10 Reasons You Should Be Cooking With Lard

Just think of the pie crust.

In a not so distant past (about a century ago) and in a not so foreign land (like, in America), lard was the fat that people cooked with. It wasn't butter. Nor canola oil. And definitely not extra virgin olive oil.

Lard -- rendered pig fat -- was what people used when they needed to make pastry; when dinner needed frying; and even as a quick breakfast, eaten smeared on a piece of bread. So much has changed in our recent history. Lard is not only out of favor, it's even considered a derogatory word.

We're not going to get into how or why this happened -- though Crisco and Upton Sinclair have gotten most of the blame -- we'd just like to focus on bringing this glorious cooking (and baking) fat back into people's kitchens. It's time to let go of the lard stigma and enjoy great pie crust again. Let us make our case:

Lard makes the best fried chicken.
Flickr: penny
Crisp like a spring morning.
It's an extremely versatile fat.
Flickr: Brian V.
It doesn't smoke at high temperatures so it's perfect for frying. It does wonders while roasting. And its large fat crystals mean it makes the flakiest of pastries.
Mexican tamales just wouldn't be the same without it.
Flickr: Katie Schumm
It has less saturated fat than butter.
Flickr: Julia Julieta
(Though not the same glorious flavor.) We're not going to make any health claims about lard -- because what do we Taste editors know about health? -- but we can report what we've learned: lard has 20 percent less saturated fat than butter; it's higher in monounsaturated fats which are said to lower LDL cholesterol; and it has none of the trans fat that shortening does. Chew on that.
It makes for the flakiest of pie crusts.
Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee via Getty Images
And one that's pliable and easy to form.
Despite what you may think, it does not impart a pork flavor.
Flickr: Julia Frost
This is not bacon grease here, but rendered lard -- preferably leaf lard which surrounds the loin and kidneys. It makes everything cripsy without leaving a trace of flavor behind.
Vegetables roasted in lard come out crisper than you thought possible.
Flickr: Heather Joan
As much as we love olive oil roasted veggies, sometimes they're just too greasy and, well, a little soggy too.
It's sustainable.
Cooking with lard is one way of guaranteeing you use every part of the hog. Some of the best restaurants, like Husk, are focused on that aim and bringing lard into fine dining.
© Michael Grayson via Getty Images
A southern lard biscuit recipe will make you wonder why you mess with anything else.
Lard is even good on a piece of bread, in place of butter.
Tom Hoenig via Getty Images

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