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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.
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.
You 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.
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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We raise hogs so I render lard also. I like to do it in the oven, but agree it is about the same end result. Great point about lard not being all that bad for you, at least compared to similar store bought products. I have told people the same things when they think I am strange for rendering it.
I recently bought some leaf lard at the local’s farmer’s market and rendered it in the crockpot set on “low” – took all day, but yielded a very clear, beautiful lard. We’ve made the BEST refried beans with it.
Good for you (for raising your own hogs!). People do often react pretty funny to lard. 😉 But the same people will often use hydrogenated vegetable oils quite happily. 🙁
I agree! Refried beans made with lard are wonderful! Great tip about the crockpot too. 🙂
Did you place the lid on the crock or cook it lid off?
So I have what seems like a silly question.. do you HAVE to use pork? We avoid pork products in our household, and while I’d love to use an animal based shortening, I’ve been hesitant because it all seems to be a pig derivative.
And, as a side note, we used goose fat for our pie crusts and that worked WONDERFULLY! 🙂
leftover chicken fat is also useful. When you are going to roast a chicken, remove those fatty patches that are directly in the cavity. Render and use like lard. Especially lovely in baked goods served with the roasted chicken!
An Amish woman once told me that they use the rendered chicken fat to pop their popcorn in! I haven’t tried it yet but it sounds like it might be good.
I haven’t tried it, but hear that bear fat makes some really good lard.
If it wasn’t more expensive, I think that I might prefer goose or duck fat to lard (just because we also don’t eat a lot of pork). So, no, you don’t have to use it. 🙂
Is the avoidance of pork a personal decision or is there a health reason associated with it? If I may ask. 😉
Sure you can ask! Many health experts think that pork is an inferior meat compared to beef, chicken, etc. The reasons vary from the parasites it can harbor, what they eat, based off of Jewish commandments/traditions, and how the body responds to it.
However, many farmers across the world (including natives in some parts of the world) partly survived off of pork. They are fast growing, will eat whatever, and produce delicious yummy meat.
We eat it, just not all the time.
You can safely eat lard frequently. It is the protein in pork that causes the changes (thickening, sticking) in blood chemistry. I have researched this and have asked Sally Fallon (president of WAPF) about this. Our conclusions matched. We err on the side of caution and eat pork sparingly and use the lard liberally! 🙂 But Weston Price did discover very healthy polynesians and they ate pork liberally. There is strong evidence on both sides. Jordan Rubin makes a strong case against pork. But do enjoy your lard as much as you want!
Lard, esp. leaf lard, is the very best thing for pie crust. I like to make my crust with half butter and half leaf lard.
I too like to render my lard in the oven.
Meg – if you don’t want to use lard, you can use beef tallow which is rendered from beef or bison (or even lamb) fat. I love using beef tallow to make French fries, and I’m going to experiment in the near future making tater tots that I can freeze in a Ziploc and have ready for an easy dinner addition. Who doesn’t LOVE tater tots?
I need to buy more lard. I really want to try making doughnuts!
MMMM, I can’t wait until my local farm starts raising pork.
To follow up on Cheeseslave’s comment, I agree that beef tallow is great for frying things in (I have some in my freezer too!), I would just say you won’t want to use it for pie crust. 🙂 Traditionally unrendered beef suet was used in baked goods, though to our taste it might still be to meaty.
Thanks for this post. I second the crock pot method. You hardly have to think about it, and the lard is clear and nice.
I haven’t bought lard in ages (mostly due to only having one local, seasonal supplier). I want to buy more, though, b/c I came across an awesome sprouted-flour doughnut recipe I can’t wait to try! (Kinda like Anne Marie in that regard. Guess we all have our weaknesses.)
I have a “recovering vegetarian” question. 🙂
When i cook bacon, i save the fat and put it in a jar, and then use it for various cooking projects. Is that just bacon fat, versus lard?
And, I guess trying to make a pie crust from bacon fat would probably be pretty gross, huh? 🙂
KH: Hi Lisa,
Saved bacon grease can be used for a lot of things (it makes the best fried eggs ever), but I wouldn’t put it in a pie crust (but then again, I bet a bacon grease pie crust would make a wonderful crust for a savory tart!)
A friend of mine recently had some chocolate chip/nut cookies made with bacon grease and didn’t even realize it until he asked what they were made with because they were so delicious!
Do you render beef tallow the same way? I asked for some when we got our beef and it is just sitting in a big bag in the freezer.
KH: When I made mine, I did a different process. It’s hard for me to remember for sure, but I think I did a wet rendering, to help remove impurities from it?
You can render any animal fat I can think of the same way. With things other than pork, you want to remove as much ‘non fat’ as possible, and keep the temperature very low in the process. It’s especially important to get any chunks of meat off very early in the process. It makes the tallow/suet/grease less meaty tasting (I’d call it “sweeter”).
You can render sheep fat for lanolin (don’t cook with it; it doesn’t taste good), deer, beef, even rabbit fats for cooking; duck fat for using in confits…the list goes on.
North American Indians used bear oil as a cooking ingredient regularly, for example.
If you want to use the rendered fat for non-food use (think about tallow candles used prior to kerosene lamps being available), the cleanliness and freshness is less important, but you’ll want to do the rendering outside if it’s not super fresh or has skin and meat in it.
I found this post very interesting. Lard makes nice pie crust. I can’t wait to try this.
I’ve used bacon fat in molasses cookies, it actually very yummy with a sweet/salty taste! It might not work for all baked goods though, especially more delicate crusts and cookies.
KH: You are making my mouth water!
It is so good to hear so many using the real thing. You just can’t beat fresh lard . Try to make sure it comes from pasture raised hogs that aren’t fed any medications or chemicals. Getting back to “Grandmaws “cooking is good for everyone.
Could I just collect all the fat from pork cuts as I use them and render it once I have a whole pound? Would that be very different from the fat back? I hope to ask for the fat back next time we purchase a pig.
We rendered down some lard that wasn’t leaf lard or fat back, and while it was pretty much a white color, it does have a more meaty taste. I’ve used it making pizza crust with bacon and pineapple (YUM!), but I think it would be too heavy for a pie crust with a sweet topping. I would probably use my meatier lard or bacon grease for a meat pie or a chicken pot pie, though. Maybe that’s what we should have for dinner tonight…:)
Pastry—–1/2 lard, 1/2 butter
I was a child of the second world war so we ate toast spread with lard , salt and pepper .
Roasting veg,. and meat is tastier than using oil——cottonreel
Where do you buy your lard? I live near Portland so maybe I can use the same source.
wow I found you by looking for lard recipes for my costa rican tamale recipe I am making, nice post!
Hi! I took out a roast from the freezer today to cook in my crockpot. It had a large, long strip of fat. I thought of this post. It seems that you specified pork, can I use beef? It is from my parent’s grass-fed steer so I don’t really want to waste it but I have no idea what I should do with it. I used to just cut them off and throw them away.
You inspired me: http://boysrulemylife.blogspot.com/2009/05/try-it-tuesday-rendering-lard.html
Love your blog!
You are the #1 Google hit for “how to render lard.” Congrats! 🙂
Both methods you tried are “Dry Rendering”. It takes a lot of boiling water to “Wet Render”, not just a little in the bottom of the pan. That water is only to stop the fat from scorching when it first begins to melt. Wet Rendering is boiling out the fat and skimming it from the top. It leaves much more of the pork flavor behind in the water.
Do you have to cut all the meat off the Lard before rendering, or is it ok if there are still little slivers of meat? Will that meat burn off, is that what the cracklings are?
After you render the lard, can you can the lard . Do you have a recipe for this??
Hi, how much rendered lard do you get from the 1 pound of fat? Would you recommend increasing the amount to say 3 pounds or would that be too much to render at once?
I have some lovely grass fed pork fat that needs to be rendered, so please respond asap! Thanks 🙂 🙂 Valerie
I am sure you can do three pounds at once! No problem. 🙂
I have a huge stockpot full rendering right now! I just skimmed the top with a ladle when I had enough fat and put into mason jars. Now I am rendering it more and putting this in other jars and labeling it “2nd rendering” as I know it will have the “meatier” taste from rendering longer!
You get about 1 pint of lard from 1 lb of fat.
We raise our own pigs on pasture. Is it possible to can the lard?
I tried it once by pouring the hot lard into hot jars and sealing with canning lids. Some of them were still good 1 year later but a number of them went bad. Has anyone else tried this?
I guess freezing is the best if you have the space.
Great article Thanks!!
RE: Crockpot Lard Rendering,
For those who have done it, did you let it cook all day and then just take the cracklin’s out, simple as that? Or did it need monitoring/temp adjustment/etc.? (I’m wondering if I can leave it on while I go to work).
Thank you for posting this! I’ve had two half-hogs’ worth of pork fat sitting in my deep freeze for a few years because I’ve been too intimidated by the idea of rendering it. It turned out to be really easy, following your directions! Thank you!
My cracklings didn’t fully render in the pot but the process wasn’t going anywhere at the end there, so I strained it all and then put the cracklings onto a sheet pan. They went into the oven for something like 40 minutes, and I stirred and drained them periodically. The amount of fat that they gave up in the oven was pretty surprising!
yes, i have a question pertaining to this add. now i have over time kooked alot of baken and ucumulated alot of lard or pig fat, but i havent any idea what i should do with it other than cooking with it. I have also found it a good to making soap or using it to create biodezl. but what other practicle aplications in the uses of pig fat? im interested because given all the pig fat ive acumulated id feel bad just throwing it out when or if i could use it to do other things.
also id like to add if you have a convection oven and a rack for the fat dripping to fall through in to the bottom of your convection in to a posible pan it makes better cracklings + it renders them rather low fat and still good eating.
Richard, lowfat is not a good thing, unless you temporarily are b/c you are working on your gallbladder. And lard is mostly a monunsaturated fat (olive oil, avocados), of which the majority of your fats can consist of, saturated fat being the next, and cold-pressed, uncooked polyunsaturated fats (corn, canola, cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, soybean)only needing to make up 10% of your fats. These are the adulterated, polyunsaturated oils we are getting from our processed foods that are making us sick……not farm fresh rendered lard.
Love the info on this site, it’s great to know so many people are doing there own rendering.
I render tallow and lard mostly for making soap but I do cook with the lard also. They both make wonderful soap.
I read this while waiting for my batch of lard to cool enough to pack. I freeze mine and find it the very best for pies. This batch may have gotten a bit overcooked but I’ll use it for savory pies and label the next batch for sweet pies. Nothing better!
How much lard do you get from, lets say, 1 lb of fat? and do you leave the lid on if you put it in a crockpot?
You get 1 pint typically.
I used to get lard from my sister and that is no longer available. What you buy at the market it is no where near the same. I had to go back to using lard because my daughter has a problem with MSG which is in almost everything. Your directions worked perfectly for rendering it. Just remember to keep it in the freezer and it scoops right out and works much better. You do not need to thaw it. You will need to cut the salt in your recipe also. I use a meat market where the butcher saves the fat for me when he cuts the meat.
I render lard because my daughter has an MSG problem which is in almost everything. Keep it in the freezer and use without thawing, scoops right out. Cut the salt in your recipe as needed.
Great post, super informative. Quick question though; what do you store the lard in? I am new to all of this and at a complete loss of what to put the lard in.
I just rendered 4# lard in the crockpot with a couple cups of water and left it on low all night. I didn’t wind up with any cracklings (why? don’t know) but the lard is clear white. I just poured what was in the crock pot right into the storage container (figure the water and impurities settle to the bottom of the container). I store it in a labeled & dated lock-top type plastic storage container in the fridge. It will keep 3 months in the fridge and a year in the freezer.
I’m looking for a good lard-fried donut recipe! Maybe I should just get the Little House on the Prairie recipe book.
I have the same question about rendering in a crockpot as someone else did, and doesn’t look like it’s been addressed yet:
Do you leave the crockpot on or off?
If I had to guess I’d say “off” so that the water can evaporate, but would really appreciate confirmation.
And thank you so much for the great info on this post 🙂
aahhahaha obviously you leave the crockpot on!!
That should have read: “Do you leave the crockpot LID on or off?”
What a great post! you are obviously well informed about oils and health benefits. The caonola and soy are 80% GMO and that is what is in crisco type products. It is poison!
On the other hand, we feed whey to our pigs which raises the omega-3 levels
and makes their fat good for you. And the vitamin D? I cansee why our grandparents weren’t as diiseased as we are. Why do we all seem destined to get osteoporosis also????
I eat little meat but what I eat is homegrown. Let’s put a:
Chicken in every yard!!!
Ok, let me know if this is correct.
I melt 1 lb fat back and get 1 pt. lard.
I jar this and put it in the fridge for up to 3 months.
I bag/tupperware this and put in the freezer up to 1 year.
I’ve never rendered lard and plan on trying this but was unsure of the storage process. (I’ve never had a hog processed before either-our first will be done this week. This is new healthy-ish eating around our house! LOL)
Any comments that can be helpful regarding bear fat ? I’ve heard its the very best for bakeing. Thanks.
Any infor. regarding bear fat ? heard it’s the best and looking forward to trying it. Thanks
Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge about lard rendering. I am getting the fat for the first time and will render it. I grew up with lard in pie crusts and lard in biscuits is great too! I will try the bacon grease recipes mentioned here and I know rendered chicken fat is good too! I added it to some of my bacon grease and fried green tomatoes in it. Yum!
Okay…since everyone is still dancing around the question… Is the lid of the crock pot left on or off ??? I would like to start this tonight, but I need to know which it is…on or off ? I to, am assuming that it is left off so that moisture doesn’t accumulate under the lid, but we all know about assuming… I was going to do it in the oven, but I don’t want it sputtering and starting a fire in the oven either.
Esther, I haven’t done the crockpot method, but I would definitely assume it’s lid on.
render some bear lard recently come up with an oil instead of a lard ? any commits?