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lard?

i'm curious about replacing shortening in recipes for baked goods with lard. i'm not into crisco and find plain old butter not to be the best substitute in many cases. i have a tub of mexican-style lard (manteca) that i purchased at a mexican market in queens, which i use for certain mexican dishes, beans, etc. however, it smells very smoky and bacony, and is kind of brownish, so i suspect it is just rendered bacon fat. i'm a bit hesitant to put this in my pie crusts, etc., as i don't want them to taste like bacon! so i'm wondering what true lard looks and smells like, and if it would be possible to render it myself? is there a difference between "manteca" and "lard"?

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  1. If you want to try baking with lard (I use it for pie crusts and they come out fabulously flaky and flavorful), you should use leaf lard - lard rendered from the area around the kidneys. It's got a little bit of a smell, but is basically white and definitely not smoky or bacony. I'd use manteca for Mexican cooking . . . beans come to mind immediately.

    You can render it yourself, but it's work (I know people on the board do it, so maybe someone will reply here). I always get mine from a specialty market that regularly renders it. Keeps for-eva in the freezer.

    1. Manteca is spanish for lard, but it should not be brown and smoky tasting. If you can find pork fat, even if it's just scraps rather than back or belly fat, you can make lard. There are several methods but the main thing is not to cook at too high a temperature, which may be what happened with the lard you bought. You might try another store first. Color is a good guide. Lard for baking won't be pure white like Crisco, but pretty close.

      1. Home made lard is easy. As mentioned, the trick is to render very slowly, on the lowest heat possible. Most supermarket meat counters will sell you trimmings, especially if you ask in advance (some of them sell it to rendering plants, others put it right out with the meats, at reduced prices). It does make, hands down, THE best pie crusts. Good for some frying, too. Certainly healthier than stuff like Crisco, but obviously, you don't want to overdo it either. But for some dishes, it's indispensable.

        1. First of all, your username is hilarious.

          Manteca/lard has no smoky flavor. It's halfway between the scent of fresh pork and nothing. Your stuff would be awesome for frying starch, but I'd stay away from using it in a sweet pastry context.

          The Armour stuff in the white/green/red box is very predictable and neutral. When I can't get to my excellent Mexican butcher shop, it's what I use.

          1. The Armour brand Manteca/Lard in the green & white box that I buy regularly at the local megamart does not have any bacon/smoky flavor at all. Save that box for savory dishes, not baking, and get another block; it's only a couple bucks. Best thing for pie crusts and fluffy arepas/gorditas.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KiltedCook

              Note that Armour's is hydrogenated and has a chemically aftertaste.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie beat me to it. Beware of animal fat that can be kept unrefrigerated for months or years. Lard is rendered pig fat, end of recipe. Those bricks are crisco made from lard instead of vegetable oil. Hydrogenated lard does make excellent pie crust, so if you use it in small amounts it may be no big deal. But it is less healthy than pure lard, and possibly even butter.