All About Lard: Benefits of Lard, Uses for Lard, and How to Render Lard
Updated: Feb 28
It’s been a busy week here at the Diaz household, but I managed to take care of an important task for our family - rendering lard! Why lard? You might wonder why anyone would do such a thing as cook with lard. Isn’t lard one of those horrible fats that our grandparents ate long ago and is considered old-fashioned?
Benefits of Cooking and Baking with Lard
Well, because lard is actually an excellent fat for cooking and baking! It is mostly saturated fatty acids, but it also contains a good portion of monounsaturated fatty acids (just like olive oil), both of which are very good for our bodies - for making hormones, for brain health, and for our overall health. It is also one of the best sources of fully formed, true vitamin D in a form that our bodies can use quite easily for building a strong immune system.
Because it is a heavily saturated fat, it has a very high smoke point and so it is very good for sautéing and the occasional frying. It’s actually better than a lot of other fats like butter or olive oil because you can heat it higher before it begins to burn, which is all that a smoke point really means.
Lard is also great for pastries, pie crusts, and any baking that calls for butter or Crisco food shortening (please never use Crisco, EVER!) . Lard helps make any pastry or pie crust nice and flaky! Use half butter and half lard to get that wonderful combination of flakiness with the buttery flavor.
So lard is actually a great fat to keep in your pantry and use in your daily cooking and baking.
High-Quality Lard MUST Come From High-Quality Animals
One of the most important things to remember when purchasing lard or rendering pork fat to make your own, is that it must be sourced from pigs that have been raised naturally on pasture. Never from a farm that uses conventional feeds which are full of hormones and pesticides; these animals are loaded with toxins from their food and environment. The reason for this is because the toxins from the diets of conventionally-raised animals are harbored in the fat. Sourcing the best quality fats will ensure the fat remains clean, free from toxins, and safe for cooking.
You may notice that sometimes lard is called leaf lard, which just means that the fat comes from the most prized part of the pig - the fat around the kidney organs - and will be the highest-quality fat. Leaf lard typically has a milder flavor and is especially good for baking. The fat for regular lard typically comes from the belly or shoulder of pigs. Both regular lard and leaf lard are wonderful fat sources!
You have probably also heard of tallow, which is the same type of fat that comes from a cow, rendered in this same process. A good, clean tallow is also great to cook with, but our favorite use for tallow is in skincare! High-quality tallow makes wonderful balms, soaps, and creams. This vanilla orange, whipped, tallow balm from Hearth & Homestead is our absolute favorite and not only smells amazing, but is so nourishing to the skin.
Sourcing High-Quality Lard and Fats
If you are not quite ready to try your hand at rendering your own lard, but want to add it to your pantry, we recommend the Fatworks brand and the Epic brand as they both source from local farms that raise their animals on regenerative pasture and are crafted for people seeking a clean fat to cook and bake with. (Side note, the Epic duck fat is also amazing for cooking!)
Some regenerative farms that we love and recommend purchasing pork fat from are Polyface Farm, or Triple E Farms, or Reverence Farms. Keep an eye on our Resources page to see any updates and additions we include to the Farm section.
How to Render Lard
If you have a good source of clean pork fat and are ready to render your own lard, keep reading - it’s so very easy! It takes a little time, but is a great way to save money and do it yourself. Rendering lard is the process of cleaning up pieces of fat that are cut directly from the meat, so you are separating the fat from any bits of meat or skin that may be attached to the fat portion.
Because the fat has to cook on low for several hours, there are a few methods you can use:
Roasting pan, in the oven on low
Stove top, in a sauce pot on low
To start, you simply chop up the fat into small pieces and put into your pot/pan of choice. Add a little water so the fat doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and so that it’s easier for the fat to separate so you can harvest it.
Set temperature to low heat. If using the oven, set oven to 200 degrees. If on the stove top, simply use low heat (2 or 3 on a scale of 1-10). If in a crockpot or electric roaster, set to the low setting. Cover and leave on low for 12 hours minimum to 18 hours max.
After 12-18 hours, the fat will have rendered and from any meat tissue. You can then strain the fat through a mesh strainer or fine colander, into a metal or glass bowl. Put the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer so that the fat can solidify. I prefer to use the freezer because it solidifies much faster.
Once the fat has solidified, you can simply take a spoon, skim the fat off the water, and put into glass jars. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a year, as saturated fat is the most protective of all fats; it does not go rancid very easily.
What is left behind in the bowl will be a gelatinous mixture from the water and that will basically be stock. You can toss this or save it to add to soups and such. I also like to use this for our animals, I will mix it into dog food, cat food, or chicken food.
It is as easy as that! You now have a wonderful fat to use for sautéing, frying (I might have to make some homemade sweet potato fries now…), and baking pastries. Enjoy!
Do you cook with lard? Have you ever rendered your own lard? Leave a comment and let us know!
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