Suet has a melting point of between 45° and 50°C. (113° and 122°F.), and congeals between 37° and 40°C. (98.6° and 104°F.).
The primary use of suet is to make tallow, although it is also used as an ingredient in cooking. Suet is made into tallow in a process called rendering, which involves melting and extended simmering, followed by straining, cooling and usually a repetition of the entire process.
Suet is essential to use in making the pastry for steamed steak and kidney pudding. The suet crust pastry lines a pudding bowl, the meat added and a lid of suet crust pastry tightly seals the meat. The pudding is then steamed for approximately four hours before serving in the bowl on the table. Suet pastry is soft in contrast to the crispness of shortcrust pastry. Its low melting point means that it is solid at room temperature but easily melts at moderate temperatures, such as in steaming.
Suet should not be confused with Beef Dripping, which is the collected fat and juices from the roasting pan when cooking roast beef and is not rendered.
As it is the fat from around the kidneys, the connective tissue, blood and other non-fat items must be removed. It then needs to be coarsely grated to make it ready to use. It must be kept refrigerated prior to use and used within a few days of purchase like any meat.
Packaged suet sold in supermarkets is dehydrated suet. It is mixed with flour to make it stable at room temperature. Because of the addition of flour, some care is needed when using it for older recipes using fresh suet as the proportions of flour to fat can alter. Most modern recipes would stipulate packaged suet.
A vegetarian suet substitute is available in supermarkets in the United Kingdom that is made from fat such as palm oil combined with rice flour. It resembles shredded beef suet, and is used as a substitute in recipes, but with slightly different results from animal suet.
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