Have you ever wondered what exactly lard is and how it’s used in cooking and baking? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, I’ll dive into how lard is made, the different types, nutritional benefits, and more. So let’s get started!
What is lard?
Lard is a type of fat that comes from pigs. It’s made by rendering the fat from the fatty tissues of the pig, typically the abdominal area.
Lard typically has a white or pale yellow color and a smooth, creamy texture when it is solid at room temperature. It has a dense and slightly waxy consistency that is firmer than butter or margarine. The texture can vary slightly depending on the specific processing and quality of the lard.
When lard is heated or melted, it transforms into a clear or translucent liquid. In its liquid form, lard is often used for frying or as a cooking oil substitute.
People have been using lard in cooking for a long time because it can add a rich and savory flavor to food. It’s also commonly used in pastry making, as it can create flaky and tender crusts.
How is lard made?
Lard is commercially made through a process called rendering.
Fat from pigs is sourced and cleaned, then cut or ground into smaller pieces. The fat is heated in vats or cookers, melting it and separating it from impurities. The melted fat is filtered to remove any remaining particles, cooled, and allowed to solidify into lard.
Once the fat has been rendered, it can be used directly or further processed to create different types of lard.
What’s the difference between lard and shortening?
Lard and shortening are both types of fats used in cooking that can be used as substitutes for each other in some recipes, but they are slightly different ingredients…
Lard is derived from animal fat, specifically pigs, while shortening is typically made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, which gives it a higher melting point and a firmer structure than lard. You can also get shortening that comes from animal fat, which is more similar to lard.
If made from vegetable oil, shortening has less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat compared to lard.
Types of lard
There are three main types of lard available, which are used for different applications:
Rendered lard: This is the most common type of lard, obtained by rendering the fat from the pig. It has a neutral flavor and can be used for various cooking and baking purposes.
Processed lard: This type of lard undergoes additional processing to remove any impurities and give it a more refined texture. It is often used in commercial food production.
Leaf lard: Considered the highest quality lard, leaf lard comes from the fat around the pig’s kidneys. It has a mild flavor and is particularly good for making flaky pie crusts and pastries.
Benefits of lard
Contrary to popular belief, lard has some nutritional benefits! Lard is a good source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health. It also contains monounsaturated fats, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels.
As for culinary perks, lard adds a rich, indulgent flavor and makes your pastries flaky and delicious.
And here’s a bonus: lard is a natural and traditional cooking fat, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Whether you’re paleo or lactose intolerant, lard can fit into your lifestyle.
Lard (pork fat) nutrition facts
|Serving size||1 tbsp (15mL)|
|Total Fat||12.8 g|
Note: The nutrition facts provided are based on a serving size of 1 tablespoon (15mL) of rendered lard (pork fat). The primary fat source is bolded.
How to cook and bake with lard
Cooking and baking with lard can be a game-changer in the kitchen! Let’s dive into how to make the most of it…
Lard has a higher smoke point than butter, making it suitable for frying, sautéing, and roasting.
Simply substitute lard for butter or oil in your favorite recipes. In my experience, lard works wonders in dishes like roasted potatoes, flaky pie crusts, or even in making crispy fried chicken. Its rich flavor and ability to create a tender, moist texture make it one of my favorites.
When it comes to baking with lard, you’ll want to use leaf lard. Its neutral flavor and high quality making it perfect for pie crusts and biscuits. The flakiness and tenderness it brings to baked goods are simply unmatched!
Ways to use lard
For things to make with lard, think pastries, fried food, and tender meat:
- Pie crusts
- Pastries (like croissants and turnovers)
- Fried chicken
- French fries
- Roasted meats
- Refried beans
- Pork rinds
How to make lard at home
It’s easy to render lard at home if you have the time!
- Start by taking the fat from pork and chopping it into small pieces.
- Place the fat in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat it over low heat until it melts.
- Continue heating until it separates into liquid fat and crispy bits called cracklings.
- Strain the liquid fat into a heatproof container and discard the crispy bits.
- Once it’s cooled, you end up with creamy white lard ready to be used in all sorts of delicious dishes!
How to store lard
To store lard, it is best to transfer it to airtight containers or jars and keep it refrigerated.
One of the benefits of lard is its long shelf life, lasting six months at room temperature, one year in the refrigerator, and at least two years if stored in the freezer!
What are the best substitutes for lard?
Animal-based shortening is the best substitute for lard in most recipes, but you can also use vegetable shortening/Crisco as a plant-based substitute.
For cooking, I recommend using a combination of shortening and bacon grease to get that same savory flavor that pork fat provides.
Ghee is also a suitable option, especially for high-heat cooking.
Lard is considered less healthy due to its high saturated fat content, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excessive amounts.
Yup! Lard is essentially pig fat that has been rendered and processed for culinary use.
Lard and butter are both high in saturated fat. While lard has a slightly higher saturated fat content, butter contains more cholesterol. Moderation is key when it comes to consuming these fats.
No, lard and Crisco are different products. Lard is made from rendered pig fat, while Crisco is a brand of hydrogenated vegetable shortening.