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Josh Boyd | 4.12.2022

How To Render Bear Fat

  • Pursuit: Big Game


Where I reside in Montana, winter days are short, menacingly dark, with snow storms frequently followed by rain; weather that is unappealing to most. As the spring days grow longer, I am drawn to spend more time outside enjoying the extra hours of the season. Everything about spring turns my thoughts to adventures in the mountains. Witnessing the mountains emerging from winter while engaged in a hunt is something I never grow tired of. The varied thrush is a bird I often hear during long, drawn-out evening glassing sessions in the mountains. With their first calls echoing through dense stands of old growth timber, and the scents of a forest gradually rewarming, it’s easy to fall in love with spring black bear hunting.

Black bears provide an opportunity to hunt a big game species in the spring, but also an opportunity to fill the freezer with delicious meat and even more desirable: fat! For over a decade I’ve rendered the fat from every bear I’ve harvested into lard. The uses for rendered fat are many, but in my household, it is used mostly for baking and short frying. The process of rendering is simple, and once complete the lard will store for several years in a freezer or many months in a refrigerator.

The first step is to remove the fat from the carcass and cool it much like you would any game meat. The rump and back on a large bear can yield multiple ten-pound slabs of fat. Once cooled, the next steps are to trim as much meat from the fat as possible, cut it into two-inch cubes, and load it into a slow cooker. Take the cooker outside, set it to Low Cook and stir every hour. A fully-loaded slow cooker will take eight to ten hours to fully render.

When the solids or “cracklings” turn a golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon. Strain the remaining oil through several layers of cheesecloth to remove the fine solids. Keep the oil hot as it strains more easily with less clogging of the cheesecloth.  I prefer to strain the oil into pint sized canning jars for storage. The rendered oil will be a golden brown when warm and after cooling will turn solid white. Store The room temperature jars in the freezer, and keep one in the refrigerator for convenient use.

A favorite use of bear lard in my house is shortening in biscuits. They tend to be extremely flakey, delicious, and pair well with elk stew, or with a little bear sausage and gravy.