Lard, ostracized for years (hello 1980’s fat-free everything), is experiencing reclamation by chefs and home cooks. Many cultures have never really given up on lard. Italians take their bread spread with thin, melty slices of “lardo,” and in Mexico, tamales made without lard would just be atrocious. Bakers are sourcing it out to give their goods a taste and texture that butter just can’t compete with. Stereotypes like retro and excessive are being replaced with words like modern and sustainable.
Lard is silky-white bacon-butter and has been established as transformative in dishes, especially baked goods. Incorporating the pork fat in some small form or in combination with butter is a smart strategy- secret weapon style. Many chefs are rendering it in-house by resurrecting parts and using the pig from tip to tail. Get Lardcore:
1. Many people don’t realize that lard is mostly unsaturated fat (the kind that is better for you) while butter is mostly saturated fat.
2. Lard isn’t just any animal fat – its specific to pork.
3. The best-rendered lard comes from the area around the pig’s kidneys, and is termed “leaf lard.” Lard is a fat of choice because of its depth of flavor – it adds a savoryness that bakes into other ingredients making the good more complex.
4. Biscuits baked with lard are better. You will always get the best flake from lard. It’ll add an ultra tender, gentle element to biscuits, and they’ll turn out as though you made them with such care. These won’t be crumbly. If you do like yours ultra crumbly, use butter instead. Try with ham and mustard.
5. Chocolate Chip Cookies made with lard are better. It goes without saying that sweet and savory are perfect partners. Do you add sea salt to the tops of your chocolate chip cookies? Do you like it when the pancake levy breaks free and syrup soups around your bacon? Try substituting half the butter in your cookie recipe with lard. Lard will keep the cookies a bit softer and will add a depth that only a wise pig can offer.
6. Piecrusts made with lard are better. You might’ve heard this one before, and yes, it’s true. Pork butter bakes a beautifully constructed piecrust that’s tender and shatteringly flaky. Make sure it’s very cold before working with it – lard tends to soften faster than butter. The best way to cut the fat into flour is manually. Doing your own dirty work makes a proud baker. Oven aromas will breathe sweet, nutty whiffs. The smell is just the first inclination of difference.
Do not buy the dusty bricks you see at the grocery store. Lard straight from a butcher is the only kind you’ll want to use in baking. The store-bought stuff houses loads of preservatives and its texture, smell, and gamey taste will not be something you want in your pastry. Hand-rendered pork fat will have a milder flavor and silkier texture (opposed to store bought kinds). You’ll want a high quality leaf lard, preferably from a heritage pig. Any reputable butcher will have some for sale and farmer’s Markets are a good place to check as well.