How to Render Lard

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I have been promising for a long time to do a post about rendering lard, so I thought it was finally time to follow up on that promise (that, and the frozen pork fat in the freezer was going to get frost bitten if left it for too much longer!). But for you skeptics, I will have to convince you of it’s worth.

What comes to mind when you think of “lard”? I don’t know about you, but lard has “bad for you” labeled all over it in my mind. But yet, it’s really not that bad after all!

In fact, there are several things about lard that makes it a superior fat to many (especially all of those new-fangled fats). First, it’s very high in vitamin D, a vitamin we are often in great need of. Second, one author was pointing out that lard’s composition was the closest to our body fat, so they considered it easier for us to handle. Thirdly, it’s the original shortening! The shortening you can by at the stores is decidedly one of the worst things for you. If you are going to stay away from something, stay away from that. Lard was once used in pies and tarts. Last, lard is definitely a food that our great grandmothers would recognize, so it passes the “real food” test hands down. It also makes the best mexican food. Oh yes, there are many uses for lard. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a great fat to use at high temperatures too?

But you have to be careful about buying it at the store as it’s usually partially hydrogenated which is bad news. If it’s stored unrefrigerated, stay away and always check the labels.

The best thing to do is render it yourself, so finally, here is my long promised post about how to render lard.

This last week, I had a large amount of lard to render so I decided to go ahead and do a comparison of different methods. The dry rendering process is when you don’t add any water during the rendering process. The wet rendering process is where you add a bit of water at the beginning to make sure it doesn’t brown too much at the beginning. And then I compared rendering it on the oven top to rendering it in the stove.

I found that the dry and wet rendering process gave me very similar products in the end (I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two), so I will be sharing the dry rendering process. Between the stove top and the oven, they are both very easy to do, so it’s really up to you which one you want to do. It is nice to have the lard contained in the oven, but, like I said, it’s up to you.

Finally, if you overcook the lard a bit, you will get a more “porky” taste and brown coloring. Good for savory dishes, not so much for pies. lard

Okay, so here we go.

How to Render Lard

What you need: About one pound of leaf lard (best grade, best for pastries) or fat back. You can get this from a local farmer at slaughter time, or at a local meat shop (they may have to special order it for you). I think there are also several places online that you can order from too.

For Stovetop rendering:

1-Cut the lard into small pieces and place in a pot over medium-low heat. The lard will start to slowly melt. Make sure to stir once in a while.

2-After about 20 minutes a big portion of it will be melted.

ng_lard2You will also at this point start to see the “cracklings” form. At this point you will want to be careful. Remember how bacon sputters? As moisture is released from the cracklings it will definitely sputter, and I even got a big splash of hot lard in my face at one point! When all of the sputtering is finished and the cracklings are floating, you are technically done. I let mine cook for a bit longer to get the cracklings a little more brown (don’t waste them, as they are quite yummy and can be used in many recipes too!). I think it took between 45 minutes and an hour to cook it.

3-Line a fine sieve with cheesecloth or a coffer filter and strain through into a jar. It will be yellowish when hot, but turn white when cooled. The cracklings will be left in the sieve.

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Oven Rendering

I followed the following great directions from here for oven rendering. I found it took about the same amount of time as the stovetop version. It was nice to have it contained, but I didn’t watch it quite as carefully because it was out of sight.

“To render lard, grind it or chop it — this is easiest when then the lard is partially frozen — and put it in a 300-degree oven in a shallow casserole. Stir it often, and cook until the lard melts and the cracklings, called chicharrones in Spanish, are floating.

For a roasted pork flavor, render the lard in a 350-degree oven until the cracklings are brown. Cook until the cracklings sink to the bottom.

Strain your rendered lard through cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. Cool and refrigerate for up to two months or freeze.

Frozen lard lasts for more than a year. Save the cracklings or chicharrones to enrich cornbread, burritos or tamales. Home-rendered lard adds wonderful flavor to baked goods like cornbread and bizcochitos and enriches refried beans.”

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. Glenda says

    I heard that meat can be succesfully stored in lard, is it true? I need to know urgently. Please inbox me on facebook or on my email adress.

    • Peggy Rickard says

      My grand mother used to fry up side meat. She would take hot lard and pour layers of grease and meat. Yes-it does keep that way.

  2. Glenda says

    I heard that meat can be succesfully stored in lard, is it true? I need to know urgently. Please inbox me on facebook or on my email adress. I need methods that will ensure the meat lasts for years.

  3. billie boyd says

    Hi, Technically, you are rendering FAT into lard. Not lard into lard. Just a thought for clarity as you need to start with either pork fat or beef fat (tallow) both of which can be gotten from any local meat processor.

    • Ann says

      Yes, from any local meat processor but if you are going to all that trouble why not be sure that your source is from organically raised, grass fed animals. Arizona Legacy Beef is where we buy all of our beef http://www.arizonalegacybeef.com and we get our pork from at Hoppkins’ hog farm 602-258-5075 I think that they ship. I know the do the Prescott & Phoenix Farmer’s markets. Once you have tasted grass feed pork you will never buy it from the grocery store again.

  4. says

    Thank you!! A local farm produces grass fed animals (beef, pork, hens, eggs etc.) and I just got a frozen fat back (pork). Recently I purchased a cast iron griddle and skillet (old school) from ebey. I grew tired of the newer teflon non-stick models, reverting to the original non stick. I’ve read that the best way to season cast iron is by cooking bacon and wiping the pan with lard after use. THANK YOU!!
    I’m going to try your lard rendering instructions. Was wondering if when you did it, the fatback had skin or not? Also wondering if you used a lid or not to dampen the splattering or do you suggest a deep pan? I looked over a bunch of comments and didn’t find these questioned previously asked. I’m new at this whole meat thing as like one of your commenter(s) am also a recovering vegetarian. Now that we have access to grass fed it’s a whole new world of cooking and eating. Thanks also for the tips and benefits on lard. I had no idea. Liking your blog :-)

  5. Dianne says

    I rendered beef fat yesterday. I am concerned that the lard is very hard. Even at room temperature, it does not soften. Was told by the butcher that this was fat from the kidney, which should produce the best lard. Is it typical that beef fat will get this hard? I am only familiar with bacon fat that did not get that hard even in the refrigerator, What did I do wrong? I do not feel safe ingesting this product. Need a response as I need to bake pie crust and cookies for Easter gathering.

  6. says

    Thank you for this! We butchered 4 pasture raised hogs this months and I asked my husband to have the butcher save the fat, not really knowing why! Finding your page allowed me to put it to good use.

  7. Juliet says

    Check eatwild dot com for local, organic farms near you. That’s how I was able to track down some pork and beef fat from pastured animals.

  8. Alicia says

    Before finding these instructions, I found another that used a slow-cooker. I had it on high for six hours then turned it to low overnight since it didn’t look “right”. This morning I moved it to the stove and it finished up quickly. At least, I was looking for crispy looking parts to tell me it was done, it never got there though. I think the lard will be just fine (a little more on the yellow side), but my question is on the “cracklings”. Are they supposed to be crispy? Mine are a mushy texture and stringy, not in chunks, not something I would enjoy just munching on. I had chicharrones in Mexico as a kid and I remember them as very crispy and airy. My mother, who is not Mexican (my dad is), told me they were fried intestines. Wikipedia says they are fried skin, pork rinds here. Did I do that part right, and if I was looking to have whiter lard next time, should those cracklings look more like your picture.
    Last Christmas my dad visited, and we tried to make turcos and my dough didn’t turn out well either attempt. I think, that even though my bread-making skills are awesome, those skills do not cross over to crusts. My dad says it was the store bought lard. I may have to give it another go with my home-rendered lard. So, thank you for sharing :)

    • Joseph says

      Slow cooker rendering will usually NOT produce crispy cracklings. To get those cracklings cracking (say that five times fast!) you’ll want to heat them in a cast iron skillet after you have strained them out!

  9. Stuart Brown says

    Sorry to look thick but you say get leaf lard. I live in Thailand and you cannot buy lard here, hence look at your website how to make lard. Thailand just about lives on pigs. So please can you let me know what part of the pig is needed to produce lard.
    Many thanks.

    • says

      Stuart, Leaf lard is rendered from the fat around the kidneys of the pig. It is the purest fat, and has no flavor (which is what you want). You can also use back fat to make lard. From what I’ve read, both are acceptable, but kidney fat is better. The more meat or skin that is in whatever you render, the more flavor the lard will have. This might be ok for some dishes, but many people seem to prefer a more delicate lard with no flavor, especially for baking. That is what you will get with leaf lard (kidney fat). Hope this helps. Good luck!

    • sandy lovorn says

      Stuart,
      Hello, I live in Thailand too. We live in Nakhon Ratchasima or Korat. Wondering if you had success finding leaf lard? If so, where? Did you find it at the markets?

      Sandy

  10. Judy says

    HI Everyone! Tamales for Christmas! Didn’t want to use crisco or commercial lard with all the additives and rearranged molecules!
    Had a great time making this lard. Easy-peasy :D! I was so surprised with the process and the outcome. I did the oven method. My stove isn’t very good and burns everything. I went to my butcher to get the fat. asked for pork fat–he didn’t have and wasn’t able to get leaf fat. I left a bucket(small christmas cookie type plastic bucket with lid) with him for about two days and when I came back, it was filled with lovely back fat –free. Next time I will go to an organic farmer and get it. Talk to your butcher about what you want and he will tell you what he needs to collect the fat back
    A day later I was ready to render-cook- the fat down. Keep it cold for easier cutting.
    METHOD:
    About 1-1/4lb of fat back yields about 1-1/2 cups lard.
    1. cut fat into small approx 1/4″ pieces–kitchen scissors made it easy
    2. put into deep oven-proof pot — I used a metal stew pot/dutch oven
    3. put into the center of a COLD oven then turn on to 300F –no hotter–on middle rack
    4. cook LOW and SLOW for about 1-2 hours. Mine took closer to 2.
    5. stir about every 15 minutes to break up fat clumps. Keep them broken up as you go
    6. the fat will melt out of the tissue matrix. The liquid is the lard; the pieces left behind are the cracklings
    7. cook until the cracklings begin to brown. You will be able to watch the fat melt off
    8. pretty soon there will be little to no fat -whitish parts-left on the matrix. then it is done
    9. drain through fine sieve (I didn’t have filter or cheesecloth) catching the cracklings. I used a steel pot to drain into as I didn’t want to break a jar or use plastic bowl.
    10. let sit for awhile. Lard will turn from clear to white as it cools. I do this simply as a safety precaution–I don’t want to get burned. Then I transferred to a plastic storage container and put in freezer until I have time to make Tamales (I make both savory and sweet)
    11. The cracklings are delicious–but in deference to my heart, knowing I was about to eat all that lovely lard in my tamales, I put them out for the birds!
    12. Freeze lard until ready to use–thaw 10-12 hrs in the fridge then soften by letting sit on counter for a couple of hours until desired consistency

    A FEW NOTES:
    **don’t be intimidated by this! I was and all for nothing
    1. cold to slightly frozen fat is much easier to cut up. Scissors easier than a knife–don’t be too worried about the sizes being too uniform-I think a food processor would make them too small and uneven
    2. Keep oven at or just below 300F. If it is higher the fat back will cook too quickly and brown before releasing all the fat. I cooked my second batch a little high and learned this the hard way. The cracklings were very fatty the second time around. And the 1-1/4 lbs of fat yielded only about 1 cup instead of almost 2 cups of lard. Also, if browns too quickly will get more pork flavor–fine for my savory tamales-but want as flavorless as possible for my sweet.
    3. You can make this while doing anything (almost) else. Just remember to keep stirred every 10-20 mins to keep fat clumps broken down into smallest pieces for getting the most lard out of them. I watched TV, cleaned kitchen while doing this.
    4. it takes longer than the site instructions say–but the picture of his cracklings has a lot more fat left on them than mine did. When I got to the stage of the picture I knew that I could get a lot more fat from them as long as I cooked them slowly–so I kept cooking
    5. the crackling sort of just floated in the fat–some sunk to the bottom. I didn’t really worry too much about what they were doing–except not to brown too quickly.
    6. Have great satisfaction for adding a new skill and delightful lard that has not additives, molecular changes, etc. I’m still quite pleased with myself.

  11. Tatoosh says

    We just did this using your guide last night. Now we have a nice large jar of rendered pig fatback for cooking and I will use it to add some fat to our very lean ground beef burgers. Thanks for posting the process!

    Baguio City, Philippines

  12. Donna Sangsiri says

    To Stuart and Sandy – my name is Donna and I live in Thailand as well. Been living here for 34 years. If you haven’t been able to get the right fat to make lard call me at 081-993-8099 or send me an email. I can write in Thai for you so you can show to the butcher. If you have already gotten then good.
    Thank you for the website. It helped me to clear up a few questions I had and I didn’t know who or where to get the answers.

  13. Lynn Dils says

    I have some lard that I rendered from back fat. I’ve tried making pie crust with it, but the melting point is so low that even if I start with frozen lard, (already cut into smaller pieces), it melts while I’m working the dough and turns into a gooey mess. Any suggestions? Does leaf lard maybe have a higher melting point?

    • Jessica says

      Mix all your dry ingredients and then stick the bowl in the freezer for a while. That will help keep the lard from melting. Then, once you have your dough ready, form in into a disk, wrap in plastic, and stick in the fridge to firm it up before rolling. After you make the crust, if you refrigerate it again before baking it makes the crust even lighter and crispier.

  14. Wendy says

    I followed this recipe last year when we butchered our own homegrown pig. It worked out so wonderfully. My pie crusts were amazing. This year we raised 3 pigs. I have my first batch of lard in the oven as I write. Can’t wait for some more of those pies.mmmm~ Thanks so much for sharing.

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