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Bring lard back to your kitchen table. Learn why this healthy fat is a nutritional powerhouse.

March 2, 2023

It's time to start cooking with lard.

If you haven't heard, the long-villianized fat is having its moment of redemption. Farmers and nutritionists alike are encouraging people to add it back into their kitchen routines. In fact, it's even been named one of the top ten healthiest foods in the world.

So what benefits can lard bring to your kitchen?

Lard is a versatile, stable fat that produces better food and better health benefits.

From a compositional perspective, lard is composed of around 50% monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy fat that can also be found in olive oil. Unlike olive oil, however, lard also has a high smoking point. This means that it can be safely roasted at high temperatures without breaking down or oxidizing. This oxidation process, which occurs in olive oil at high temperatures, is dangerous because it causes the release of free radicals into our body, which have been associated with cancer, inflammation, and a variety of other health problems.

Moreover, lard is odorless and colorless when rendered properly, which means that you can cook without imparting extra flavor. Many bakers swear by lard for the flakiest pie crusts, and roasting or frying with lard will result in crispy vegetables or meat as well.

Lard's fat composition makes it healthier than butter.

Lard contains more monounsaturated fat than butter, but it also contains oleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that helps lower your "bad" cholesterol levels. In fact, it has nearly 2x the oleic acid of butter.

If you're concerned about your saturated fat consumption, there's good news here as well: lard has less saturated fat than butter.

However, like butter, lard is a source of quality saturated fat. It's important to remember that our bodies actually need saturated fat for nearly every cellular function. Rather than eliminating all saturated fat, be selective about where you're sourcing it.

Lard is an excellent source of vitamins and essential nutrients.

Like many animal products, lard contains high levels of B vitamins and choline. But woodland-raised lard also has incredibly high levels of vitamin D, because the pigs that produced that lard were raised in the sunshine and feasted on forage. In fact, pasture-raised lard can have nearly 1100 IU of Vitamin D per tablespoon. This is much higher than plant-based forms of Vitamin D, like mushrooms (21 IU per tablespoon), but it's also more vitamin D than you'd receive from actual exposure to the sun, which would provide 100-200 IU per 20-30 minutes of direct sunlight.

This means that during the winter months - or year-round, if you work indoors most of the day - lard is an essential ingredient for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels. Vitamin D plays an essential role in cellular function - in fact, every cell in our body has a receptor for Vitamin D.

Additionally, lard has a higher omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio than conventionally raised pork. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for reducing inflammation and helping our heart function properly, but a favorable ratio has also been found to reduce the likelihood for a number of health problems.

Lard is shelf stable and stores for a long period of time.

When rendered properly, lard is shelf stable and avoids spoilage. We prefer to store our lard in the refrigerator, where it can last around 6 months, but it can also be frozen for up to a year. Or you can also keep it on the countertop for 4-6 months.

Lard is economical.

If you've made the switch from cooking with vegetable oils, then you've probably realized how expensive cooking with healthy fats, like butter, coconut oil, or ghee, can be. Sourcing pork fat from a local farmer, and making homemade lard, is much more budget-friendly. And with its mild flavor, it's easy to replace for butter without noticeable taste or texture differences.

Are you ready to try lard on your own? Before you start, make sure you understand the basics of cooking lard properly.

The Basics

Start with cold fat.

Keep your pork fat in the freezer until you're ready to use it. Then, let it partially thaw (for an hour or two). It's easier to chop and work with when it's cold.

Chop the fat into very small pieces.

The critical part of the rendering process is removing impurities. The smaller you chop your fat pieces, the easier it will be to remove these - and result in the "snowy white", long-lasting lard you're aiming for.

Cook LOW AND SLOW on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.

Whatever you use, the key is to keep the temperature extremely low. This means that it will take a few hours. However, overcooking it - or cooking it too high - will prevent it from rendering properly. Very low and slow is the way to go.

Choose Your Storage

We like to store our lard in the fridge, where it lasts for at least 6 months (although we use it well before that). Lard is also shelf stable, although you'll need to be extra sure that you removed all impurities to prevent it from going rancid.

You can also freeze lard if you'd like. Rather than store it in glass jars, freeze it in cube trays, chunks, or tubs. Only freeze it once, however - once you thaw it from the freezer, don't freeze it again.

Eat the Cracklings

The pork pieces that you'll strain from the lard are called "cracklins", and you can eat them! (They're best hot, right when you strain them.) Some people like to sprinkle them on salads or roasted vegetables.

Ready to get started? Here's our recipe for homemade lard. Enjoy mastering the art of this healthy fat - and let us know what you think!

Michelle Sroka

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