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Lard - to use or not to use? [moved from Home Cooking]

Let's face it, McD's french fries were better tasting before they stopped using beef tallow to cook them in. I understand some religious groups got very excited about the subterfuge.

So, last week at the Food Max (Whole Foods can kiss mine, $5.99 lb for organic melon), I bought a 4 pound bucket of lard. I've pan-fried several potato dishes and sauteed onions for a soup. For the latter I often use butter, but the lard use has me intrigued. Also there is sooo much of it.

My former Mom-in-law tells me should I want a dish to taste like my mom and/or grandma made it was to use lard or bacon grease (basically salty lard). I'm not sure that my taste memory is that great, but so far the lard seems to be excellent at getting things really crisp, but I don't 'taste' a difference otherwise.

Your experiences??

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  1. Hi again,
    Alot depends on how lard is rendered. Surermarket (factory) lard imparts little flavor to your food and I'll bet it's bleached somehow. I buy my manteca (lard) in the Mexican Grocery store where a lot of times the people who own the store make their own OR get it from someone else who does. It is browner and tastes bacony and porky.I have to keep myself from eating a spoonful it looks and smells so good.Think about really good Mexican food that has been cooked in flavorful lard(the fat of the Gods in my book.)That's partly why the food is so tasty. Did you know that lard contains less saturated fat than butter? I learned that from reading Rick Bayless's great Mexican Cook books. I'm sure you could find out more on Mexican lard by reading his books.

    Actually, a cooking teacher I once had taught us that the ultimate delicious flavor imparting fat for cooking is bacon fat. Think of it as "pork butter."

    1. I agree with missclaudy. Also besides being flavorless the bright white supermarket lard is homogenatated and has much more saturated fats than plain lard.

      I always strain and save all my cooking fats. Bacon, chicken, duck, etc. and store in jars in my fridge or freezer. Great to use when you are cooking something fast and need to boost flavors and olive oil isn't right for the recipe. I always cook my fries in lard/fat.

      I used to get nice pork fat from a butcher for pennies and render out lard. Lately most supermarket meat is pre cut up and they don't get as much primal cuts or split carcasses anymore. The day of the expert butcher is fading fast.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JMF

        Oops, I meant hydrogenated not homogenated.

      2. There's also leaf lard from the fat around the pig's kidneys and doesn't carry the porky taste of fatback lard. Leaf lard is better for things like pastry crust where you don't want the pork flavor.

        Cheryl_h talks about rendering her own lard from a pig she raised herself ... talk about out Martha-ing Martha Stewart. I was so impressed.


        You know, I've frozen butter and I just learned lard can be frozen ... and I never took that next logical leap that bacon fat could be frozen. Thanks, JMF. Lot's of bacon discussions on the SF board lately, one of which may finally push me to do some bacon tastings. Now I know I can keep the fat by freezing it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Hi rworange - I'd like to take the credit, but we didn't raise the pig, we bought it from the farmers who did. They have a small butcher store which is where we get most of our meat. I ran out of leaf lard recently and called them about getting more. They said sure, they had it. For 79c a pound. I can hardly believe my luck. I have 4lbs coming so we'll be in good shape for apple pies this fall.

          For some dishes pork fat gives a unique depth of flavor. Last night I made char kuey teow, a stir-fried rice noodle dish which is a common street food in Singapore. I've tried it many times before but always had trouble getting the flavors right. Last night's dish still isn't there but using lard made a huge difference. It flavors the rice noodles with a subtle smokiness which is key.

          I don't know how healthy lard is, all the medical advice is against animal fats. But my last cholesterol check showed that I have low total cholesterol, good hdl/ldl ratios etc. so lard can't be the kiss of death.

          1. re: cheryl_h

            here's my thought on the health issue. Don't fry all the time, and don't order fried foods. If you want the pleasure put in the work at home and do it right, with the flavor/texture you want (from lard). Also, when done with care, foods don't absorb all that much fat.

        2. I use lard. I get it from a farmer. It has a lovely porky flavor and in not homogenized etc. Lovely light tan color and it makes wonderful biscuits. Oh and that carnitas recipe from Bayless where the strips of pork shoulder are submerged in it and cooked unril golden with a bit of lime peel and salt.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            That's two people who described lard as being "homogenized" -- do you mean hydrogenated?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Presumably, since lard is pretty homogenous.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I love it when foodies and wordies get together!

          2. All this is great advice and worth it to look into for cooking. Duck fat is another thing said to be beautiful for potatoes... and it's certainly easy to catch some if you make some duck.

            1. You know what Emeril says: "Pork fat rules!"

              4 Replies
              1. re: River Rat

                My mom taught me that while Emeril was still a gleam in his mama's eyes!!!

                1. re: missclaudy

                  As did mine! And our mommas are still both right.

                2. re: River Rat

                  (Please forgive me, but I have to say it) PRAISE THE LARD!

                3. I should note that the Jewish New Year is often one of two times a year (December being the other, both for Chanukah and Christmas) when you can get fresh geese in some markets, and I try to get at least one a year to render a good quart of goose fat. Goose fat is even better than duck fat.

                  1. It seems to be have been addressed here but there is a **very** important distinction between the lard (manteca) sold in the tubs and the lard you either render yourself or have done by a butcher. The former is basically hydrogenated (Crisco) for the purpose of extended shelf-life and is laden with transfat, which studies show is basically culinary 'poison'.
                    Real rendered lard, on the other hand is actually somewhat 'safer' than butter in terms of saturated fats. Of course if you're concerned about saturated fats for health reasons, best to be discrete in terms of how much you use but IMO it imparts a flavor that simply cannot be reproduced with oil or butter. And if used in a reasonable manner should not be all that dangerous.
                    In my experience with Mexican food in particular, both eating and cooking, it cannot be substituted and very easy to tell when an attempt is made to do so. We always keep a frozen tub of it on hand and we've yet to see it spoil.

                    1. For me, as Mexican Cook, it's not just about flavor (I would never make a batch of black beans without Lard!!) but also the texture that lard emparts. It makes the beans VELVETY and the Masa just stickey enough.

                      Lard does make a noticable difference...


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Dommy

                        What type of lard do you use, Dommy? Are there different types available at Mexican Markets? I've been shopping at these often lately and just wondering. Thanks.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Right now I'm working through a brick of the white stuff, which is what we always used. One of my mother's prize posessions was her can of 'manteca'(It's a nice can that actually says that! :)) she would slowly collect making her own bacon and chicharones. Once I'm done with that, I'm going to experiment with the more liquidity stuff.

                          The white stuff you can find at the butcher. The liquidity stuff by the deli.


                      2. I checked with the company to make sure, and Grandma Utz's Kettle Coooked potato chips are made with natural (not hydrogenated) lard.

                        1. I bought my first tub of lard last week. I used it to fry my duck schnitzel.Didn't have the duck fat.A freind gave me some skinless breasts. He's a hunter.It was so much better than using canola or veg oil.
                          Anyway. How bad is this going to be for me if I continue to use it ? I use olive oil most all the time, and hardly ever fry. A cube of butter will last me two weeks or more. I sauteed some lamb shoulder chops tonight. Very tasty and browned very nice. Get hooked or kick the habit now?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: emglow101

                            Your own personal biology, health history, lifestyle and eating habits go into deciding if using lard often is recommended.
                            Infrequently and in moderation it should be a non-issue.

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Well said. This whole notion that some fats are intrinsically "healthy" while others are intrinsically "unhealthy" is way overstated. Even transfats probably aren't as evil as they've been made out to be, although I would still avoid them just on the principle that I try to avoid artificially created foods when there are less processed alternatives available.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                BTW, after I made this comment I emailed my sister, who is a graduate student in biology and diabetic, so both interested in and capable of understanding nutrition research. I asked "With all the talk about good fats and bad fats and transfats and Omega 6 vs. Omega 3, how much evidence is there that the types of fats you eat actually have a measurable effect on your health outcomes?"

                                She gave me some links from a search on PubMed, most of which concluded that types of fat people ate had little to no effect on health outcomes. One did suggest a modest increase in Omega 3s (they suggested oily fish 2-3 times a week) could reduce "cardiovascular events."

                                And that, she says, is why she puts cream in her coffee!

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Ha, interesting.
                                  I'm a quality of life person- an infrequent enjoyable meal is worth any (minor) consequences. But to keep the indulgence enjoyable it can't also be the "new normal".

                            2. re: emglow101

                              Yes, animal fats brown fried foods much better than vegetable based ones. Not surprised your lamb shoulder chops came out nice and browned. ;D

                            3. My mother raises pastured hogs, so yes, we absolutely use lard in this house :) Anytime she has a pig butchered I ask for all the trimmed fat to be saved for me so I can render it down. And my house smells like yummy pork fat for days...

                              I use it a lot for frying, sometimes mixing it with vegetable oil for a lighter taste + the crispness of frying in lard. Really I think the key is knowing your source and knowing that it's from pastured pork fat...I'd never buy supermarket lard.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: sockii

                                Me too.
                                I buy pure clean raised ground pork "kidney fat" for leaf lard and render it myself. It is shockingly white and lovely. No chemicals or toxic crap in there.

                                I would not buy grocery store lard.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  I'll also add that I love using lard when I'm cooking lean pork, like say a stuffed loin or some pork chops that don't have a lot of fat on them. It keeps all the "porky" flavor in the meat and is great for basting, or sauteing vegetables that are going to go into a pork dish.

                                  1. re: sockii

                                    That's true, but according to "How to Cook a French Fry", not for the reason you think. It doesn't help keep the "porky" flavor in, the fat actually carries a lot of the "pork" flavor in it. HTCAFF says that many animal proteins taste quite similar on their own, its the fat that gives them a distinct and characteristic flavor. ;D

                                    And it is the melted fat that gives the meat a "moist" or "juicy" texture as well.

                              2. An old thread, but since it has recently awakened I will weigh in to agree that lard absolutely RULES. My Eastern European family always used it and as far as I'm concerned there is no substitute. And among animal fats, it is considered to be among the healthiest. Many experts generally consider it to be healthier than butter and it is most certainly a healthier option than shortening. I always have some home rendered lard in my fridge.

                                Like anything, common sense and moderation needs to be considered. While it is pretty well established that eating fat is not what makes you fat, fats (animal or vegetable) may affect the body in various ways, the type of fat selected makes a difference. The scientific consensus seems to indicate that if you're going to use animal fats, pork lard is definitely one of the better choices.

                                One correction to the OP however (about 7 years late. LOL): bacon fat is not "salty lard"...the salt in the bacon from which it comes is not fat soluble. Bacon fat does not taste salty at all.