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Pork Fat

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So I've got a whole lot of fat that I trimmed off of a pork shoulder. I'd hate to see it go to waste, so what's the proper way of rendering this stuff? Should I leave it as it is, and store it in the freezer, or melt it on the stove first?


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  1. I don't understand cutting it off in the first place. It's the best part of any meat.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mucho gordo

      I don't understand cutting it off in the first place.
      you don't have to remove *all* of it, and this way you can use it to add fat & pork flavor to other foods.

        1. re: mucho gordo

          well, i've had pork fat on the brain since watching last night's Iron Chef America battle...it was the secret ingredient!

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            well, i've had pork fat on the brain since watching last night's Iron Chef America battle...it was the secret ingredient!


            I almost wanted to genuflect before your Chowhound greatness when I read the first 8 words of your post. Now, that would be some kind of dish ... would that be a "brain confit lardo"?

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I almost wanted to genuflect before your Chowhound greatness when I read the first 8 words of your post.
              [gasp!] you mean you didn't *already* worship me?

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Doesn't everyone worship you ghg? How could one not!? You *are* after all *the* goodhealthgourmet! Providing gourmet, healthful and sometimes obscure but always tasty info from the envied (at least by me, kinda) environs of the SoCal Coast. You do rock ghg - always good advice ;->

                1. re: just_M

                  LOL! M, this just made my night. thanks :)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I actually worship at the altar of your doppelgänger, badhealthgourmet ...

    2. If its large enough, I cube it or try and get the pieces to a similar size. Then let it render on low in my slow cooker.

      1. Whether you render it now or freeze it is entirely up to you. I guess it partially depends on how often you tend to accumulate fat: if you know you'll be salvaging a significant amount of scraps over the next 4 to 6 weeks, I'd probably freeze just so you can render it all at once.

        As for rendering, the oven is easiest. You have a few options that I know of: (1) rendering on a fine-meshed rack placed over a roasting pan or cookie sheet; (2) just dumping it in a pot and letting it render in its own fat; and (3) "wet" rendering it in water and separating the lard once chilled.

        I've never tried 3 and favor method 2. The wet process is, I believe, designed to prevent initial browning, which of course both reduces the amount of fat that will render and intensifies the pork flavor. I actually like the porky flavor, and deal with the initial browning problem by baking at lower temperature than most folks.

        No matter the method you choose, cut the pork fat as finely as you have patience for: it's not a big deal, but smaller pieces will definitely render both faster and more efficiently. Some people (I think someone on CH when offering me advice, actually) even recommend giving it a few pulses in the food processor. It works for sure, but for me there's not usually enough benefit to merit coating all the parts of the processor in pig fat. I bake a pound or two at a time at either 225 or 250, which takes several hours to fully render and develop a rich nutty color and flavor that will stay pale golden, not white, even as it solidifies. You can pull it much earlier: it's technically "done" whenever the fat cubes have turned into cracklings that are starting to brown and have mostly stopped bubbling. If you plan to use your lard for baking in dishes where you want a less noticeable pork flavor, definitely pull earlier. You can up the temperature to as high as 350, but you have to pay much closer attention and I find I get less lard. Not a big deal either way. You'll find what works for you.

        When the fat is cool enough to not be dangerous, pour it through a fine-meshed strainer (you can line it with a paper towel or coffee filter if you want) into your storage container. I use an old ball canning jar or one of those glass Fido jars with the metal clasp. The rendered fat is good for months in the fridge and freezes for at least a year. The cracklings are of course great in salads, tacos, sandwiches or worked into biscuit dough.

        1 Reply
        1. re: eight_inch_pestle

          If you've got slabs or chunks of pork fat, I definitely recommend giving it a whirl or low pulse through your food processor.

        2. Get another pork shoulder and make sausage with it and your fat supply. Should be about the right lean/fat ratio.

          1. I render in my slow cooker, too.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jaykayen

              As do I, after cutting into strips and running it through my meat grinder. Here's an old thread with great advice. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/452106

              I plan to update it one of these days with some pics I took of a recent rendering, but not sure when I'll get around to it.

              1. re: Chris VR

                I'm going to have to try the grinding, but do you get big enough leftover pieces to turn into cracklins?

                1. re: just_M

                  They're small, for sure, but they work nicely to stir into the rendered lard to make a lovely spread, or to sprinkle over anything that needs sprinkling.

                  1. re: Chris VR

                    A must try, as there are many things that could use just a little sprinkle ;-)

                    1. re: just_M

                      I do a fine dice by hand, but, yeah, having little minced cracklings on hand is an amazing gift from the lard-making process.

              1. This may turn-off a lot of health conscious hounds but this is my thought.
                I actually buy the pork fat once in a while to treat my family and friends.
                First, I trim off the tough skin if there is any. Then I cut up the fat, some with tiny pieces of meat, into one inch cubes. I put these cubes into a dry iron skillet and turn the heat on to medium high. I let it go for about 20 mins or so, or until the cubes have turned a golden brown and rendered their fat (there's quite a bit.) I then remove the cubes to several layers of paper towels and salt them. DaDah, you have the most delicious chicharrones you'll ever have and you have lots of rendered fat that will keep in the fridge indefinitely.
                Then, we have a stack of fresh, yellow corn tortillas and lots of hot homemade chile. We make tacos out of this wonderful treat and everyone is happy, happy, happy. This is not a regular ongoing thing but when the mood hits, its a treat for all.
                My mom used to surprise my dad and us kids on Sunday morning with this fattening wonder and it has a lot of good memories for me as well.

                1. I'd store in the freezer until you've accumulated a couple of pounds or more, enough to justify the long rendering time. As far as technique, I'm in the slow cooker camp - cut into small cubes and leave it on low for 24 hours or so. How long depends on whether you want a more neutral flavor (good for baking) or a more roasted flavor (good for where you want some "porkiness"). If you stop as soon as the fat is mostly liquid and strain it, it will turn out white and very clean-tasting (but you'll have to cook the cracklins more if you want to use them). If you keep going until it starts to turn yellowish and the cracklins are getting brown, then it will taste like roasted pork. The latter is fabulous in tamales, in particular. Either way, your house will smell divine. Good luck!