The Redemption of Lard

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Pig fat is back.

Lard has spent the past few decades in the culinary cellar. It was one of America’s most reviled foods, keeping company with the likes of liver, sweetbreads, and anchovies. We recoiled from its fat profile, flinging epithets like lard ass and tub of lard.

The truth is, lard got a bad rap—all animal fats did. Now, as we rejigger our diets to rid them of trans fats, the time is right for a comeback for this great, misunderstood fat.

By any estimation, lard is a healthier fat than butter. It’s lower in saturated fat (40% to butter’s 60%), and it’s higher in the monounsaturated fats that seem to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL), and raise the good (HDL). And if you need more proof of its place in our diets: the Obama’s White House kitchen—a bastion of healthful cooking— has lard in its larder.

The stage for a lard comeback is also set by the convergence of dining trends.
Lard plays well with the culinary environmentalism of the snout-to-tail crowd. All of the pig jowls, trotters, pork bellies, charcuterie, and salumi plates we order in restaurants have reacquainted us with the glories of fat. There’s also our love for all things bacon. It makes no sense to embrace one and shun the other.

Then there’s the best reason of all to welcome lard back into our diet: it’s delicious.
Its flavor is completely neutral–not even a hint of pig–but oh, what it can do for food.

Deep fry with lard and your potatoes will be airy with a golden shatter; fried chicken emerges with a crunch that belies its perfectly moist interior. Lard-cooked beans and vegetables caress your mouth like velvet; tortillas are wondrously supple. Lard brings a surprising lightness to baked goods. Cookies have a crisp delicacy, and its contribution to the structure and texture of pie crusts is legendary.

Sometimes the right food arrives on the scene at just the right time, and it’s looking like this is lard’s moment.

Most lard you find at the grocery store has been hydrogenated to make it shelf stable. If it doesn’t need refrigeration, you don’t want to buy it.

The Lard Lovers network can point you to freshly rendered lard sources in your area.

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2 Responses to The Redemption of Lard

  1. Monet says:

    How fun! My grandmother swore by lard, but like many Americans, I’ve turned my nose at it. I think I need to open my mind…and my stomach to this fat. Your pie crust looks so good!

  2. Michael says:

    Such a way with words in this one! I can taste it all.

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