. I haven’t tried either of those yet.

This recipe also works great with duck fat (although the smoke point for duck fat is 375 degrees — so you want to go a little lower on the heat).

Please note that this recipe is fairly labor intensive. And you can’t really make it ahead of time since fries are best eaten right after they are cooked.

That said, these fries are so delicious, it’s well worth the effort. When I make these French fries, my 2-year-old daughter refuses to eat anything else. At least I know they are good for her!

Beef Tallow French Fries


Deep-fat fryer or a heavy bottomed enamel or stainless steel sauce panor stock pot
If using sauce pan or stock pot, you will need a candy thermometer — the kind that attaches to the side of the pot
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper, Silpat mat or paper towels


Russet potatoes (enough to feed your family — figure one large potato per person)
Filtered water
Grass-fed beef tallow (6-8 cups)
Sea salt — where to buy sea salt


1. Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into French fry size (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in width, and the length of the potato).

I used this super handy-dandy French fry cutter. It is so cool! Made the job a whole lot easier.

2. Cover the potatoes with filtered water and let sit for at least 30 minutes, and as long as overnight (in the fridge). I’ve tried this for as little as an hour and as long as 12 hours — and quite honestly, I couldn’t really taste a difference. I think an hour is sufficient, but you can do it ahead if you like and leave the potatoes soaking in the fridge overnight.
3. Put the beef tallow in a heavy pot or a deep fat fryer. I found this neat deep fat fryer with a glass bowl (the only one I’ve seen without a non-stick bowl made of Teflon).

Beef Tallow French Fries

However, take caution. If you use this particular fryer (called Kaloric), read the directions. Ahem — all of the directions. You have to warm the tallow very slowly — until it is liquid. If you try to heat it up full blast when it is still solid, it will smoke like the dickens and set off your fire alarm. (Yes, this happened to me. Another Bridget-Jones-in-the-kitchen moment.) If using a heavy saucepan or stock pot, attach the thermometer.

Beef tallow French Fries

4. Dry the potatoes very thoroughly (if they are wet, it’s dangerous — as it can cause the hot oil to pop) with clean dish towels. Line a cookie sheet (preferably one with a lip) with parchment paper, a Silpat, or paper towels.
5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (or the lowest setting). Heat the tallow to 370 degrees, and then gently and very carefully, add some of the potatoes. Don’t overcrowd them. Watch for spitting hot oil and make sure there are no children around when you do this.
6. Fry for 3 minutes, then, using the tongs or the basket from the fryer, transfer the fries to the cookie sheet.
7. Wait until the tallow heats up again to 370 degrees, then add another batch of potatoes. Fry for 3 minutes, and continue in this manner until you have done all the potatoes.
8. Now it’s time for the second fry. Bring the tallow to 380 degrees (mine only goes up to 375, so that’s what I did) and then add some of the fries you cooked once. Fry for 3 1/2 minutes this time, then transfer back to the paper- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.
9. Sprinkle with salt. Don’t be stingy with the salt.
10. Repeat with the rest of the fries.
11. Transfer to warm oven while you finish whatever else you’re cooking (hamburgers, fried chicken, what-have-you).

If you’re just having fries (not such a bad idea), serve immediately. With ketchup. And milkshakes if you’ve got ‘em. Ooh — even better — chili and cheese. Yeah, now we’re talking.

Postscript: I reuse my tallow a few times. I’m not sure how many times it’s OK to use it — I figure 3-5 times? If anyone knows, please comment.

Anyway to strain your tallow so you can use it again, after you’re done frying (and eating), let the hot oil cool a bit. Then strain it through coffee filters, paper towels or cheesecloth.

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{ 131 comments… read them below or add one }

Birte December 9, 2013 at 4:20 AM

So we are talking about Fahrenheit is that right?
Australians use Celsius:)

We would like to purchase a deep fryer and wouldn’t mind your expertise on this. Would a 5.5ltr deep fryer be big enough for family of 5? I think a 10 ltr would be too big as getting the fat would also be a hassle.

Many Thanks.


Anna January 3, 2014 at 11:26 AM

When I was a child chips (french fries) were always cooked in tallow only we called it dripping.


granmar September 2, 2014 at 5:27 AM

Although a little late in responding, Anna…

Dripping spread on bread is a very delicious (if you like it!!) way of consuming beef, pork or mutton fat. It was used extensively in UK during the war years.


Dripping is NOT tallow! Dripping is the fat left over from roasting/frying the meat, whereas TALLOW is the hard WHITE fat that surrounds the Kidneys and Liver. That must be rendered to a liquid, then left to cool. When ready, it is hard, non-reactive to time, light or Human tolerant temperatures. It needs at least 100°C to properly melt.

Food cooked in dripping would absorb more of the fat than TALLOW-cooked food!


nancy April 13, 2014 at 3:01 PM

The deep fryer you linked to is only intended for liquid oils such as canola oil (blech). I know this because I bought it last year. I tried frying with a “solid” oil (tallow), and it was a disaster.


granmar April 14, 2014 at 6:19 AM

Hi Tallow-cooked chip lovers…

A deep fat fryer, Nancy, is absolutely OK to cook chips (American call ‘em fries) in. I use an electric deep-fat fryer and have done for many years. Just make sure that you can reach 200°C! Tallow cooks at a higher temperature than all other oils! Grass-fed beef fat, particularly tallow, is the most flavorful of all the fats and oils and is the LEAST DANGEROUS TO HEALTH! It also is the hottest, therefore, cooking properly without burning the food (unless of course you FORGET you have a load!).

The secret is slowly heating the tallow, until it has all melted, then, SLOWLY lay the fish, chips, scotch eggs, shrimps, sausages, or what have you into the fat.

So, Nancy, do not worry! A deep-fat fryer IS safe to use with tallow!

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James June 4, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Thanks for the article, but a minor correction is in order:

First, McDonald’s made the switch to processed vegetable oil in 1990, not 1983 as mentioned in your article. After the food fascists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest launched their misguided campaign to rid the American diet of natural saturated animal fats used for cooking, they held a series of public protests at various McDonald’s restaurant locations across the country.

Thanks again for the article.



Bruce Grant June 4, 2014 at 10:08 PM

Just a very gentle correction, James, she didn’t say McDonald’s switched in 1983 she said in 1983 McDonald’s used Tallow!



Sandra August 30, 2014 at 6:57 PM

Can I leave the tallow in the fryer in between uses, or do I have to place it in the fridge?


Granmar August 30, 2014 at 11:40 PM

Hi Sandra,

Relax!!! Tallow can be left almost ANYWHERE… the fryer, a window ledge, the fridge, freezer (though does NOT need either!), a cupboard, paper bag, left out without wrapping–ANYWHERE!

As long as you do not burn the fat, it will last you your life time, as long as you add spoonfuls as the fat is very slowly diminished as you cook with it. There is probably less absorption by using tallow than with any other fat or oil!

Good cooking!


Javi September 2, 2014 at 5:15 AM

That’s exactly how my grandmother cooked her fries in Spain. I would visit her every Thursday. She used grass fed beef tallow from the butcher.
I now cook that same recipe the way my grandma did, and my kids surely love it.


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