Rendering Lard

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Join me as I share my technique for how to effortlessly render lard. As a result, the mess is minimal and the results are delicious. And pretty! Afterward, I will share my number one favorite use for lard. I bet it will surprise you!

Snow white rendered lard in three clear mason jars
Snow white rendered lard is store in glass jars and then put in the freezer for future use.

What Is Lard?

The extra fat taken from a butchered pig is lard. The lard found around the kidneys of a pig is leaf lard. Leaf lard is mild tasting when compared to other lard. Therefore, it is more desirable for making pie crusts. 

Why I Render Lard

What kind of fat do you cook and bake with? Without a doubt, I use a variety of fats to include butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, bacon grease and rendered lard. Rendered lard?! Say what! What about vegetable oil, or canola oil? I prefer to keep science projects out of my kitchen, therefore, I stick to natural fats. By rendering my own lard, I control the ingredients going into my family’s bodies. 

Not too long ago, lard was widely used in cooking and baking. Lard was also commonly used to preserve food before refrigeration. By layering cooked meat in large crocks and covering with hot lard, meat could be stored for months in a cool environment. This method is called larding. Surprisingly, the fat seals the air out, preserving the quality of the meat longer. 

Why Lard?

Why lard? By all means, let me get this out of the way. Why not? Historically, lard has been used longer than any fat substitute currently on the market. Consequently, until the Industrial Revolution, lard was used in similar ways as butter. In fact, it was socially acceptable to enjoy lard in everyday cooking and baking. Decades ago, lard was seen as valuable. 

Once hydrogenated fats were introduced to the American diet, lard became less acceptable. Consequently, it became known as a poor man’s food. Because of this, lard suffered immensely.

Lard is a one ingredient cooking fat. In my opinion, the less ingredients the ingredient you are cooking with, the better. Right? Of course you wouldn’t buy kale that had an ingredient list of 16 other items. No way! I rather feel the same way about fat. Why is fat so complicated? Why do other ingredients need to be added? It’s fat. Enough said; enough needed! For that reason, you won’t find hydrogenated fat in my pantry.

The Death of Lard

What caused the death of lard, then? Crisco. Basically, the belief that fat harvested from an animal is not healthy, killed lard. However, a fat created in a lab was? How easily fooled we are! 

In the defense of Crisco, people did not have much choice when it came to a cooking fat that was shelf stable. To clarify, this was before refrigeration was widely available. Under those circumstances, people relied on keeping their cooking fat in their root cellar for long term storage. It must have been rather frustrating to pull a tin of lard from the cellar only to find it was rancid.

When Crisco came along, people were eager to have a shelf stable cooking fat that also had long term shelf storage. With clever branding and pushy marketing, Crisco all but won the uncontested cooking fat market. As a result, lard was not seen as healthy. Compared to Crisco, it wasn’t convenient. People didn’t want lard in their kitchen. 

Welcome Back, Lard

Thanks to well known chefs like Rick Bayless, lard is making a welcome come back. And on the positive side, foodies everywhere seek out dishes prepared with pork lard. Restaurants, blazing the road less traveled are now using lard in some of their dishes. Some, fearing pushback, only offer it in their daily specials.

Welcome back, Lard! For far too long, we have filled our guts with unnaturally processed fats.

Additives in Lard

By all means, it should seem simple enough that a person could purchase rendered lard from their grocery store. Logic would tell you that it would contain one ingredient: Lard. Wrong! 

Did you know that commercially processed lard is either partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated? In short, the difference is how much hydrogen and other chemicals have been added to the lard. 

Because it has a soft consistency, partially hydrogenated lard is easily scooped. This lard usually comes in buckets or small pails. However, hydrogenated lard is hard, like cold butter. In order too manage hard lard, it has to be cut down to a manageable size.

Reading this does not make me want to run to the store and buy lard. What is the difference between a lard and vegetable shortening science experiment? In my eyes, not much.

A spoon digs into a glass jar of snow white rendered lard.
Rendered lard is easily scooped at room temperature and takes minor effort if scooped cold from the fridge.

Problem Solved

Wondering how to get your hands on pure lard? Render your own!

Butcher shops sell lard. Some shops will give it to you since lard is not in high demand. As a result, most butchers throw it out. 

However, if you raise your own pig, let your butcher know you would like it saved. Comparatively, if you butcher your own pig, save it yourself. 

I use lard quite frequently in my kitchen and house. Below, I am going to share ideas for using lard. Additionally, I hope you find some new ideas that inspire you to render lard.

Uses for Rendered Lard

  • Deep Frying: Do not let your fat get above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Treat the deep frying lard the same as you would any other deep frying oil.
  • Pie Crust: Most folks prefer to use pie crust made with lard for savory pies, such as pot pie. They do this to avoid any “porky” flavor ruining their sweet pies. 
  • Larding Meat: As I said above, larding is a way to preserve cooked meat. 
  • Pan Frying: I use this method most often. When frying potatoes, use lard instead of butter or olive oil. Placing a small amount of lard in a pan and toasting bread in the pan is equally delicious. 

Looking for more potato recipes and inspiration? Click HERE to discover 13 Ways to Use Sprouted Potatoes!

  • Seasoning Cast Iron: I season all of my cast iron with lard. Surprisingly, it is the only fat I have found that doesn’t leave my cast iron sticky or gummy.
  • Candle Making: Using lard for candle making is about as old fashioned as it gets.
  • Greasing Pans: Greasing bread pans and the likes with lard will impart a hint of bacon flavor into the food. 
  • Suet Cakes: In the winter, I like to make treats for the birds. Using lard, mixed with birdseed, flour, peanut butter and etc. is a wonderful way to spoil the birds. Alternatively, these can be fed to your chickens as a treat.

    Cubed lard being rendered in a black crockpot.
    Partially rendered lard in a crockpot.

How to Render Lard

My method for rendering lard requires very little supplies. Given that, I bet you have everything you need on hand.

Needed Supplies:

  • Crock Pot
  • Cold Lard*
  • Sharp Kitchen Knife
  • Small Amount of Water
  • Large Spoon for Stirring
  • Ladle for Skimming
  • Cheesecloth
  • Funnel
  • Glass Jars with Lids and Rings 

Instructions:

  1. Using a very sharp knife, cut the cold lard into 1″ cubes. The smaller the cubes, the better. 
  2. Place enough water in the bottom of the crock pot to just cover the bottom. Then turn the crockpot on the lowest heat setting.
  3. First, place the cold lard cubes in the crockpot with the water. Then cook covered, stirring frequently and keeping a close eye. Stirring frequently will prevent the lard from sticking and help it to render more evenly. Cook in this fashion for several hours. At this point, the fat will have cooked down considerably. What should be left is gristle with some meat*.
  4. Place several layers of cheesecloth in the funnel and secure with clothespins. Then place the funnel on top of a glass jar. Very carefully ladle the hot lard over the cheesecloth, into the jar. Leave 1″ of headspace in the jar. After that, secure with a lid and ring. 
  5. I keep my lard in the freezer for long-term storage. Simply label the jars with the contents and date. I always like to have a jar handy in the fridge.

    Lard strips and chunks of lard from a pig, uncut.
    Rendering lard starts with cutting the lard chunks into cubes.

Kitchen Notes:

  • Since cold lard cuts better than warm lard, store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. When I am ready to cut up the lard, I remove a bit at a time, keeping the rest cold in the fridge. It’s important to realize that warm lard becomes much more greasy than cold lard. Because of this, it can cause your knife and hands to slip when trying to cut.
  • Use a sharp kitchen knife. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. It is especially important to realize this when cutting up lard. Take the time to sharpen your knife and sharpen it frequently.
  • To make cracklings, finish cooking down the meat and gristle. Alternatively, I give mine to the chickens.
  • It is not uncommon to keep a jar of lard on the counter. However, I do not do this. In truth, I fear it would go rancid too quickly. I keep a jar in the fridge and scoop out what I need for a recipe. The rest of the rendered lard is stored in the freezer.

    Pink and white lard sitting on a butcher block countertop, cut into half-inch cubes.
    Lard is quickly rendered by cutting it into 1/2″ pieces.

My Favorite Use for Lard

As I have shown, there are multiple ways that lard can be used. Not only did I give suggestions for use, but I also talked about a couple of creative ways to use lard. Want to know the number one way I use lard? My family loves popcorn! Not only do I make my popcorn the old fashioned way, in a cast iron pan, but I also use lard to pop it in. Let me show you how easy it is to make popcorn using lard.

Jar of yellow and white popcorn kernels sitting next to a glass jar of white rendered lard. A tin measuring cup is propped against the jars, with popcorn kernels scattered on a wood cutting board.

Yellow and white whole popcorn kernels

Popcorn Using Rendered Lard

Yield: 5-6 C
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes

Ramp up your popcorn game by using rendered lard! I promise, you won't want to go back to boring old vegetable oil after trying this.

Ingredients

  • 2 T Rendered Lard
  • 1/3 C Popcorn Kernels
  • Salt, optional
  • King Arthur White Cheddar Cheese Powder, optional

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, heat a large, deep bottom cast iron skillet until hot. Add the rendered lard and let it melt completely.
  2. To the melted lard, add the popcorn kernels. Then cover the skillet with a lid.
  3. Keeping the skillet covered, gently and carefully move the skillet back and forth across the burner to toss the kernels in the skillet. Once popping has mostly ceased, remove the skillet from the heat and remove the lid.
  4. While the popcorn is still hot, add salt and white cheddar cheese powder, if desired. Toss to incorporate. Serve warm.

Notes

  • If you don't have a lid for your cast iron skillet, use a cookie sheet. This method is a bit more clumsy, but works the same.
  • This recipe can also be made in a non-stick cooking skillet.
  • I also use this recipe to make caramel corn, however, I omit the salt and white cheddar cheese powder this recipe calls for. The sweet from the caramel and slightly savory flavor from the lard is a match made in heaven!

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Rendering Lard

  1. Hi thank you for sharing! Do you put the slow cooker on low or high, and how much do you put in the slow cooker ( water to lard ratio). Also do you store candles in the fridge? How long do they last?

    1. Hi friend, I have a detailed post on my blog titled “Rendering Lard” in a crockpot. It’s also linked in my candle post. I don’t store the candles in the fridge and have never had a problem with them going rancid or showing signs of mold. In fact, I have had a batch of these in my emergency kit under my stairs for 2 years now. I use them every time my power goes out. Let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you give these a try!

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