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Cooking Fat

I'm still mourning Crisco, that unhealthy addition to our otherwise delicious baked goods. I understand they have a healthier version to what's offered on my grocery shelves, but I've yet to find it. I've been using butter in pie crust and it's fine, but I still remember how nice the Crisco crusts were. Don't get me wrong. I love butter and what it imparts to baked goods, but crust...not the same.

Recently I switched from canola oil to safflower oil because I've never liked the odor of canola oil, and safflower is more neutral. I use olive oil alot too. What does everybody else think about this?

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  1. I think I may have a can of Crisco hanging around someplace, but it will have to be over six years old. I don't know where it is, but I'm pretty sure I didn't throw it out. My primary use of Crisco was for buttercream frosting for wedding cakes using an old Wilton recipe they no longer publish that used Crisco, canned milk and confectioner's sugar. It was great for string work!

    Today my kitchen fats primarily consist of light olive oil for cooking, evoo for salad dressings and finishing, peanut oil for frying, and toasted sesame oil for Asian dishes.

    This morning I very unusually had some rendered bacon fat AND rendered beef fat on hand and tried an experiment making croutons. My conclusion was that bacon fat will produce the crispiest possible croutons, beef fat is second, and olive oil or butter bring up the rear. Sorry about that. So much for low cholesterol...

    Which brings me to a study I read somewhere on line today about how beef will shorten your life (by minutes or weeks, so who cares?). It is purportedly the largest long term diet study ever, that ran for something like more than thirty years and was conducted in the U.S. My problem with that study is that by default, all of those people would have been eating grain fed beef. Grass fed beef is MUCH healthier, but there are no studies! <sigh> To my great regret, I can find no information on any piggie's diet being as beneficial to the little oinkers as grass is to cattle, so no way of knowing whether there is any kind of bacon fat that will produce non-artery clogging bacon fat super crispie croutons! Pity. I would be soooo there!

    1. Baking fat or Cooking fat?

      For baking, I mostly use butter, and under special circumstance I use lard and even no trans-fat Crisco.

      For cooking, I mostly use grapeseed oil, but I am really not too picky here. I use corn oil and peanut oil as well. Sometime when needed, I use ghee.

      1. I've been told that lard works even better than crisco. But please don't tell me that any grocery store will carry it, they don't. In fact only one of the three grocery stores near me even has buttermilk. One thing about lard, apparently it has a short shelf life. Hydrogenating fats greatly stabilizes them, but since lard isn't hydrogenated, it spoils/ripens/whatever quite quickly. My great grandmother used to render her own lard from pig kidney's. Somewhere along the way that recipe was lost. I am sure that I would have trouble finding pig kidney's too.

        11 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Every Hispanic market I've shopped in carries lard. It's usually packaged in one pound blocks like butter, except it's usually on the shelves along with oils and vegetable shortenings. Refrigerate it once you get it home and it will keep longer. Or freeze it. Makes fabulous pie dough and great Mexican style cookies. If only it was diet food...

          1. re: Caroline1

            we do have one (1) hispanic market here, they don't carry it either. I admit, I haven't actually looked in Whole Foods, but I tend to avoid that place.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              That's incredible! A Hispanic market without lard is like a corn stalk without ears. Its just not done....! I'm stunned. I don't think it's legal for a Hispanic market not to stock lard. <shaking head in disbeief>

              1. re: Caroline1

                I'm dubious as well. This is worse than a corn stalk without ears, it's like a Kosher butcher that stocks only pork products.

              2. re: KaimukiMan

                Just read that you're in Hawaii so that would probably explain the shortage of harder to find ingredients... at least hispanic ones. Maybe they can order lard for you? It really does make an amazing pie crust...

            2. re: KaimukiMan

              I make my own lard (pig fat + heat) and it keeps for multiple months in the fridge with no problem. I get some sheets of pig fat at the market, cut them up into ~ 2cm pieces, put in a deep pot with a cup of water to about 500 g of fat, and cook on medium heat. The water helps get the fat melting without burning, and then evaporates. Cook until the remaining bits float and are getting crunchy and the sizzling has nearly stopped. Fish out the bits and let them cook (keep for seasonings or snacks), and after it's cooled a bit, strain into a clean jar.

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                i found a site on line that shows how to do it in a crock pot too (lard or tallow). I've never tried buying pork or beef fat at the local supermarket.

                Pie making just isn't a popular pastime in Hawaii, and while i can make great piecrust (using crisco) on the mainland when i'm there around thanksgiving, i have a heck of a time getting it to come out right here. perhaps if i lived in a humidity controlled air conditioned box, but i don't. 80 degree weather with high humidity just doesn't seem to be a natural environment for piecrust.

                And i don't know anyone who makes their own tortillas. We do have one Hispanic Market (Mercado De La Raza) here, which I'm told does carry lard usually. They must have been out the two times I checked. Maybe I need to ask for 'manteca', the spanish word for it.

              2. re: KaimukiMan

                Most of the lard in the stores here IS hydrogenated. Much to my disappointment.

                1. re: sandylc

                  It's difficult to store any fats without some hydrogenation taking place. Take a cube of butter that's been in your refrigerator for a week or two. Slice it and examine the edges around the outside of the butter cube. They may be a more transparent yellow than the rest of the butter. If they are, that's due to hydrogenation. Some foil wrappers deter it better than the standard paper wrappers. But in store bought lard, are you sure it's all hydrogenated? I haven't checked, but hydrogenation is a process more commonly used with oils simply because it makes them harder at room temperature, such as the texture hyrdrogenation produces in margarine. Without it, margarine would have to be packaged in tubs and put on bread with a spoon. But it doesn't exactly do good things for our bodies. But it does make margarine spreadable instead of pourable.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    after doing some reading apparently the reason for hydrogenation is to create a shelf stable product.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      Yes, shelf sable, but it certainly makes margarine able to hold its shape instead of requiring a tub for a home. '-)

                      In butter it is the natural bonding of atoms of oxygen in the air with butter fat that eventually forms that "halo" of transluscent fat around the outside of the cube. And yes, those little oxygen atom devils wiggle right through the paper wrapping! But foil wrapping slows them down considerably.

              3. I have used lard for many, many years. I think I last used Crisco about 20 years ago. It's not available where I live, so I learned to adapt. We buy only free range organic meat, and we made the lard ourselves.

                In recent years, I've turned to using coconut oil in most baked goods, as well as for stir fry dishes and other dishes in which I heat the fat. I only use oil (and only macadamia or olive) for salad dressings.

                1. There's nothing that compares in flavoring any cooked food like beef/pig/poultry fat. That's just the way it is IMO. Yes there are some excellent seed/fruit/grain oils available but be assured the baked goods that won last years blue ribbons were pretty well all made using animal fats. Same goes for the best N. European restaurants. You haven't lived until you've had 'frites' deep fried in duck fat.

                  1. Wow - Crisco. That was popular back in high school but for different reasons.

                    I don't bake but the last time I attempted pie crusts I used butter and lard. For general stuff, safflower oil, butter or the appropriate animal fat to match the animal. I very rarely cook with olive oil, preferring its use as a finishing oil. You use whatever suits your cooking style.

                    1. I like grapeseed oil, sunflower or rice bran oil for most cooking. Leaf lard, bought frozen and rendered for baking.

                      1. You mourn, we celebrate Crisco, the first all vegetable shortening, suitable for use by kosher and vegetarian households.
                        It is the only product we use for pie crust in our home, no meat, no dairy, perfect for a fruit pie that can be served after a meat meal or with whipped cream with a dairy meal.