When it comes to cooking oils, there are numerous options available, each with its own unique qualities.
Two popular choices that often find themselves in the spotlight are beef tallow and olive oil, but which is the better choice for your cooking needs?
I’ve got you covered with all of the important differences between beef tallow and olive oil, their applications in baking and cooking, nutritional profiles, and tips on how to store them. Let’s go!
Comparing beef tallow vs olive oil
|Beef tallow||Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||Olive Oil (Virgin oil)|
|Solid or Liquid?||Solid||Liquid||Liquid||Liquid|
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||400 degrees||350 degrees||390-470 degrees||350 degrees|
|Good for Cooking…||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat||Raw, low, moderate, and high heat||Raw, light heat, moderate heat|
|Allergens||Mammalian meat allergy (MMA)||Olive, olive pollen||Olive, olive pollen||Olive, olive pollen|
|Paleo?||Yes||Yes||If it is not refined||Yes|
Differences between beef tallow and olive oil
Beef tallow is a rendered form of beef fat, obtained by slowly heating the fat until it melts and then straining it to remove any impurities.
On the other hand, olive oil is made by mechanically pressing olives to extract their natural oils. The extraction process of olive oil typically involves cold-pressing, which helps retain the natural flavors and nutrients of the olives.
The most notable difference between the two is their source: beef tallow comes from animal fat, while olive oil is derived from plants. But they also differ in their smoke point, cooking methods, and flavor – all coming up next!
Extra virgin vs regular vs virgin olive oil
When it comes to olive oil, there are different types to choose from: extra virgin, regular, and virgin.
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality, with a delicate flavor and superior characteristics. It is extracted without chemicals and has low acidity.
Regular olive oil, also known as pure or light, is a blend of refined and virgin oils, making it milder in taste.
Virgin olive oil falls between extra virgin and regular, offering a slightly higher acidity and a less intense flavor. So, if you’re looking for the finest taste and quality, extra virgin is the way to go, but regular and virgin are also suitable for everyday cooking needs!
Baking and cooking with beef tallow vs olive oil
Beef tallow has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it can withstand higher temperatures before it starts to smoke and degrade. This makes beef tallow suitable for high-heat cooking methods such as frying or roasting.
It imparts a rich, savory flavor to dishes, making it an excellent choice for frying crispy chicken or making flaky pie crusts. In my experience, it doesn’t work very well in sweet dishes due to its very savory, beefy flavor.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point, and while it can be used for cooking at moderate temperatures, it is better suited for lower-heat cooking, baking, in salad dressings, or as a finishing oil. Olive oil lends a distinctive fruity and herbal note to dishes, making it ideal for drizzling over salads or tossing with roasted vegetables.
Can beef tallow and olive oil be substituted for each other?
In some cases, beef tallow and olive oil can be used as substitutes for one another, depending on the dish and the desired flavor profile. For example, if a recipe calls for frying chicken in beef tallow, you can substitute it with olive oil, although the flavor will be different. Just make sure to use “regular” olive oil, which has the highest smoke point of all the different types of olive oil. Refined coconut oil is another great plant-based substitute for beef tallow.
When a recipe calls for using olive oil to sauté vegetables, you can substitute it with beef tallow for a richer, heartier taste. Keep in mind that the substitution may alter the overall flavor of the dish, so it’s important to consider the impact on the final result.
Nutrition: Beef tallow vs olive oil
As you can see from the table below, beef tallow is predominantly composed of saturated fats (“unhealthy fats”), while olive oil is primarily made up of monounsaturated fats (“healthy fats”).
Beef tallow also contains some cholesterol, but olive oil is completely cholesterol-free.
Olive oil also contains higher amounts of vitamin E and antioxidants compared to beef tallow. These antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
|Per tablespoon (15mL)||Beef tallow||Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||Olive Oil (Virgin oil)|
|Polyunsaturated||0.5 g||1.5 g||1.5 g||1.5 g|
|Monounsaturated||5.4 g||10 g||10 g||10 g|
|Saturated||6.4 g||2 g||2 g||2 g|
|Trans||0 g||0 g||0 g||0 g|
|Total Fat||12.8 g||14 g||14 g||14 g|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to store beef tallow and olive oil
Beef tallow should be stored in an airtight container or jar in a cool, dark place like a pantry or refrigerator. This helps to prevent oxidation and maintain its quality. Beef tallow typically lasts a long time – a year or longer if refrigerated!
Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent oxidation. It’s best to keep it tightly sealed in a dark-colored glass bottle or airtight container to maintain its freshness. Avoid storing olive oil near the stove or other areas prone to heat fluctuations, and use it up within about 6 months of opening.
Beef tallow vs olive oil: The ultimate verdict
It’s important to recognize that both have their own unique qualities and uses. While beef tallow is rich in saturated fats and has a higher smoke point for high-heat cooking, olive oil shines with its abundance of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and delicate flavors best suited for moderate-heat cooking or as a finishing oil.
Ultimately, the best choice is the one that aligns with your personal tastes and dietary goals. If you prioritize heart health and are looking for a versatile oil for various culinary applications, olive oil may be your top choice (it’s definitely mine!). On the other hand, if you’re seeking a fat with high heat stability and enjoy the savory flavors it imparts, beef tallow can be a fantastic choice.
Generally speaking, olive oil is considered healthier due to its higher content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
The healthiness of beef tallow versus oil depends on various factors such as overall dietary intake and individual health considerations, but in general, oils like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil are often considered healthier choices due to their higher content of heart-healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats compared to beef tallow’s higher saturated fat content.
Avocado oil is generally considered a healthier option compared to beef tallow due to its higher content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and beneficial nutrients, while beef tallow is higher in saturated fats.