“There was a gentleman – I think they called him a captain of industry – he liked his bread and dripping. If we had roast beef – we did more often then, especially in winter – he’d whisper to me before we left the dinning room, ‘Mrs P, I’ll be round to the kitchen just before bed.’….He loved his bread and dripping. He told me that he’d had it as a boy.”
-P D James, The Lighthouse
Recently I was staying in Hamburg in a homely, welcoming, informal inn (Restaurant Reitstall Klövensteen). They’d just brought our beer, we were waiting for a hearty soup and I noticed a sort of off-white fat in a small ramekin beside a basket overflowing with warm, fresh German bread.
I recognised it immediately and happy childhood memories flew like starlings through the fields of my imagination. It was dripping.
What is dripping?
What is beef dripping? It’s rendered fat from a joint of beef. Industrially made, it is pure, and a stable fat with a high smoke point. Made in the kitchen, with flecks of beef giving added flavour, it’s fantastic on toast with some textured salt.
Dripping is fat (from roast beef usually but sometimes pork) which has been rendered: that is to say, heated to melt it, along with bits of meat and bone, and then cooled so that the fat forms a solid above a sort of meaty jellified stock. The process is very similar to that used to make lard, only the animal fat used is beef rather than pork.
I remember my mother would pour the fat from our Sunday roast into a white china bowl. She’d leave it to cool and then put it in the fridge. The fat would separate, with a dark brown, rich, clear jelly at the bottom, and leaving the solidified, soft, off-white sludge to form most of the remainder.
She’d take the dripping out to allow it to reach room temperature. Then she’d make some hot wholemeal toast and we’d top it with dripping, some salt, and often a bit of the jelly which also had a very beefy taste. Ideally you need to eat this after a long, brisk walk, with a cup of strong tea and roaring fire.
If we didn’t use the jelly (unless for a special treat), we would add that to the gravy for the next week’s roast.
How to make your own beef dripping
The problem is that animals these days are bred to be lean, so the meat doesn’t give up so much fat. If you want to make beef dripping yourself, the solution is to cosy up to your local butcher and ask for some fatty offcuts with the joint you’re buying. Put it on top of the joint and roast in the usual way.
Then, when it’s done, take the beef out of the roasting tin and leave to rest in the usual way.
Tip the roasting tin a little and take off the juices you need to make the gravy from below the fat using a baster (don’t fiddle about with a gravy separator – it just makes more work).
Then pour about half a cup of boiling water over the fatty remains in the roasting tin which is still on the hob.
Loosen any bits of meat with a wooden spatula or a rigid silicon fish slice. This will make the washing up easier.
Pour the lot into a heatproof dish. Leave to cool, and then put in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it (you can use it from frozen). Personally, I think beef dripping is better (for eating on toast, rather than cooking) when it is not too pure, but still has some flecks of meat in it. Obviously this will not keep so long.. about a week in the fridge, whereas purified dripping will keep for months there.
What to use beef dripping for
Refined beef dripping has a high smoke point of 210°C. Beef dripping is also more stable than vegetable oils and fats when used for frying. For more technical information on that, go to the Nortech Foods site.
The result is that dripping is good for making roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. It was also traditionally the fat of choice for making British fish and chips.
“Beef dripping. Delicious on toast. A scouser’s madeleine. Good for chips and Yorkshire Pudding and anything else that comes from north of the Trent.”
-Jonathan Meades, A Plagiarist in the Kitchen
Where to buy beef dripping
You can often buy dripping from your butcher; or you can buy it online from James Whelan Butchers, whose dripping won a Great Taste award in 2015.
For more on lard and suet follow this link.