What Is Beef Suet?
In order to define suet, you have to first understand the anatomy of a cow. Different parts of the cow have different types of fat. This includes somewhat hard fats (like the fat you might find on a steak) that might not melt completely at high heat and less solid fats like suet. Suet is specifically found around joints and near kidneys. It’s got a very low melting point, meaning liquid suet doesn’t have to be particularly hot. Instead, it can be as cold as 113 F.
Suet doesn’t just have a low melting point, however. It also has a very high smoke point, making it excellent for high-temperature cooking and deep frying. Rendered suet is known as tallow and has many uses both in the kitchen and around the house.
Where Can I Get Suet?
If you want suet, the best thing to do is to ask your local butcher. Even the man behind the meat counter at your supermarket might be able to give you plenty of suet for a ridiculously low price. While suet is highly prized by some cooks, it’s not a particularly modern ingredient. This means that suet is mostly thrown away by butchers these days. If your butcher knows you want some, they can often save the suet they would have disposed of and pass it on to you for a steal.
Even if your area has more competition for suet (and therefore higher prices), you should still start your quest for suet by asking a local butcher or two. They’ll be able to tell you where you can get the best suet in the quantities you’re looking for.
What Is Suet Used For?
Suet can be used in many recipes calling for shortening and other cooking fats. It’s especially good for greasing a pan you use for sauteing or as the fat you deep fry in. Suet is a component in many dishes, including English recipes like haggis, Windsor pudding, spotted dick, and several types of English pastries. It’s also found in some Caribbean recipes (like Jamaican patties) and chili con carne.
One huge advantage of suet over other flavorful fats is the fact that you don’t have to render it. Instead, you can simply throw it into whatever dish you’re making. This includes baked goods, too. If you’re trying to get a flaky crust with alternating layers of flour and fat the firm nature of unrendered suet gives you a huge advantage. Since you don’t have to worry about suet melting (or re-solidifying), you can take extra time to roll out or shape your dough to your heart’s content. Suet is somewhat less sweet than lard and tastes neutral enough that it’s best described as “bland.”
In addition to its use in human kitchens, suet is a popular ingredient in bird feeders.
Beef Suet Recipes
If you want to use suet in your kitchen, here are some of the best ways to take advantage of this special fat:
Given that one of the biggest advantages of suet is how easy it is to bake with, this recipe is a no0brainer. It’s basically a standard biscuit recipe that uses suet as the primary baking fat. Making these biscuits is a bit more work than using your favorite baking mix, but they’re a lot more rewarding.
Suet Biscuits Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
4 oz suet, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp sugar (ideally a large-grain sugar like sanding, cane, demerara, or turbinado sugar)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Mix the solid ingredients in a bowl. Toss in the suet and rub everything together until you get a consistency not-unlike cornmeal. You’ll probably have to use your fingers as well as your fork, whisk, or another mixing tool. If you’d prefer not to get beef fat all over your hands, you can simply use a blender or food processor instead. Pulse the mixture until you get the desired texture.
- Add milk and egg. Mix gently until you get a dough.
- Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Knead it by hand until it forms a bit of a skin. Use a rolling pin to work the dough into a rectangle with about 75 square inches of surface area (so a bit smaller than a standard piece of paper). Slice into biscuits with a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or a knife. Any “scraps” that you form into biscuits might not rise evenly, so consider cooking them separately for easier presentation.
- (optional) Brush the biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with large-grain sugar.
- Bake the biscuits until they’re golden brown. This takes between 17 and 24 minutes in most ovens. Serve fresh if possible.
This traditional English treat is adapted from an 1881 recipe. You may want to reduce the recipe somewhat, as it’s quite large as written.
Windsor Pudding Ingredients:
First Stage Ingredients:
1/2 lb of suet, grated “very fine”
1/2 lb French roll (breadcrumbs of any sort will work)
nutmeg (quantity not specified, used for taste)
lemon rind (quantity not specified, used for taste)
Second Stage Ingredients:
1/2 lb apples, chopped
1/2 lb currants
1/2 lb raisins
1 “glass” sweet wine (2 cups should do the trick)
5 eggs, beaten
(optional) 1 cup brown sugar
Windsor Pudding Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350 or prepare to steam a pudding dish (see step 4).
- Mix the ingredients from “first stage ingredients.” To be clear, the “french roll” should be chopped into small cubes or breadcrumbs.
- Mix the ingredients from “second stage ingredients” into the step one ingredients. The original recipe doesn’t call for sugar, but many more modern renditions do. You may want to try it “unsweetened” first and then add up to a cup of sugar based on your own personal tastes.
- Pour into an oven-safe mold or baking dish and steam for several hours. The original recipe suggests boiling for 3 hours, but more modern takes suggest that steaming for 8 hours or more might be the best option. Alternately, you can throw it in the oven at 350 or so for about a half hour, which is somewhat more reasonable as far as both time and work go.
Suet Crust for A Meat Pie
I’ll let you fend for yourself for the filling for this wonderful suet pie crust. If you’re lost for ideas, try browning a soft meat (like a braising steak) in a pan with some shallots, garlic, and mushrooms and then deglaze the pan with some wine. Remove both the sauce, the aromatics, and the meat from the pan and cook them in the oven on low heat until everything is quite tender.
Suet Crust Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup suet, shredded
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten (for glazing)
Suet Crust Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mix everything but the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add enough water to form a dough. This usually takes a bit more than half a cup. Once you’ve got a big ball of dough in your bowl, cover it and throw it in the fridge for half an hour.
- On a floured surface, roll out your chilled dough until it’s about a quarter inch thick. First, cover the bottom of your pie dish, then spoon in your filling, then cover the top with pie dough. Brush the top with egg, cut slits to vent, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
These Caribbean treats are somewhere in between meat pies and (cheeseless) meat quesadillas. Adjust the seasoning to give you just the right amount of spice without overpowering your palate.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup suet, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup water
1 egg, whisked
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp vinegar
1 lb beef, ground
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and minced (other peppers will work, but it won’t taste the Caribbean without the real deal)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth or stock
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tbsp hot sauce
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1 egg (for egg wash)
1 tbsp curry powder
- Add flour, curry powder, salt, and suet to a mixing bowl or food processor. Mix until you get something close to the consistency of cornmeal, either by pulsing your processor (or blender) or using your hands and a fork.
- Whisk together the water, egg, and vinegar in a separate bowl. Pour this into the flour mixture and mix until you get a ball of smooth dough. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
- Brown beef in a large pan. When it’s mostly done, drain the beef, return it to the pan, and add onion, garlic, and peppers. Stir everything together and cook for several minutes until the veggies start to get transparent and soft.
- Add in the seasonings (broth, sauces, spices, salt, and any fresh herbs you’d like to add). Stir everything together, cover, and simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. Discard any fresh herbs you used you wouldn’t want to eat (like a sprig of thyme). Add breadcrumbs and stir again.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the dough until it’s 1/8th inch thick. Cut it into 6-inch circles and place a heaping tablespoon full of meat filling in each circle. Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash (about 1 large egg with about 1/4 cup of water) and fold the dough into a half-circle. Press the edges firmly together to seal.
- Place the patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until the dough is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the patties cool off for at least 5 minutes before serving.
This boiled dish isn’t unlike a meat pie. it’s traditionally made with steak and kidney, although American readers might elect to go with just steak instead. This dish is delightfully simple to make as long as you have a rag.
Rag Pudding Ingredients:
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 lb diced filling (steak and kidney for authenticity)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb suet, shredded or diced finely
1 cup water
salt, pepper, and spices for seasoning
1 “rag” (I personally use cheesecloth)
a safety pin, elastic, or string to fasten your rag
Rag Pudding Instructions:
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and suet until you get a cornmeal-like consistency. Alternately, use a blender or food processor.
- Stir in the cold water to form a dough.
- On a floured working surface, roll out the dough until it’s about as thick as a tortilla. You can either make one big pudding or several small ones. Simply duplicate the following instructions any number of times should you choose to make smaller single-serving puddings instead.
- Add fillings (usually raw), onions, and seasoning.
- Fold the dough over the ingredients. Place the dough on top of your rag and tie the rag up at the top with your safety pin, elastic, or string.
- Immerse the pudding in stockpot of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for two hours.
- Remove your pudding, untie your rag, and serve!
Beef Suet: The Most Wonderful Fat In The Kitchen
Suet is an amazing fat that makes producing delicious, flaky pastries incredibly easy. It’s used in many meat pie-like recipes as well as in blood puddings and more. If you’re a fan of baked goods, it might be a good idea to ask your local butcher about where you can acquire some suet. You’ll probably find that it’s one of the simplest ways to create wonderful baked goods at home without too much effort.