Nose to Tail Cooking: How to Render Lard?
Let’s stock that fridge with homemade lard. Lard is rendered pork fat that is cooked slowly over low heat, which in turn becomes a liquid and then re-solidifies at room temperature. Until the 20th century, lard was one of the most commonly used fats for cooking and baking. Unfortunately, due to the fear of fat it’s a fat that’s been tossed aside as being artery clogging; however, this healthy fat deserves a place in your real food kitchen! Lard is great for all cooking methods including high heat searing and frying but can also be used for baking. Check out our Larded Pie Crust recipe.
Why Use Lard?
- Rich in fat soluble Vitamin D (about 1000 IU’s per tbsp from pasture raised pigs)
- Contains less saturated fat than butter
- Stable cooking fat with a high smoke point
- Simple to make and an affordable cooking fat
- A way to use the whole animal from nose to tail
- Long shelf life either at room temp, in the fridge or freezer
Not just for cooking but for everyday use such as skincare, soaps and candles
Essential Tools For Making Lard
Making lard isn’t hard but does require some patience. There are several items that will help you get that smooth final product!
Spoon: Either a slotted stainless steel spoon or wooden spoon.
Fine Mesh Strainer: Make sure you have a fine strainer on hand to strain all the large pieces of meat and other impurities that don’t cook down with the fat.
Funnel: A funnel is a must when doing the final straining into your storage jars.
Cheesecloth (100% cotton) or Coffee Filters: Cheesecloth is the best way to strain; however, if you don’t have any on hand, you can also use a coffee filter.
Large Bowl or Dish: Having a large bowl for that first strain will make less of a mess.
Storage Jars: A wide mouth mason jar makes the perfect jar for storing lard. Using a wide mouth jar makes for easy fridge storage, plus it’s easier to remove lard.
Rendered Lard Recipe
Cook Time: 2 to 8 hours (Depending cook method and fat size)
*Note: This recipe was created using 3lbs of pork fat; however, you can use more or less fat depending on your cooking vessel and storage space! This means servings will vary as well.
2-3lbs Pork Fat (Raw Lard)
1/4 cup Water (just enough to cover bottom of pot)
- Tim and cut the fat: With a knife or kitchen shears remove and discard any meat from the fat, as this will give the lard a meaty flavor and distinct color. Then use a knife to chop the fat up finely. However, you can also pulse the fat in a food processor until crumbly and coarsely cut (similar to the consistency of ground meat), as long as the fat is nice and cold!
- Add water: Add just enough water to coat the bottom of the pot to prevent the fat from burning. For a larger amount of fat, use more water and for smaller amounts, use less.
- Heat fat: Put the ground or cut up fat into a large pot and place over low heat. If using a slow cooker or instant pot, turn the temperature on to low heat or press the “slow cook function”.
- Slowly render the fat: Keep the heat low and allow the fat to render for a couple hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If using a slow cooker or Instant Pot, stir in a similar manner and adjust the cooking time to at least 4 hours but could be up to 8 hours. Although this process doesn’t need your constant attention, don’t leave it unattended!
- Finish rendering: The lard will be finished rendering when the fat covers most of the pieces in the pot. You will see the fat slowly shrink into little bite size pieces that look like popcorn called cracklings. These pieces will be small, shriveled and lightly browned. The cracklings will sink down in the pot and then rise up again. When this happens the lard is done.
- The first strain: Turn the heat off and allow the lard to slightly cool. Gather a large bowl, cotton cheesecloth and a strainer. Layer a piece of cheesecloth over the strainer. Carefully pour the pot over the strainer into the large bowl. The strainer will catch all those large crispy pieces. Take the back of a spoon and press the fat down to release more lard into the bowl.
- Strain a second time into storage jars: Fit your mason jars with a funnel and layer a piece of cheesecloth. Slowly pour or scoop the lard from the large bowl into the funnel. Straining twice will help remove any remaining impurities in the lard. This will help it last longer, as well.
- Use or store lard: Use immediately in liquid form or store with a tight fitting lid for later use. Keep in the fridge or the freezer.
FAQ for Rendering Lard
Which method is better for rendering lard: stove top, slow cooker or instant pot on slow cook function?
The slow cooker or instant pot is a great way to get low, even heat, which is what you are looking for when rendering fat. However, you can always do it on the stove top to save time but it must be watched carefully to make sure the fat doesn't get too hot or boil. Choosing between the stove top, slow cooker or instant pot is all about cook time. The total cook time can be almost double when you use either a slow cooker or instant pot, compared to the stove top. Usually a batch of lard on the stove will render in a couple hours, while it takes several hours in a slow cooker or instant pot.
Why is water added to cover the bottom of the pot?
There are two methods when it comes to rendering fat. Either the dry method that uses no water and the wet method, which water is added to the fat. Using the wet method will help keep the fat from burning during the rendering process. Just add enough water to coat the bottom of the pot. For a larger amount of fat, use more water and for smaller amounts, use less.
How can you render lard faster?
The size of your fat matters! Having smaller, ground fat will render more quickly and evenly than fat that is in large chunks. Either chop fat finely with a knife or use a food processor but make sure the fat is nice and cold.
Why strain lard?
This is such an important step! Straining helps to remove those impurities as they won’t taste very good and it will cause your lard to spoil faster. Use a cheesecloth (or coffee filter) for both strains but the first strain is to remove large pieces called cracklings. Don’t throw these delicious browned bits away! The second strain is to get all those tiny pieces and sediment removed leaving a nice clean lard.
How to store lard?
Store lard in glass mason jars or containers with tight fitting lids. You can also store lard in chunks or freeze into ice cube trays. Best to keep the lard in the fridge or freezer for up to a year.
How to use lard in cooking or baking?
Lard is a very stable cooking fat (due to its high content of saturated fat), meaning it won't burn under high heat. Due to its high smoke point, lard is great for all cooking methods including high heat searing and frying. Lard is also perfect for baking as it creates flaky biscuits and pie crusts. Try making our Larded Pie Crust!
Saturated Fats and Health: PMID: 32562735
Natural Vitamin D Content in Animal Products PMID: 23858093