Lard vs. Canola Oil Sautéed Fish Challenge

Au (a.k.a. Kajiki or Pacific Blue Marlin) sauteed in canola oil (left side), and lard (right side)

Last week I did a post about rendering pure lard from pig’s fat, hoping to become enlightened by the said virtues of cooking with it.

As mentioned before, Diner E swears the best Akule he ever had was one his friend pan-fried simply with garlic and lard, which he claims was just awesome.

Going through various online articles and message board threads, it appears unanimous that lard is superior to commercial cooking oils and shortening not only in flavor, but also for your health,

Since fresh hooked Akule wasn’t available in the supermarket over the past week (it just was at Marukai a few weeks ago!), I went with Au (a.k.a. Kajiki or Pacific Blue Marlin) to test what this hype about lard is all about.

What I like about using Marlin for this test, is that it can be a dry fish if overcooked, so it was the perfect choice to gauge the benefits of cooking with lard.

So I prepared two dishes to sample with: Macadamia Nut Crusted Au (Marlin) with a Mango Salsa and Sauteed Au (lightly seasoned with garlic salt and cracked pepper) with Ginger-Infused Ponzu (citrus soy) Butter Sauce and Stir-Fried Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage). Note that I didn’t include a starch (like rice), as I wasn’t out to make a meal out this.

Here’s about 3/4 lb. of fresh Au Fillet…

The other set was seasoned simply with garlic salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Here’s a spoonful of cold rendered lard…

After hitting a hot pan, it quickly melts, resembling regular cooking oil…

The other pan (not shown) had Wesson® Canola Oil for the this comparison.

So I sauteed them until golden brown and cooked through, then plated them up for the taste test.

Here’s the Mac Nut Crusted Au, served with Mango Salsa (store-bought from Costco, fantastic B-T-W!), sauteed in Canola Oil…

A close-up of a cut piece from the plate above..

Mac Nut Crusted Au with Mango Salsa (Canola oil)

Here’s the Mac Nut Crusted Au with Mango Salsa, this one sauteed in lard….

A close-up of a cut piece from the plate above..

Mac Nut Crusted Au with Mango Salsa (lard)

And here’s the Au with Ginger-infused Ponzu Butter sauce and stir-fried Bok Choy, sauteed in Canola oil…

A close-up of a cut piece from the plate above…

Au with Ginger-infused Ponzu Butter sauce and stir-fried Bok Choy (Canola oil)

Au with ginger-infused Ponzu butter sauce and stir-fried Bok Choy, this one sauteed using lard…

A close-up of a cut piece from the plate above…

Au with ginger-infused Ponzu butter sauce and stir-fried Bok Choy (lard)

So what’s the difference?

First of all, the lard seemed more forgiving about NOT burning the fish while in the medium (just below medium high) heat pan. Whereas the Canola oil began to darken the macadamia nut crust on the fish much faster. Actually, the underside of the Mac Nut Crusted Au on that plate is dark brown.. almost burnt, but not quite. Of course I plated it with the good side facing up. Even if you look at the non-crusted Au in the Ponzu butter sauce, you can see the one sauteed in Canola oil is a bit darker. They say lard has a higher smoking point, so that must be why it’s more forgiving here.

I must note, I was fair about the cooking method as well, using the same heat (medium) and type of saute pan (stainless steel) for both the oil and the lard.

How did they compare in taste and texture?

I tend to cook my fish just under medium, so with that said, both were moist and tender, but the lard version seemed a bit more “buttery” in texture if you will, while the Au sauted in Canola oil seemed a bit “tighter” if you will. Just a bit. Not much though.

Taste-wise, in my opinion, the Au that was sauteed in lard had a slightly richer and “expressive” flavor, but just by a slim margin. Just enough where someone might ask, “how did you cook this”? My girlfriend prefered the ones sauteed in Canola, noting that it tasted lighter, which she preferred. She also immediately knew which one was in lard and which one was cooking with oil in an initial “blind” taste test I administered to her. So that alone says, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

I don’t think the lard version “blew away” the Canola Oil, though. At least not here where they were sauteed in just enough cooking fat so as to not burn in the pan. Actually, I was a little more generous in the amount of lard used in order to impart its flavor more. So with that I also added an equal amount of Canola oil on that side.

I think if you deep fry or use lard in a pie crust, where it becomes more of the consumed part of the food, is where you’d really notice the difference. Perhaps I’ll try fish ‘n chips next time, if I render enough more fat to deep fry with. That’s the only reason I didn’t try that, is I didn’t have enough lard for it on this first run.

As for the dish itself, the Au with the Mac Nut crust and Mango Salsa was awesome, and so was it with the ginger-infused Ponzu butter sauce. Honestly, I would order either of these two dishes in a restaurant. I really liked the how the fruity mango complimented the Mac nut. My girlfriend really liked the latter, actually preferring it switched, with the Mac Nut crusted Au in the Ponzu butter sauce. Switched around either way, it was delicious.

The Mac Nut crusted Au was easy to make. Season the Au lightly with salt and pepper, then dip in an egg wash, then in a bowl of finely chopped Macadamia nuts and pat it on until evenly coated. Normally Panko (bread crumbs) are added into the mixture, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I just used the nuts. Nuts. Then sauté until golden brown and cooked through. Plate with the Mango Salsa (or Ponzu butter sauce, up to you) and garnish.

chopped mac nuts..

The ginger-infused Ponzu butter sauce is easy. Bring 1/2 cup Ponzu (store-bought) to a boil, then reduce to simmer and add minced ginger and 1 tablespoon of cold butter and whisk until the butter melts and is fully incorporated. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to bring out the ginger flavor. Whisk again just before plating. The Au that was plated with that was seasoned with garlic salt and fresh cracked black pepper, then sauteed. After the fish was done cooking, I stir-fried coursely chopped Bok Choy quickly (just until wilted) in the same pan.

Well that sure was a tasty test!


About a week ago, I also sautéed Monchong in lard just to get a taste of cooking with it.

Monchong a.k.a. Pomfret is one my favorite fish. It’s flesh is white and it tastes similar to mahimahi, except it’s more oily, making it a bit more flavorful, tender and delicate. Because it’s oily, it’s a great fish for steaming, though sautéing like we’re doing here is great too. It’s usually brought in as by-catch from longline ahi boats, so it’s not always available. Surprisingly, when it is, the market price is amazingly very affordable. Wahoo! Oh, that’s Ono. I mean, woohoo!

Here’s a 1 lb. cut of Monchong that I picked up from the Kapahulu Safeway. It’s seasoned lightly with Hawaiian sea salt…

Then I dredged it in flour and off into the pan..

Notice how nice and golden brown the color is. This seems to be one of the benefits of sautéing with lard.

I plated it with a ginger and cilantro chinese pesto sauce..

Here’s a look at a cut piece of this Monchong up close…

How did it taste?

Extremely moist and buttery-tender, though the monchong is already an oily white-flesh fish, so cooking it in motor oil would probably taste just as good. Actually, I’ve prepared this same dish a few times before, except I steamed the Monchong. It’s awesome like that.

As for the Chinese Ginger Pesto sauce, that stuff is great on just about any white meat, whether its chicken, pork or fish. I poured a little too much of it on this plate though, where it kinda’ drowned out the virtues of the lard – if there were any – which may have enhanced the flavor of the Monchong. Not that this a bad thing. Heck, I gotta’ admit this lard-sauteed Monchong and Chinese Ginger Pesto dish rocked!

I’d say lard is certainly something to at least try, as it just might add that “oomph” your dish needed. Of course, anything cooked in fat, whether it’s lard or vegetable oil, should be consumed in moderation. But when taste and texture are what counts most, lard is something to consider.

Related links:
Praise the Lard
The Skinny on Fats (Benefits of Lard)


3 thoughts on “Lard vs. Canola Oil Sautéed Fish Challenge

  1. Excellent! And Lard isn’t full of trans fats (Yes the de-flavoring- removing the mustard flavor, from Rapeseed (Canola) produces trans fats). And it’s lower in saturated fat than butter.

    I’ve been experimenting with Lard in Cookies, Pies and other baked goods. I’ve been getting the ‘wow, these are really good!’ responses.

    Thank you for this article. Let’s bring back natural flavors to food.

  2. Wonderful, I would add some lemon zest to the oil or fish to give it an extra seasoning while grilling it. I do use canola oil a lot it does not confuse the taste of the food I ‘m cooking. Enjoy seasoning the oil when cooking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s