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Jan 9, 2012 06:11 PM

Best type of shortening for pastry?


Looking to make biscuits this week, and the recipe had called for butter and shortening.

Was wondering what type of shortening to buy would be best?
I've never done anything like this before (home-scratch-made pastry). In fact, I will be the first in the household to ever do this.

Would preferably like to start with something cheaper that I can get access to pretty quickly.

Thanks, all.

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  1. We have always used Crisco. The parents and grand parents used it as well. You might want to check the Crisco site for ideas, as well as googling for other brands/types of shortening. Good luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dcrb

      Sounds great. Would you recommend freezing or refrigerating the crisco before use to harden it up?

    2. some people believe in lard. I have lard. It does give a very different texture than butter (if you count it as shortening).

      I don't know if it is best. It is very different, and it is better in some cases.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Where would you say would be the most convenient place to pick up or purchase lard? I dont believe I've ever seen it on any of the shelves at a regular grocery store.

        At least not that I recall. But then again-- I've never really looked either....

        this is all new to me.

        1. re: achilles007

          Hi achilles,

          If you live in the South (US), then it should be readily available. Now, there are lard sold in grocery stores across the country, but they are not the real lard. Usually, the one you see the grocery stores are something like Armour lard:

          but it is really a combination of lard and hydrogenated lard. I have never tried it, but many people claim it does not taste as good.

          For real lard, your best bet is the farmer markets. You can buy it online too, but it can be expensive.

          By the way, if you want lard for baked good, then you don't want just any lard. You want leaf lard. It is the of higher quality and has very little to none of the "meat and blood" favor. Also keep in mind that you can buy unrendered lard vs rendered lard:


          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I have many times used lard other than leaf lard for pastry (including my own home-rendered lard), and if there is a difference, it is tiny. Nothing wrong with using regular, ordinary lard for pastry. Don't worry about it.

      2. Pastry (pie crusts) I would use a combo of butter and shortening - it gives flavor and flakiness. In a perfect world!

        For biscuits, honestly, more important than the shortening is the flour. You want a soft winter wheat. You can get that using white lilly, or cake flour or, in my case, I often use tortilla flour. (A soft, almost creamy texture. Great flavor.)

        So lets say you've gotten white lilly all purpose (which is still a soft wheat) or a self rising soft wheat. If you have that in hand, then life is good - use crisco, and for your fluid - buttermilk. The biscuits will be delightful!

        Make sure your oven is fully preheated, make sure your biscuit cutters are sharp (no dull wineglasses to cut here, it will seal the edges and prevent them from rising much.) And then --play. (Do not over knead! Just knead until the dough comes together.)

        Once you get the hang of it, it will be the biggest reward for the least amount of effort - an awesome thing.

          1. re: rasputina

            I guess.. my next question would be... what's the difference between lard and shortening? I thought the two were interchangeable and basically the same?

            1. re: achilles007

              lard is an animal product, shortening is a vegetable product.

              1. re: achilles007

                lard is much more specific. Lard refers to pig fat (rendered or not). Shortening can be many things.


                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Thanks for the link!

                  So it basically all boils down into animal fat (pig being the exception as it is referred to as "lard") vs. vegetable fat when it comes to choice of shortening.

                  I really hate to use hydrogenated fats as the potential health risks that could ensue from consuming the altered structure of the fatty acid chain (we really either aren't suppose to have or dont have the enzymes or at least the most adequate amount) in trying to break down this naturally unoccurring structural isomer.

                  However, animal fats, including lard, are so much harder to find and are probably more expensive. *sigh*

                  1. re: achilles007

                    The "new" crisco has no trans fats. But if it worries you, just use very cold cubed butter - and a pastry blender : )

                    1. re: happybaker

                      "The "new" crisco has no trans fats"

                      Not so:


                      Crisco folks claim "0 grams of trans fats per serving", which is code for the government is letting us claim we don't have something in our product that we actually do. Seriously, do these ingredients look like delicious food to anyone?

                      TBHQ comes from petroleum. Yum!

                      1. re: sandylc

                        I think the negatives of partially hydrogenated trans fats are so clearly established, its the only ingredient i make a conscious effort to minimize.
                        I always liked to make crusts and biscuits with a mix of butter and some shortening, but i think its just not worthit and go all butter now

                    2. re: achilles007

                      Lard is readily available at almost every grocery store I've shopped at and it's not expensive.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        But as Chemicalkinetics said above, the lard commonly sold in grocery stores is of substandard quality/taste and partially hydrogenated.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          So back to the happy fat - butter!

              2. For biscuits, use bacon grease.

                For pie crusts, use a combo of butter and shortening.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Hmmm... never thought of bacon grease. My only concern would be if this would be firm enough to be able to use and cut into the flour?

                  1. re: achilles007

                    You can chill the bacon grease if that concerns you. But room temp bacon grease has texture much like shortening, so it's not a big deal.

                    My only concern is that yes, bacon grease is lovely but it does taste like, well, bacon. If you are making cheddar cheese scallion biscuits then it's a fab fat for that. If you want biscuits to serve with butter and jam - then I'd go for shortening or butter.

                    I have never had biscuits made with lard, so I can't speak for that.

                    1. re: happybaker

                      I'm sorry. I was just under the impression that all fat had to be chilled or very cold and at least solid before cutting into the dough, in order to make the final product rise in the oven. At least this is what I got from the Food Network.

                      So I was trying to imagine cutting something like bacon grease (which is usually more of a thick liquid) into the flour would be pretty difficult to "cut" into the flour, unlike hard, cold butter which would give me the "crumbly, coarse-meal-like" texture I would need before adding the milk.

                      Am I off base here?

                      1. re: achilles007

                        You are not off base, milk fats should be chilled - but don't believe everything you see on food network : )

                        Get a copy of The Man Who Ate Everything - and read the essay on making a pie crust. How Marian Cunningham walks him through it is fabulous. Or, get a copy of her Learning to Cook from the library - she has great pics on blending the shortening and what it should look like.

                        I haven't cooked with bacon grease since my 20's - but the stuff we had was solid. And that was at room temperature!

                        For this first try, I'd say stick with the butter/shortening combo, or the straight shortening (Crisco!). Just make sure to use buttermilk with the crisco and you will have plenty of flavor..

                        And honestly, once you do it once or twice, you will be surprised at how easy it is. I have a dear friend who calls me and asks "Can I come over for tea and biscuits?" She does, and I have to preheat the oven and wait about 10 minutes - because if I mix the biscuits right after I turn on the oven - I'll have them mixed too soon and they will just sit there, waiting for the oven to get too hot.

                        One last thing - if you have hulu premium, I think you can see just about every episode of good eats ever produced. Alton did a KILLER episode on making biscuits with his grandmother (yes his real one) and not only is it helpful, it's delightful.

                        Happy Baking!