Lard: The Secret Ingredient of Grandmas!

You hear this all the time, right? That your grandmother, and generations before her, used lard for everything! Frying, baking, and cooking with lard was a thing of the norm dating back to the early 1400’s. It was readily available, easy to render in the home kitchen, and the performance and flavor of lard in baked goods is still unmatched to this day. People of all backgrounds enjoyed the flavor lard brought to cakes, tortillas, pie crusts, biscuits and fried foods. Whole fats not only provided energy and helped our hard-working ancestors feel full, the recipes have stood the test of time regarding flavor and texture.

Before cooking, pig fat was used for many different applications other than food: from soaps and moisturizers, to lubrication in mechanical applications. When the low-fat diet made its debut, we were told to replace lard with processed vegetable oil blends and margarine. Natural fats such as lard have provided our bodies with fuel for centuries. Therefore, what we are learning now is that consuming these processed and new low-fat foods has resulted in people feeling less satisfied and energized throughout the day. As a result, we were then advised to eat more carbohydrates and grains to feel “full”. While carbs, grains and potatoes do full you up, they won’t necessarily give you that lasting “full” feeling. In addition, the energy provided by carbs and starches is burned quickly, and therefore does not provide adequate fuel throughout the day.

The result is that we eat more. Low-fat ingredients paired with an increase in heavy carbs has not solved our issues with obesity and heart disease. In fact, we are unhealthier as a country than we have ever been.

This brings us back to LARD….a word that overtime has grown to be negatively associated with fat, or being fat. However, trends are now turning back in lard’s favor. As a result of low-fat marketing claims, nowadays when you see a fat in its solid state you just assume it is bad for you. But consider this: butter is also a solid fat, and so is Crisco which is a highly processed vegetable shortening with no caloric advantages over lard. So why does lard have such a negative connotation? We believe it is time to turn this conversation around and start talking about the benefits of lard. And we are sure that your grandmother and great-grandmother would agree!

As health and diet trends move back in favor of natural fats and sustainable recipes – lard and other natural animal fats need to be brought to the table. Lard is a traditional ingredient, and many societies across the globe have been incorporating it in their recipes for generations. When we think back to how our grandmothers, and their grandmothers before us, prepared meals for their families and communities – we know they didn’t use the processed foods we all consume today. Therefore, eating whole, natural, and traditional foods are the key to feeling great and maintaining a healthy life style. Your grandmother would be so proud!

When cooking any foods, we at SCP take a few key things into account….

  1. Are our ingredients whole and natural, and easy for anyone to access?
  2. Do they bring natural flavor to our food?
  3. Can we make this, or grow this ourselves?

Processed foods do not fall into this category – especially vegetable oils. Unlike actual vegetables, oils such as canola or soybean, as well as solid vegetable shortenings must be highly processed. They go through an extensive process to get to their current state. This is not the case for lard. You can get fat from any butcher and render it yourself simply by applying heat. Think of when you cook bacon. That left over bacon grease that you are saving in a jar or can under your counter – is actually usable oil, and full of flavor! It becomes solid as it cools because it’s a natural saturated fat.

Any recipe you find with a liquid vegetable oil – can be swapped out with lard and you will taste the difference and see the performance in the texture. Your fried chicken is so crisp and less greasy; your french fries are fluffy on the inside and golden brown on the outside; your pie crusts are flaky; your biscuits have beautiful layers and striations that you just cannot get from vegetable oils.

Contrary to what we’ve been hearing for years, we feel that lard still has a special place in the kitchen. Some of our favorite comfort foods depend on it for flavor and performance. Most of the negative health claims around lard are over exaggerated and quite frankly, not based on hard concrete science. At SCP, we’ve been frying in animal fats, and baking with lard for almost 50 years. We know a tallow fry from a vegetable fry… we can taste and see the difference in lard pie crust versus a crust made with soybean oil. We can see the layers and flakes in a lard biscuit, and there is no matching the crunch and taste of chicken and seafood fried in animal fat. We crave these flavors, and we need the energy these fats provide. Our grandmothers knew this, and they lived long, healthy, and most importantly happy lives eating these whole fats!

Speaking of traditional, family recipes – we highly recommend Rick Bragg’s New York Times bestseller, The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table. This book is full of wonderful recipes accompanied by the heart-warming and hilarious stories that make each meal special. Many of the recipes suggest the use of lard not only for tradition’s sake, but also because it just tastes better!