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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.

                        1. Lard.

                          Pure, ethically raised, clean eating, pork kidney fat, leaf lard.

                          Makes the best baked goods in the world. No contest.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sedimental

                            I just rendered it in the crockpot. Pure, white when it hardens....flakey everything. There is no comparison to leaf lard for baking.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              I rendered leaf lard for the first time recently and made some pie crust with half lard, half butter - it was really good, although a little less tender than what I make with all butter. I may try 1/3 lard 2/3 butter next time for pie crust. I definitely want to try making biscuits with 100% lard soon, though.

                          2. the mouthfeel of shortening is appalling to me.

                            my mother never used it and i sure don't.

                            1. Butter is wonderful, delicious food. Shortening is a disastrously failed science experiment.

                              1. Butter about 75% of the time; I use lard and shortening for crusts and some other baking items. I also use lard/shortening to fry some things like chicken and pork chops

                                1. I use shortening to make flour tortillas, following Rick Bayless' recipe (I don't eat meat, so lard is not an option). I'm very happy with this version, but if there's a better one out there, I'd love to know about it.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: small h

                                    I've successfully made flour tortillas with butter.

                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      I solicited and received a nice amount of feedback when I was learning to make them, and this comment


                                      stayed with me and made me wary of using butter. So. Do you think your tortillas came out better with butter than they would have with shortening? Because I'm looking for improvement. Otherwise, there's no reason for me to change my wicked, shortening-using ways.

                                      1. re: small h

                                        It has been decades since I've used shortening, so I can't make the comparison...

                                        But my flour tortillas made with butter have turned out pretty well.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          I'll give it a go. Bayless' recipe calls for 2 3/4 c flour, 5 tbs shortening, 3/4 c water. Would the butter be an even swap for the shortening?

                                          1. re: small h

                                            Yup. Know that homemade tortillas, whether corn or flour, are not like the ones in the stores - you might already know this, but I thought I might mention it.

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              Thanks. I don't think I've ever bought tortillas in a store. They always look kind of dry to me. I have of course eaten them in restaurants, and if Tortillaria Nixtamal would just expand their retail operation to Manhattan, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

                                      2. re: sandylc

                                        Flour tortillas with anything but lard just seems so unnatural to me.

                                        It's always been my understanding that traditional Mexican cuisine did not use butter. Maybe I'm mistaken on that point, who knows ...

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I understand your first point and agree with your second one.

                                          That said, things change and evolve and aren't written in stone; the butter does a pretty good job with tortillas. It is also good in tamales.

                                          I like lard, too, and have some home-rendered stuff in the freezer that I also use in these items.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            No doubt things change and many should change but there are some things that have reached the pinnacle of culinary evolution.

                                            For example, I do not want anything other than butter in my croissants. Same with kouign-amann.

                                            And I say this as a self-professed butter-hater.

                                        2. re: sandylc

                                          A friend makes flour tortillas with vegetable oil. Her mother is a vegetarian so that's how she learned to make tortillas. For a real treat, when we were kids, we'd go to the back of her yard to the little house/cottage her grandparents lived in and have fresh flour tortillas, using lard, that Grandma Ruiz pulled off the comal as we ate. I'm salivating just thinking of those hot tortillas!
                                          I make flour tortillas with lard, the way my godmother taught me. Hers were the best!

                                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                                            I agree that those things are great with lard; but butter is also delicious in them - I like both ways.

                                      3. I have repeatedly read that flaky pie crust requires shortening or lard, but I make mine with all butter and it's very flaky and crisp. You can even see the flaky layers around the edges of the crust after it's baked, and the flakes fall apart when you eat it. This might be a myth that needs busting.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          I agree, you can definitely get flaky pie crust with all butter. My usual recipe is the CI one with vodka, made with all butter, and it is plenty flaky. I recently made it with half butter, half leaf lard for the first time, and I didn't think it was really any flakier than with all butter. It did crisp up more, which made the flakes a little more "shattery" in texture, but the actual amount of flakiness/layers was more or less the same, I thought. I actually prefer it a little more tender and will probably try just 1/3 or 1/4 lard next time.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            Butter does a fine job for the flakey quality. But it also adds a very distinctive flavor. If you were raised on butter crust, its what you expect. If you were raised on shortening or lard, it is a very off-putting out-of-place flavor. Absolutely ruins a good pie, unless of course you like the flavor.

                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              I can't imagine a pie that wouldn't benefit from the flavor of butter! Many fillings already have butter or butterfat in them, anyway.

                                              I was raised on shortening piecrusts, and it was an AMAZING thing when I discovered the butter piecrust...yum!

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                Intellectually I understand what you are saying, but I was still prefer pie the way I was raised. Pie fillings like apple had no butter and about half the sugar that most recipes call for, just some lemon juice and a small dusting of nutmeg, no or almost no cinnamon. In crust, I prefer what to me is the 'clean' taste of a shortening - or even better - lard crust. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE butter. If you check the Thanksgiving thread I consider butter to be my favorite side dish, maybe after potatoes. I just prefer not to have it in my pie crust.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  IMO, shortening and lard crusts are completely different animals. I feel like shortening crusts are bland and have a terrible, greasy mouthfeel. The grease just coats your mouth and won't let go. Lard, on the other hand, has a "cleaner" flavor than butter (while not being bland like shortening), and the mouthfeel is quite wonderful - it just melts away.

                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                    Yes, that greasy mouthfeel from shortening just never goes away.

                                          2. Butter, lard, chicken or duck fat, coconut oil.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: magiesmom

                                              I'd add bacon grease to you list of fats. A spoonful, at least, in my piecrusts (for savory fillings) adds a mystery richness.

                                            2. butter. My grandparents were WI dairy farmers. Half butter half lard for pie crusts, cause that's how Grandma did it, but mine aren't quite as awesome yet.

                                              My MIL melts blue bonnet and calls it "butter" than serves it like drawn butter for us to dip crab legs into. I want to cry every time.

                                              1. I'm fairly sure what Marlon Brando's response would have been.

                                                1. Fielder's choice, certain recipes I like butter and others shortening. Leaf lard for crusts, please!

                                                  1. I'm a butter person.

                                                    In the past people used shortening/margarine because it was cheaper and/or because they lived in very hot parts of the country where it was difficult to make and store butter.

                                                    I almost exclusively bake with butter. In recipes that call for shortening I simply use the butter equivalent unless that recipe specifically states why shortening is used instead of butter. Pie crusts are always made entirely with butter and very flaky they are. I have cooked with lard but I find it too rich.

                                                    I was once given a cookbook called 1001 Cookie Recipes and the author described how he had preferred butter until he'd had some kind of revelation and came to prefer shortening as not to interfere with the cookie flavors and all his recipes called for shortening. Intrigued, I tried a number of the cookie recipes from his book and found them underwhelming, dry and generally flavorless. So, I'm not sure why he came to his conclusion.

                                                    I do use shortening for some things. Fried chicken is fried in a mix of butter and shortening. Hmm. That may be it.

                                                    1. 1 cup Crisco
                                                      1/3 cup cold Butter
                                                      1 tsp Kosher Salt
                                                      1/2 cup ice cold Water
                                                      3 Cups Unbleached Flour (preferably chilled)

                                                      Mix fats together until well blended; and then, mix in salt.
                                                      Add flour, mix well with pastry blender until about pea-size.
                                                      Add water, all at once. Use fingers to pull together into two balls, one a little larger than the other-The larger for the bottom crust. Don't over-handle and don't worry if sticky!
                                                      Cover with saran and chill 1/2 hour. Meanwhile make desired filling.
                                                      To roll, use a clean canvas fabric and sprinkle generously with flour. Roll bottom crust, turning and reflouring as you go to prevent sticking. Lay in pie pan and let rest into the pan. Trim with scissors or knife. Roll out top piece and fill pie; trim and flute.
                                                      I guarantee, you will get the best from both shortening and butter! So delicious!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Awwshucks

                                                        Thanks Awwshucks, for this recipe. I do much better with Crisco than butter, but was looking for a recipe that incorporates both. Will be giving this a try for Thanksgiving. Will let you know. Thanks again.

                                                      2. But what about the vodka? Some people say vodka makes it tender and helps the flakey part also. I don't know cause I do not make good crust of any kind.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: katz66

                                                          Adding vodka as part of your liquid is a little trick that helps make your crust less tough because unlike water, alcohol doesn't form gluten when combined with flour. It definitely helps the texture, and I use a little vodka in my crusts, but the true secret to the infamous Cook's Illustrated vodka recipe isn't the vodka, it's the step where all of the fat is combined with half of the flour and turned into a paste. It goes against the traditional wisdom of cutting the fat into the flour, but it is the secret to foolproof, consistently great pie crust.

                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                            Now I have to make two crusts to try.

                                                        2. Can't beat Julia Child's all purpose Pâte Brisée (from the French Chef Cookbook, her most basic version) , good for fruit pies, quiche, turnovers. Recipe makes 1 large quiche shell or 1.5 pie crusts, so make two and freeze! Shortening makes it easier to work, more stable. Butters vary so much in liquid content. 1.5 cup unbleached flour, I stick cold butter, 3 tablespoons chilled shortening, salt, pinch of sugar if you like, 1/3 cup very cold water (you may not have to use it all). Oh, I use a food processer and always chill dough at least 20 minutes. It never fails. For other baked good I use only butter, except gingerbread cookies, and again, the shortening makes the dough more stable through repeated rolling and cutting.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Jill Sellers

                                                            Wow really... I really never heard of that about shortening verses butter. (I'm a cook not a baker) I am going to try this.

                                                          2. What about all the deadly transfats in Crisco? I hear they are outlawing transfats now, so what will Crisco contain?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Quill

                                                              Crisco took away MOST of their transfats several years ago - they just have to get rid of the rest of them now.

                                                            2. Butter. Fake fats just don't get in my door.

                                                              1. Butter always. Shortening never. I use pastured lard once in awhile but only in a I'm so farm-to-table way. I don't actually prefer it.

                                                                1. Butter. Butter. Butter. Lard.