Praise the Lard

Well ok, we’re not talking about religion or flying pigs for that matter, but we are talkin’ lard, as in rendered pig’s fat, which does receive high praises from those who use it.

A friend of mine recently asked where he could buy pure & natural rendered (not the the stabilized hydrogenated commercial type) lard locally. After inquiring verbally and from online message boards, everyone who responded were clueless on resources, with the best suggestion being to make your own.

Those who are familiar in cooking with lard swear by it as superior in flavor, texture and capability due to its higher smoking point. Especially fried chicken, pie crusts and corn bread. My friend said he never had a better-tasting Akule then the one his friend fried in lard with garlic, saying it was just amazing.

So with that, out of curiosity, I decided to try rendering lard myself, beginning by doing some online research in home-made techniques. This demonstration by blogger Derrick Schneider, is very informative and detailed, including photographs, so I decided to follow his method.

Because this was just a test run, instead of seeking out a butcher who sold the proper “highest grade” pig’s fat, which they say is either the “back fat”, or “leaf fat” surrounding the organs, I picked up readily-available pork belly from the local supermarket.

So here’s the “Guinea Pig” used for this test run…

1 pound belly pork

I was s little concerned the meat on this cut would make the lard taste too “porky”, but after reading a few other instructionals, they said leaving any meat on is OK, as it turns into “cracklings” anyway. Also, because this was just one pound of belly pork, I wanted as much yield as possible and didn’t want to cut out any fat that could still be rendered out between the meat portion.

It’s recommended to have as much cooking surface area on the fat as possible, which you do either by grinding it up or cutting it into small cubes. Because I don’t have a meat grinder, I cut it into cubes…

Then I added it into a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot on the stove top, then filled it with water about half in volume to the pork…

The water moderates the temperature at the beginning stage, and prevents the pork from being scorched on the bottom. I brought the water to a moderate boil, then reduced the stove heat to low, to a point where the water was barely bubbling, keeping in mind the goal here is to melt the fat, and not cook it.

The entire rendering process is done at very low heat on the stove top in an uncovered pot.

I also stirred it every 10 minutes to prevent any bottom pieces from browning. After about 45 minutes, it looked like this…

Notice how the lipids have already started melting and combining with the water.

After about 3 hours on the stove, the water completely evaporated, replaced with pure melted lard…

Along the way, I used the whisk to break up the softened unrendered fat. That really helped it along. Surprisingly there was very little scum that I had to spoon off the top.

You can tell when it’s done (which here took about 4 hours), as most of the solid fat is no longer visible, leaving behind those brown residual bits and pieces known as “cracklings”…

Lard rendering process complete, after about 4 hours on the stove.

So now it must be thoroughly filtered. I didn’t have any cheesecloth on hand, so instead used a paper towel as a “micro-filter”, which worked great. I placed that in a sieve over a clean pot…

Lard filter: Paper towel > sieve > clean pot

Here you see the crackling left behind in the filter…

They said not to throw this away, but to put a little salt on it and eat, so I tried that…

Pretty good. It tastes like unsmoked bacon bits. The smaller bits are crunchy, while the bigger pieces are chewy. This would be good on a salad or baked potato.

Back to the lard, here’s how it looked after being passed through the paper towel and sieve filter twice..

Voila, pure lard…

So that 1 pound of belly pork yielded about a 3/4 cup of lard, which is what we have in this glass here.

Here you see how it turns white like vegetable shortening (Crisco) after being chilled in the refrigerator…

It also has a silky, soft texture, ready to dollop a spoonful into a hot sauté pan.

A step I skipped before refrigerating it was to fill the lard container with water to help clarify and separate the protein bits out, but it seems fine how it is.

What’s interesting is how neutral the flavor is, without much “porkyness” to it. I suspect the meatless, more pure back fat or leaf fat would be even more neutral, and probably preferable if you’ll be using the lard for baked items like pie crusts and breads.

Whatever mild pork-like flavor this lard does have, might actually be beneficial in the application I”ll be using it, which will be to to sauté a fillet of Monchong that I picked up yesterday at the Kapahulu Safeway. I’m already imagining that’s gonna’ ROCK! I’ll let you know how that turns out in a follow-up entry coming soon!

Oink oink.


15 thoughts on “Praise the Lard

  1. Wow, I’ve never seen or heard of someone making his own lard! (Yes, I lead a sheltered life.) Thanks for the photos and step-by-step instructions. I’m looking forward to finding out how you liked cooking with it.

  2. Aloha Pomai! Wow Vegas looked like a lot of fun.. And yes get that steak at Blue Water next time. Wow you got some really awesome pictures of the plants at Diamond Head! Went to see Hapa couple weeks ago in Hawaii Kai it was really nice not too crowded. Jake Shimabukuro is comig in July and the Cazimeros in August. Well we went to Blue water after the entertainment and they were only taking reservations! So we check out the shack and it was PACKED! So we went to koko marina to Kona Brewery we had to wait 20 min. 2x i went there we ordered a pizza, nachos, ribs and the ono dinner. The only good thing was the fish dinner it had a kettle chip crust interesting but good. They tld me the owner owns a kettle chip company . I give them 1/2 a musubi that was the second time and 2x disappointed. Now maybe someone knows whats good to order there. oh sorry too long.. eh Portagee!

  3. You can go the easy way and buy lard at the grocery store in the refrigerated section. It is the best thing to use when frying chicken. Crunchy, golden and not greasy.

  4. Hi Jenny,
    While I don’t bake at all or prepare fried foods at home that often, when I do, of course, I want it to taste fantastic, and I’d be willing to keep rendered lard in the fridge if it makes that much improvement in flavor. We’ll see when I saute that Monchong soon. Glad you like the title. Come to find out, there’s a record album out there titled that, by a band (artist) named PIG.

    Howzit Keanu,
    We’re aware of the product in the supermarket, which is made by Armour Star. The problem is, in order to keep it shelf stabilized, that product also contains Hydrogenated lard (oil), which is the “bad” fat. From the articles I’ve read on folks who render their own lard, they say it’s much better for you than the modern store-bought hydrogenated stuff.

    I got to watch Kalapana play live at the “Waikiki by Moonlight” block party several weeks ago. All the original members were on stage (except Mackey), including Malani Bilyeu, DJ Pratt, Kenji Sano and Gaylord Holomalia. They sounded great!

  5. My arteries are quivering but my palate is going YES! YES! YES!

    Somewhere down the line a reader will request that you also render chicken fat and duck fat. Are you game? I’d love to see that!

  6. I used to live in Honolulu and your page makes me miss the food! Brought back memories of when I went over to a friend’s house and her grandma gave me a paper towel with some crackling in it. I totally forgot about that day til I saw this post. Awesome.

  7. Awesome post! I did my first render when I made chopped liver for the first time. I made it again without the lard and boy, it didn’t taste as good. I got a tip from a friend to store unrendered fat in the freezer until I have enough to render. So now I keep unrendered and rendered fat in the freezer.

  8. Thanks Sakayra.

    Rowena, surely there must be meat shops and butchers in Italy who sell pure rendered lard. Try check up on that if you get a chance!

    Lentabean, I found the cracklings are best when piping hot out of the rendered lard. After they were refrigerated then reheated, weren’t nearly as good.

    Carol, me and liver don’t get along very well, and I highly doubt cooking it with lard will make it taste any better. If it can, amen. Amen. It’s truly a miracle. lol

    Update on my use of the lard that was rendered: I did make that Monchong, which came out fantastic, but I’m not sure if it’s credit to the fish, or the lard, as Monchong can probably be sauted in motor oil and still taste delicious. I’ll think of a few more foods to cook with it, then post a follow-up on what I think about the validation of lard’s cooking benefits (or lack of it).

  9. Aloha Derrick,

    What an honor to have the teacher of this endeavor leave a comment! (Everyone’s comments are an honor, for sure).

    Indeed, I would have preferred to have more lard on hand to render, but being a test-run, that 1 lb. of belly pork sufficed.

    FYI, I did a follow-up comparison of cooking with lard vs. canola oil here:

    Still, I don’t think that brought out the virtues of lard to its fullest glory. On my next “lardventure”, I’d like to try deep-frying, either chicken and/or fish-n-chips!

  10. Great comfort food “Matiqua Rice”
    Immedietly after you render the lard, take a tablespoon of it and drizzle over hot rice. Then sprinkle some of the pork bacon bits over the rice and add salt to taste.

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