If you have ever tried cooking with solid fats, you have certainly come across shortening and lard. Which one should you give a try?
What is the difference between shortening and lard? Lard is animal fat, while shortening is extracted from vegetable oils. Both fats have no distinct taste and are similar in appearance. Shortening is widely used in baking. While lard can also be used in baking, it is more popular for frying, sautéing, deep-frying, etc.
In this article, you will learn all about shortening and lard. From manufacturing to nutrition facts and uses, we have collected all the information you need in one place.
What Is Shortening?
The term shortening can be explained in two ways.
On one hand, it is a term that refers to any kind of fat that is solid at room temperature.
On the other hand, the term shortening refers to vegetable shortening.
The latter is hydrogenated vegetable oil. It can be palm oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, etc.
What Is Lard?
Lard is a solid or semi-solid fat that is obtained by melting and processing animal fat.
It is, indeed, a type of shortening if we take the broader meaning of the term.
In the past, lard has been as popular as butter is nowadays. The popularity of lard went down when vegetable shortening came into play in the early 20th century.
Now, however, lard is regaining its popularity for its stellar performance in the kitchen. It is especially popular among those following dairy-free or paleo diets.
What Are the Differences Between Shortening and Lard?
Shortening and lard may look alike and they certainly have many similarities. But what makes them different? We have considered all aspects of these fats to see what features set them apart.
As mentioned, the key difference between shortening and lard is that the former is made from vegetable oils. Lard, on the other hand, comes from animal fat.
While these two products are both fats, the manufacturing processes differ as the sources of these products are very different.
Vegetable shortening is produced as a result of adding hydrogen to common vegetable oils. These oils are fully hydrogenated and turned into fully saturated fats.
The lard that you can now buy in stores is processed lard. The fat from the meat is first melted through steaming or boiling.
There is also a method of melting fat called dry-rendering. This is when the fat is melted in big vats without any liquid.
Once melted, the lard is bleached. Hydrogen and preservatives are added to it to produce what we call a properly rendered lard. Lard produced this way has a very faint flavor and remains solid at room temperature.
If you don’t want hydrogenated lard and any added ingredients in your food, go for naturally processed lard. But keep in mind that it will have a stronger odor and taste.
The flavor of lard largely depends on how it has been processed. Lard is almost flavorless if it has been processed properly. Well-processed lard also doesn’t smell like anything.
There is a belief that lard that has been rendered from fatty tissues of pig smells and tastes like bacon grease. This is not true.
Shortening doesn’t have a distinct flavor either. It was originally made to mimic butter in terms of its uses in baking, not to flavor dishes.
Today, however, you can find quality vegetable oils that taste somewhat like butter.
A common problem with shortening can be that it tastes greasy, especially in baked goods. This has a very logical explanation.
Although shortening was made to substitute butter in cooking tasks, these two products are not similar in all aspects.
The melting point of butter is lower than that of shortening. When you bite into a pie made with butter, it melts right away and you don’t have the feeling of greasiness.
Shortening, on the other hand, softens under the effect of body temperature but it doesn’t melt completely. This is what makes some people think that shortening tastes greasy.
Luckily, this is something most people either don’t notice or don’t mind, which makes shortening a great butter substitute to bake with.
Shortening comes in two ways – solid or liquid. You can buy solid shortening in bricks or cans. Liquid shortening comes in plastic jars and is convenient for frying.
Lard is sold in either a solid or semi-solid state.
The consistency of shortening and lard when both are solid is very similar. They are both creamy and spreadable. The texture of both lard and shortening resembles that of softened butter.
Lard and shortening in tubs look very similar. Not only are they similar in texture but also color. The color of both lard and shortening can range from pure white to buttery yellow.
When talking about the varieties of vegetable shorting, one can differentiate between shortenings derived from different kinds of oils.
However, in cases where shortening is derived from multiple vegetable oils at once, it would be more useful to classify it according to its purpose.
You can buy all-purpose and cake shortening. The latter contains emulsifiers, while all-purpose shortening doesn’t.
Lard can be classified according to the animal fat it is rendered from. While it’s typically pig fat that lard is made from, it can also be rendered from duck or goose fat.
There are also different types of lard depending on what kind of fat it is obtained from. It can be extracted from leaf fat, backfat, and mixed fat.
Leaf lard is the most commonly used lard variety, as it has a clean flavor and very delicate texture.
When it comes to their uses, shortening and lard are quite similar and can even be interchangeable in certain cooking tasks. So, if you are vegan, a carefully chosen shortening can be a great alternative to lard.
Uses for Shortening
Shortening is used in cooking and is very popular in baking. Baking with shortening has many benefits.
Initially, people came up with shortening to replace butter. However, this is not the only reason why many people prefer baking with shortening.
Firstly, shortening has no flavor and won’t affect the taste of the baked goods. Secondly, it prevents the formation of gluten in doughs.
While gluten helps baked goods hold their form, it also makes them firm. This can be a good thing when baking bread. However, when it comes to short doughs, i.e. doughs with a high amount of fat and less amount flour, shortening works perfectly.
All you need your pie crusts and shortbread to be is crumbly and flaky. And this is exactly what baking with shortening does.
Shortening is also great for puff pastry. Puff pastry made with shortening turns out beautifully layered, light, and fluffy.
As shortening inhibits the formation of gluten, it is a staple baking ingredient for people who have a gluten intolerance.
Aside from being used in baking, shortening can also be used for other cooking tasks. It’s used to coat pans and baking sheets to prevent sticking. It is also heat-stable and works well for frying and deep-frying
Uses of Lard
Lard is a multipurpose cooking fat. Like shortening, you can use it in baking to produce very flaky pie crusts and shortbreads.
However, we do recommend using lard in baking only when you are sure it’s pure lard and doesn’t taste or smell like pork. As for its uses in cooking, lard seems to be more versatile than vegetable shortening.
Here are some of the uses of lard in cooking:
- Frying and deep-frying
- Spreading over toasted bread as an alternative to butter
Many cooks state that lard gives food richness that vegetable shortening cannot give. Especially for not fully processed lard with hints of pork flavor, the aroma it adds to fried food is desired by many.
Melting and Smoke Point
Melting point and smoke point are two of the most important characteristics of fats.
The melting point of lard can be different depending on what kind of fat it has been rendered from. Lard produced from back fat, leaf fat, and mixed fat has a melting point of 86-104°F, 109-118°F, and 97-113°F, respectively.
The melting point of shortening falls within the same range as lard. It has a melting point of 117°F.
As the melting points of both lard and shortening are higher than room temperature, they soften only slightly when left out.
As for the smoke point, both lard and shortening can take very high heat. The smoke point of lard ranges from 250-424°F, while vegetable shortening will start to burn if the temperature is higher than 360-410°F.
Which One Is Healthier?
This may be surprising, but if you’re health-conscious, go with lard. Natural fats are always better than processed vegetable oils.
With this being said, if you are looking for a plant-based substitute for butter or lard, buy non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening.
As hydrogenation increases the level of trans fats, hydrogenated shortening has a negative impact on cholesterol levels.
Lard, on the other hand, doesn’t contain trans fats.
Storage and Shelf Life
Shortening is more shelf-stable than lard. As vegetable oils become solid as a result of hydrogenation, they don’t usually soften at room temperature. It’s not necessary to store shortening in the fridge.
If stored in a cool and dark place, an unopened tub of shortening will have a shelf life of 24 months. Once opened, it will be good for around 12 months.
As for lard, it is best to keep it in the fridge to avoid spoilage. If you store lard in the fridge, it will have a shelf life of up to 12 months.
In case you have no room in your fridge and want to keep lard in your pantry, make sure the temperature is stable. This way, it will last 4-6 months.
The best substitute for both lard and shortening is butter.
However, note that when used instead of shortening for baking purposes, butter leads to a denser dough. You can use coconut oil as a 1:1 substitute for shortening in baking recipes.
Also, while unsalted butter is the closest substitute for lard, it is not an option for those with a dairy-free diet. In such cases, oils, including olive oil and various vegetable oils, are the next best option.
Can You Substitute Shortening for Lard?
You can use shortening instead of lard. As the fat content in lard and shortening is very similar, a measure for measure substation is the way to go.
If you’re trying to substitute for shortening, we have another article waiting for you.
Can You Make Lard and Shortening at Home?
While making lard at home may seem too complicated of a task, it actually isn’t.
There are two ways you can make lard at home:
- Put pork fat in a pot filled with water. Bring the water to boil and reduce the heat. The fat and water should simmer on low heat long enough for all the fat to melt. Once it melts, turn off the heat and let it cool. You now have homemade lard.
- An easier method is putting the fat in an oven-safe pot and transferring it into the oven, preheated to 350°F. The fat will melt, cool off, and turn into lard.
Keep in mind that as lard made at home is not processed or clarified, it will still have a taste and smell.
Making vegetable shortening at home is also possible. However, it can be a little trickier than making lard.
If you have decided to make vegetable shortening at home, you can try making coconut-oil based shortening. All you have to do is to melt three parts of refined coconut oil and mix it with one part of canola oil.
The mixture should then be frozen. Once it freezes and solidifies, your vegetable shortening is ready.
Note: When making shortening, pay attention to the melting temperatures of the oils you are using. If they melt at room temperature, your homemade shortening won’t be suitable for tasks that don’t require heat cooking, such as making cake frosting.
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