What Is Suet and How Is It Used
The anatomy of an animal reveals an accumulation of varying types of fats located in different parts of the body and while some melt easily, some others can resist the effect of heat. Suet is one of a kind in a family of animal fat. Although some see it as something that’s forbidden for consumption, suet serves as a key ingredient in some recipes, especially anything related to deep-frying or baked foods, mainly as a result of its melting point.
Fans of pastries will gain a lot from this amazing fat as it makes the effort put into the production of baked foods a lot easier with the best result in your homemade foods. Get the scoop on what suet is exactly, the things you can use it for, and items that can be used in the absence of suet.
What Is Suet?
Generally put, suet is the hard fat extracted from an animal in its raw form. Calling it fat doesn’t mean it’s any kind of fat that you can get from any part of the body. Suet is gotten from the loins or kidneys and has a melting point of 45 °C and 50 °C (113 °F and 122 °F) while it congeals at around 37 °C and 40 °C (98.6 °F and 104 °F). These features set it aside from other animal fat. Additionally, the high smoke point of suet is why it is often used for deep frying, as well as pastry production, among other common ways of putting it to good use.
The Jewish religion, however, forbids members to eat suet because it is part of the items set aside for ritual altar sacrifices. Notwithstanding the law to avoid suet, the restriction is only applicable if the animal is one of those used for sacrifices. In essence, wild animals like deer are excluded from the forbidden list.
What Is Beef Suet?
Beef suet is not really different from suet as it’s still the raw, hard mass of fat extracted from the loins and kidneys but in this case, it comes from a cow. But, suet should not be regarded as any beef fat. If it didn’t come from around the loins and kidneys of cattle, it’s not beef suet.
Although suet can come from beef or mutton, it should not be mixed up with beef dripping. The latter is regarded as unusable and comes from the fat and juices gathered on the roasting pan when cooking roast beef. Whether it’s mutton or beef suet, there are many ways to turn this mass of fat into an amazing dish.
What Is Suet Made Of?
Although it can be bought from the supermarket, suet is essentially gotten in its natural form, thus, it’s not man-made. When the non-fatty parts of a cow and blood are cleared from the kidney and loins, the raw hard white fat the comes off is what is called suet. To make it easier to use suet, the bulky fat must be cut in pieces or grated. Also, it should be preserved in a refrigerator as it also spoils like meat and as such, should not be kept for too long after purchase.
Meanwhile, if you are not buying your suet fresh from the butcher or market as the case may be, the next option could be the pre-packaged suet which is basically dehydrated as a preservative measure. The dehydrated suet is mixed with flour in order to keep it stable at room temperature as it melts easily. On the downside, this method of preserving suet can affect its use for some recipes.
And in the case of vegetable suet that can serve as suet substitute, it is made from refined vegetable oil. Vegetable suet is best for vegetarian dishes.
What Is Suet Used For?
Whether grated or cut in small cubes, there are many ways to use suet for different purposes, most of which you didn’t know were possible. Check out the details below.
- Serves as a supplement for high energy requirements: The concentration of energy in suet makes it suitable for cold weather explorers to sustain the high energy requirement per day. Suet serves as a perfect supplement to boost the energy level to the point needed to embark on the journey to such climates which is around 5,00 to 6,000 Cal each day. To get the desired result, the raw fat goes into food rations to increase the fat content and in turn, meet the energy requirement.
- Used for soap making: Rendered suet, which is the fat that has attained melting point through heating, can be turned to tallow to either include in some recipes or used in the production of soap. The latter was common back in the days.
- Birds feeding: Different kinds of birds favor suet-based food which is specially made in the form of suet cakes that incorporate other food items like raisins, bird seeds, unsalted nuts, oats and more. The fact that a lot of birds from different species relish these suet-influenced delicacies means they are definitely something you want to try for your bird. Some of the birds that favor the suet-based feeds include bluebirds, wrens, woodpeckers, kinglets, among others.
- Can serve as a major ingredient for the best dishes: As far back as 1617, suet began to get worthy mentions in cookbooks. It’s also the primary ingredient found in not just the English Christmas pudding but other steamed puddings, including steak, and kidney pudding. Mincemeat is another way of incorporating suet in your recipe. But, before consuming all that suet, know that each ounce of beef suet contains 242 calories, 27 grams of fat, as well as 4 grams of protein. So, the state of your health and weight must be considered before taking a lot of suet. In addition to the foregoing, other suet-influenced foods include haggis, Windsor pudding, dumplings, spotted dick, kishka/kishke, chili con carne, rag pudding, Jamaican patty, clangers, suet pudding and the list could go on forever.
- Greasing a pan: Suet comes in handy when you want to grease a pan for sautéing or do some deep frying. Notably, it doesn’t need rendering before it can be used, just through it in the pan and watch the magic unfold.
A Perfect Suet Substitute
If you don’t have access to suet or you are just looking for a substitute, there are many options to choose from but take note of the fact that the result will not be as good. Howbeit, some alternatives can give you something close to what your dish would have turned out to be with suet. As a suet substitute for certain recipes, you can use frozen butter but the spoiler is that the melting point of butter is different from that of suet. The former melts much faster, putting your dish at the risk of becoming too greasy and heavy.
Vegetarians can opt for vegetable suet in place of beef suet. Vegetable suet is still a solid fat but unlike the natural raw fat that comes from a cow; this is made from refined vegetable oil. There is also the option of using vegetable shortening which is either made from animal fat or vegetable oil.
The common oils used in making vegetable shortenings are soybean, refined palm oil, or cottonseed, and the shortening should be frozen to make it firm before use. What’s more, the melting point of vegetable shortening and that of beef suet are alike, but then, your pudding will not be the same. Both the flavor and texture that beef suet adds to the pudding is unrivaled.
Another close substitute for suet is lard – fat from a pig’s abdomen that has been rendered and clarified for culinary purposes. The effect of lard is close to what you get from vegetable shortening.