USING LARD FOR EVERYTHING! (That you use butter for, that is)
I have a friend who's currently on a huge lard kick.
He's currently trying to find ways to substitute lard for the things he'd normally use butter for.
His latest project: mac & cheese.
Would you say that lard is relatively interchangeable with butter? Certainly not in a recipe like mac & cheese where lard is a flavoring agent, but how does lard's chemical properties affect baking and other applications? Can you exchange 1:1? What other things should one be aware of when swapping out lard for butter? Smoke point, etc.? For what applications is lard better suited than butter?
Any and all ideas welcome.
The lard I have and use I rendered from 1/2 an organic, pastured pig. It is nothing like supermarket lard, for whatever that's worth. I also suspect it's different than what one would get from conventionally raised pig, but I suppose I'll never know for sure.
Anyway, I find that it has a lower melting point and seems to be quite a bit more soft and gloppy at room temperature vs. butter. It would not hold it's shape at room temp the way a stick of butter just sitting there does. In that regard it had a bit of a learning curve for pie crust but the end results are noticeably different and better than with other fats (I use 50/50 lard/butter).
As has been said, it makes absolutely killer popcorn. I also use it for frying, saute, confit, and as the fat for roux based things, etc. Basically anything that needs a fat and where I won't miss the dairy note contributed by butter.
I've got a doomsday size freezer stash--I got almost three gallons of lard from our 1/2 pig. Shortly after I rendered it, I noticed that one of our uber high end farm to table markets had organic lard in their cold case for $12 a pint.
Because of its relatively high smoke point, lard can be used to pop popcorn (instead of oil). Gives it a nice flavor (though I wouldn't drizzle it over the popped corn like butter).
For the same reason I like to use a piece of lard to oil up a waffle iron, panini press, muffin tins, or a cast iron skillet that you're about to make pancakes or cornbread in. Works better than butter, which can too easily burn.
I am assuming that he has access to a high quality minimally processed lard? Yes, maybe from a happy pig share? High quality lard is tasty.
I would view it as a Crisco alternative rather than a butter alternative, which of course was designed as a lard alternative. It fries well, it makes baked goods crispy and light, the flavor is better in baked goods than Crisco but not, to me, nearly as good as butter. For Western style baked goods that are designed to showcase butter, I wouldn't sub out more than half. For other types of baked goods it probably doesn't matter.
Makes excellent pie pastry, I have been told because the crystalline nature of the fat cuts into the gluten. My mother never used anything else, and the flavor (this was processed Tenderflake lard) was not anything more than a little savory. You could see the layers in her pastry when you cut it.
Lard in chinese almond cookies make a really rich, flaky cookie. I don't miss the butter flavor in that cookie as I do in others.
If you're baking, as L987 pointed out, you won't get the same results substituting lard for butter. It could still be good but the higher fat in int will cause it to spread more. You can prevent it by adding a little more flour. For those chinese almond cookies, I use a recipe that calls for lard.
We bought 1/2 pig this spring, which came with a large package of fat. Just 2 days ago I rendered this 4 1/2 pounds of fat into lard. Used Alton Brown's instructions here:
I ended up with more than a quart and a half of nice white lard. Our fried potatoes yesterday were very good because of it. But it has a definite pork smell -- not nearly as strong as bacon grease, just mild meat. Wonderful for potatoes, fish, rice, savory bread and biscuits, or chicken pot pie crust. If I used it for a fruit pie I'd use butter and lard in equal amounts. I read that the special lard that comes from around the kidney (I think) of the pig is milder and better suited for sweet baking than the "fatback" lard.
I'm just beginning to learn about lard too, so this is more of an extension of the OP's question than an answer!