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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.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        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.