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Butter versus Shortening

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  1. Butter, in 99.999% of applications. The only thing I use shortening for is chocolate chip cookies, and then only if I specifically want to make them the way my mom did when I was a kid. I hear shortening is good for deep frying but I've never tried that myself - I generally use peanut oil. I use all butter or butter+lard for pie crusts and other baked goods.

    14 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Same situation for me. Butter, lard and other fats rule around here. Once a year at the holidays I buy a pack of Crisco sticks for baking a family cranberry bread recipe (which MUST be the same every year!), use two and pitch the third. I feel a little bad just trashing it, but I honestly can't find anyone who wants the stuff. I occasionally gave the third stick to my dad at Christmas for a joke, as he did a lot of grimy mechanic work and used Crisco as part of his hand cleaning regimen. We've been cleaning out my dad's place after his death, and there in his shop was last year's half-used third stick of Crisco in a jar next to his shop rags. And *that* image sort of underscores how I really feel about Crisco!

      1. re: biondanonima

        me, too on the 99%, on the pie crust and on the chocolate chip cookies. I was wondering just recently if I would go buy some Crisco for this year's batch of CC cookies.

        1. re: DebinIndiana

          Is the chocolate chip cookie thing perchance because you want big thick soft ones rather than thin crisp ones? Usually that seems to be the common reason. If so - there's no need to compromise on flavour (the flavour of butter is one of the essential components of a good chocolate chip cookie) in order to achieve a soft texture. You merely have to increase the proportion of eggs. Remember that the classic Toll House recipe is *designed* to produce flat crisp cookies. Think about, meanwhile, what happens to a dough as you increase the ratio of eggs. It starts to become more like cake. So with a little experimentation you can just about any degree of texture you want from completely crisp to ultra-fluffy.

          Pie crusts, meanwhile, as mentioned can use lard to achieve a flakiness better than what you'll get with a white solid vegetable fat, assuming that's the concern. You can even achieve similar results with butter, carefully handled, but you need to work quickly in cool conditions, using less water in the dough.

          1. re: AlexRast

            While shortening does make the CC cookies softer (which I like), it's also a flavor issue for me. My mom made them with shortening, so they just taste right to me that way, if I'm making her recipe, that is. I've found other recipes that I prefer using butter, so I rarely make them her way anymore, but sometimes I just want the flavor of childhood, and that means Crisco.

            1. re: biondanonima

              I now use half butter, half Crisco -- and get full raves.

              having said that, chocolate-chip cookies and pie crust are the only two things that I use Crisco for.

              My go-to cooking fat is olive oil, vegetable oil if there's going to be a flavor conflict.

              1. re: biondanonima

                I have to agree -- it's a memory thing. I am a mo-butter cook, but I make my grandma's crust with lard and my mom's cookies with Crisco.

                Grandma cooked her chicken in Crisco, too, but I use vegetable oil or olive oil.

                Oh, I am a bacon-grease cook, too. A little bacon fat adds a lot of flavor to eggs, breads, vegetables, meats, etc. But it is more a ... condiment in these uses.

                1. re: DebinIndiana

                  Try some of that bacon fat the next time you make popcorn (from scratch!) I put about 2 tsp. bacon grease in with the veg. oil. Pops that corn to such a yummy taste and texture!

                  1. re: Awwshucks

                    I pop popcorn in pure bacon grease - no veg oil required or desired. It is the only way I bother eating popcorn anymore!

                    1. re: Awwshucks

                      I use part bacon grease in any savory piecrust. Guests have asked what my secret ingredient is, and they're shocked (and yet sometimes disgusted) about the bacon grease. Why?

                      1. re: pine time

                        I know, people seem to think bacon grease (and its cousin, lard) are the height of evil when it comes to fat. I really don't think most people understand that in terms of calories and fat grams, all fats are the same. A tablespoon of olive oil has the EXACT same number of calories as a tablespoon of bacon grease, and yet people seem to think the olive oil is magically a diet food while bacon grease is the devil.

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          Lard for pie crusts, tortillas, and tamales (the masa part). For everything else, I use butter.
                          My Mom used to use Crisco for deep frying her shrimp and French fries. Those were one of my favorite dinners growing up.

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              I made refried beans yesterday and that extra dollop of bacon grease added such great flavor. All things in moderation.

                          1. re: Awwshucks

                            Yes, delicious, with a litle sugar and salt.

                2. Butter over shortening every single time.

                  1. For me, butter all the time.
                    However, hubs prefers my pie crusts and oatmeal cookies made with Crisco.
                    Go figure.

                    1. I have butter. I bought shortening once, but did not try it to be particularly helpful.

                      1. Butter, 100%. I have never bought or used shortening (and, to my knowledge, neither did my mother). Pie crust is all butter, hereabouts, and there are a cookie recipe or two in my repertoire that call for butter + shortening, but I just use all butter.