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Wet-rendered lard, from pork fatback
Fat composition
Saturated fats
Total saturated38–43%:
Palmitic acid: 25–28%
Stearic acid: 12–14%
Myristic acid: 1%
Unsaturated fats
Total unsaturated56–62%
Monounsaturated 47–50%:
Oleic acid: 44–47%
Palmitoleic acid: 3%
Polyunsaturated Linoleic acid: 6–10% [1] [2]
Food energy per 100 g (3.5 oz)3,770 kJ (900 kcal)
Melting point backfat: 30–40 °C (86–104 °F)
leaf fat: 43–48 °C (109–118 °F)
mixed fat: 36–45 °C (97–113 °F)
Smoke point 121–218 °C (250–424 °F)
Specific gravity at 20 °C (68 °F)0.917–0.938
Iodine value 45–75
Acid value 3.4
Saponification value 190–205
Unsaponifiable 0.8% [2]

Lard is a semi-solid white fat product obtained by rendering the fatty tissue of a pig. [3] [4] It is distinguished from tallow, a similar product derived from fat of cattle or sheep.


Lard can be rendered by steaming, boiling, or dry heat. The culinary qualities of lard vary somewhat depending on the origin and processing method; if properly rendered, it may be nearly odorless and tasteless. [5] It has a high saturated fatty acid content and no trans fat. At retail, refined lard is usually sold as paper-wrapped blocks.

Many cuisines use lard as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread in the same ways as butter. It is an ingredient in various savoury dishes such as sausages, pâtés, and fillings. As a replacement for butter, it provides flakiness to pastry. In western cuisine, it has ceded its popularity to vegetable oils, but many cooks and bakers still favor it over other fats for certain uses.


Raw fatback being diced to prepare tourtiere Tourtiere Lard.jpg
Raw fatback being diced to prepare tourtière

Lard has always been an important cooking and baking staple in cultures where pork is an important dietary item, with pig fat often being as valuable a product as pork. [6]

During the 19th century, lard was used similarly to butter in North America and many European nations. [7] Lard remained about as popular as butter in the early 20th century and was widely used as a substitute for butter during World War II. As a readily available by-product of modern pork production, lard had been cheaper than most vegetable oils, and it was common in many people's diet until the industrial revolution made vegetable oils more common and more affordable. Vegetable shortenings were developed in the early 1900s, which made it possible to use vegetable-based fats in baking and in other uses where solid fats were called for. Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle , though fictional, portrayed men falling into rendering vats and being sold as lard, and it generated negative publicity.

By the late 20th century lard began to be considered less healthy than vegetable oils (such as olive and sunflower oil) because of its high content of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. However, despite its reputation, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight. [2] Unhydrogenated lard contains no transfats. It has also been regarded as a "poverty food". [6]

Many restaurants in the western nations have eliminated the use of lard in their kitchens because of the health-related dietary restrictions of many of their customers,[ citation needed ] and religious pork-based dietary restrictions such as Kashrut and Halal mean that some bakers substitute beef tallow for lard.[ citation needed ]

In the 1990s and early 2000s, however, chefs and bakers rediscovered lard's unique culinary values, leading to a partial rehabilitation of this fat among "foodies". Negative publicity about the transfat content of the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in vegetable shortening has partially driven this trend. Chef and food writer Rick Bayless is a prominent proponent of the virtues of lard for certain types of cooking. [8] [9] [10] [11]

It is also again becoming popular in the United Kingdom among aficionados of traditional British cuisine. This led to a "lard crisis" in late 2004. [12] [13]


It is produced mainly in China, Germany and Brazil. [14]

CountryProduction, 2018
1Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 2,544,847
2Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 549,989
3Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 508,600
4Flag of the United States.svg  United States 447,474
5Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 434,100
6Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 215,513
7Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 174,649
8Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 148,997
9Flag of France.svg  France 146,519
10Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 143,842
Source : FAOSTAT

Lard can be obtained from any part of the pig that has a high concentration of fatty tissue. The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the "flare" visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin. Leaf lard has little pork flavor, making it ideal for use in baked goods, where it is valued for its ability to produce flaky, moist pie crusts. The next-highest grade is obtained from fatback, the hard subcutaneous fat between the pig's back skin and muscle. The lowest grade (for purposes of rendering into lard) is obtained from the soft caul fat surrounding digestive organs, such as small intestines, though caul fat is often used directly as a wrapping for roasting lean meats or in the manufacture of pâtés. [15] [6] [16]

Lard may be rendered by two processes: wet or dry. In wet rendering, pig fat is boiled in water or steamed at a high temperature and the lard, which is insoluble in water, is skimmed from the surface of the mixture or separated in an industrial centrifuge. In dry rendering, the fat is exposed to high heat in a pan or oven without water (a process similar to frying bacon). The two processes yield somewhat differing products. Wet-rendered lard has a more neutral flavor, a lighter color, and a high smoke point. Dry-rendered lard is somewhat browner and has a caramelized flavor and has a lower smoke point. [17] [18]

Industrially-produced lard, including much of the lard sold in supermarkets, is rendered from a mixture of high and low quality fat from throughout the pig. [19] Lard is often hydrogenated to improve its stability at room temperature. Hydrogenated lard sold to consumers typically contains fewer than 0.5 g of transfats per 13 g serving. [20] Lard is also often treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents, emulsifiers, and antioxidants such as BHT. [6] [21] These treatments make it more consistent and prevent spoilage. (Untreated lard must be refrigerated or frozen to prevent rancidity.) [22] [23]

Consumers wanting a higher-quality source of lard typically seek out artisanal producers, or render it themselves from leaf lard or fatback. [19] [23] [8] [9] [10]

A by-product of dry-rendering lard is deep-fried meat, skin and membrane tissue known as cracklings. [6]


A triglyceride molecule, the main constituent of lard Trimyristin-3D-vdW.png
A triglyceride molecule, the main constituent of lard

Lard consists mainly of fats, which in the language of chemistry are known as triglycerides. These triglycerides are composed of three fatty acids and the distribution of fatty acids varies from oil to oil. In general lard is similar to tallow in its composition. [7] Pigs that have been fed different diets will have lard with a significantly different fatty acid content and iodine value. Peanut-fed hogs or the acorn-fed pigs raised for Jamón ibérico therefore produce a somewhat different kind of lard compared to pigs raised in North American farms that are fed corn. [2] [24]

Culinary use

Lard is one of the few edible oils with a relatively high smoke point, attributable to its high saturated fatty acids content. Pure lard is especially useful for cooking since it produces little smoke when heated and has a distinct flavor when combined with other foods. Many chefs and bakers prize lard over other types of shortening because of its flavor and range of applications. [25]

Nutritional value

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 3,765.6 kJ (900.0 kcal)
0 g
100 g
Saturated 39 g
Monounsaturated 45 g
Polyunsaturated 11 g
0 g
Vitamins Quantity
Vitamin E
0.6 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Cholesterol 95 mg
Zinc 0.1 mg
Selenium 0.2 mg

Fat percentage can vary
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

Compared to other fats

Properties of common cooking fats (per 100 g)
Type of fat Total fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Mono­unsaturated fat (g) Poly­unsaturated fat (g) Smoke point
Butter [26] 80-8843-4815-192-3150 °C (302 °F) [27]
Canola oil [28] 1006-762-6424-26205 °C (401 °F) [29] [30]
Coconut oil [31] 998362177 °C (351 °F)
Corn oil [32] 10013-1427-2952-54230 °C (446 °F) [27]
Lard [33] 100394511190 °C (374 °F) [27]
Peanut oil [34] 100174632225 °C (437 °F) [27]
Olive oil [35] 10013-1959-746-16190 °C (374 °F) [27]
Rice bran oil 100253837250 °C (482 °F) [36]
Soybean oil [37] 100152257-58257 °C (495 °F) [27]
Suet [38] 9452323200 °C (392 °F)
Ghee [39] 9962294204 °C (399 °F)
Sunflower oil [40] 100102066225 °C (437 °F) [27]
Sunflower oil (high oleic)1001284 [29] 4 [29]
Vegetable shortening [41] 100254128165 °C (329 °F) [27]

In baking

Because of the relatively large fat crystals in lard, it is extremely effective as a shortening in baking. Pie crusts made with lard tend to be flakier than those made with butter. Many cooks employ both types of fat in their pastries to combine the shortening properties of lard with the flavor of butter. [6] [42] [43]

In cuisines

Lard was once widely used in the cuisines of Europe, China and the New World and still plays a significant role in British, Central European, Mexican and Chinese cuisines. In British cuisine, lard is a traditional ingredient in mince pies and Christmas puddings, lardy cake and for frying fish and chips as well as many other uses. [12] [13]

Lard is traditionally one of the main ingredients in the Scandinavian pâté leverpostej.

1916 advertisement for lard produced by Swift & Company Swift's Silverleaf Brand Pure Lard, 1916.jpg
1916 advertisement for lard produced by Swift & Company

In Spain, one of the most popular versions of the Andalusian breakfast includes several kinds of mantecas differently seasoned, consumed spread over toasted bread. Among other variants, manteca colorá (lard with paprika) [44] and zurrapa de lomo (lard with pork flakes) [45] are the preferred ones. In Catalan cuisine lard is used to make the dough for the pastry known as coca. In the Balearics particularly, ensaimades dough also contains lard.

A slice of bread spread with lard was a typical staple in traditional rural cuisine of many countries Chleb ze smalcem.jpg
A slice of bread spread with lard was a typical staple in traditional rural cuisine of many countries

Lard consumed as a spread on bread was once very common in Europe and North America, especially those areas where dairy fats and vegetable oils were rare. [6]

As the demand for lard grows in the high-end restaurant industry, small farmers have begun to specialize in heritage hog breeds with higher body-fat contents than the leaner, modern hog. Breeds such as the Mangalitsa hog of Hungary or Large Black pig of Great Britain are experiencing an enormous resurgence, to the point that breeders are unable to keep up with demand. [46]

When used without qualification the word 'lard' in English generally refers to wet-rendered lard, which has a very mild, neutral flavor as opposed to the more noticeably pork-flavored dry-rendered lard, or dripping. Dripping sandwiches are still popular in several European countries—Hungarian zsíroskenyér ("lardy bread") or zsírosdeszka ("lardy plank"), and German "Fettbemme", seasoned pork fat. Similar snacks are sometimes served with beer in Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. They are generally topped with onions, served with salt and paprika, and eaten as a side-dish with beer. All of these are commonly translated on menus as "lard" sandwiches, perhaps due to the lack of familiarity of most contemporary English native speakers with dripping. Attempts to use Hungarian zsír or Polish smalec (both meaning "fat/lard") when British recipes calling for lard will reveal the difference between the wet-rendered lard and dripping. [47] [48] In Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, as well as in many parts of China, lard was often consumed mixed into cooked rice along with soy sauce to make "lard rice" (豬油拌飯 or 豬油撈飯). And in Japan, back loin (fatback) lard is frequently used for ramen, creating a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty dish.

Traditionally, along with peanut oil, lard is extensively used in Asian cooking as a general-purpose cooking oil, esp. in stir-fries and deep-frying.

Schweineschmalz, German lard Schweineschmalz-1.jpg
Schweineschmalz, German lard
Griebenschmalz, German lard with crispy pieces of pork skin Griebenschmalz-1.jpg
Griebenschmalz, German lard with crispy pieces of pork skin

In Germany lard is called Schweineschmalz (literally, "rendered fat from swine") and has been a longtime favorite as a spread. It can be served plain, or it can be mixed with seasonings: pork fat can be enhanced with small pieces of pork skin, called Grieben (cf. Yiddish gribenes) to create Griebenschmalz . Other recipes call for small pieces of apple or onion. In English, however, schmaltz usually refers to kosher fat rendered from chicken, duck or goose.

Vegetarian Grieben from onions or apples, which began as a makeshift means of diluting Schmalz in time of need, became rather popular on their own account because they allow for a specific taste and a lower fat content. Completely vegetarian Schmalz-like spreads based on vegetable fats use those ingredients as well. In Germany it is forbidden to use the term Schmalz for non-lard products.

In Poland lard mixed with fruit, usually chopped apple, and spread on thick slices of bread, is often served as a starter.

Other uses

Rendered lard can be used to produce biofuel [49] and soap. Lard is also useful as a cutting fluid in machining. Its use in machining has declined since the mid-20th century as other specially engineered cutting fluids became prominent. However, it is still a viable option. Lard and other animal fats were formerly used as an anti-foaming agent in industrial fermentation processes such as brewing; there, animal fats have been superseded by polyethers. [50]

See also

Related Research Articles

Butter Dairy product

Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of churned cream. It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature, consisting of approximately 80% butterfat. It is used at room temperature as a spread, melted as a condiment, and used as an ingredient in baking, sauce making, pan frying, and other cooking procedures.

Suet Raw, hard fat of beef or mutton found around the loins and kidneys

Suet is the raw, hard fat of beef, lamb or mutton found around the loins and kidneys.

Animal fat Fats and oils which are derived from animals

Animal fats and oils are lipids derived from animals: oils are liquid at room temperature, and fats are solid. Chemically, both fats and oils are composed of triglycerides. Although many animal parts and secretions may yield oil, in commercial practice, oil is extracted primarily from rendered tissue fats from livestock animals like pigs, chickens and cows. Dairy products yield animal fat and oil products such as butter.

Vegetable oil Oil extracted from seeds or from other parts of fruits

Vegetable oils, or vegetable fats, are oils extracted from seeds or from other parts of fruits. Like animal fats, vegetable fats are mixtures of triglycerides. Soybean oil, grape seed oil, and cocoa butter are examples of seed oils, or fats from seeds. Olive oil, palm oil, and rice bran oil are examples of fats from other parts of fruits. In common usage, vegetable oil may refer exclusively to vegetable fats which are liquid at room temperature. Vegetable oils are usually edible.

Coconut oil Edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts

Coconut oil is an edible oil derived from the wick, meat, and milk of the coconut palm fruit. Coconut oil is a white solid fat, melting at warmer room temperatures of around 25 °C (78 °F), in warmer climates during the summer months it is a clear thin liquid oil. Unrefined varieties have a distinct coconut aroma. It is used as a food oil, and in industrial applications for cosmetics and detergent production. Due to its high levels of saturated fat, numerous health authorities recommend limiting its consumption as a food.

A saturated fat is a type of fat in which the fatty acid chains have all single bonds. A fat known as a glyceride is made of two kinds of smaller molecules: a short glycerol backbone and fatty acids that each contain a long linear or branched chain of carbon (C) atoms. Along the chain, some carbon atoms are linked by single bonds (-C-C-) and others are linked by double bonds (-C=C-). A double bond along the carbon chain can react with a pair of hydrogen atoms to change into a single -C-C- bond, with each H atom now bonded to one of the two C atoms. Glyceride fats without any carbon chain double bonds are called saturated because they are "saturated with" hydrogen atoms, having no double bonds available to react with more hydrogen.

Roux Mixture of flour and fat for thickening

Roux is flour and fat cooked together and used to thicken sauces. Roux is typically made from equal parts of flour and fat by weight. The flour is added to the melted fat or oil on the stove top, blended until smooth, and cooked to the desired level of brownness. A roux can be white, blond (darker) or brown. Butter, bacon drippings or lard are commonly used fats. Roux is used as a thickening agent for gravy, sauces, soups and stews. It provides the base for a dish, and other ingredients are added after the roux is complete.

Hemp oil Oil from hemp seeds

Hemp oil is oil obtained by pressing hemp seeds. Cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil is dark to clear light green in color, with a nutty flavor. The darker the color, the grassier the flavour. It should not be confused with hash oil, a tetrahydrocannabinol-containing oil made from the Cannabis flower.

Grape seed oil Liquid fat derived from grape seeds

Grape seed oil is a vegetable oil derived from the seeds of grapes. A by-product of the winemaking industry, it is typically used for edible applications.

Cottonseed oil Cooking oil

Cottonseed oil is cooking oil from the seeds of cotton plants of various species, mainly Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium herbaceum, that are grown for cotton fiber, animal feed, and oil.

Shortening Food ingredient

Shortening is any fat that is a solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry and other food products. Although butter is solid at room temperature and is frequently used in making pastry, the term shortening seldom refers to butter.

Schmaltz Cooking fat

Schmaltz is rendered (clarified) chicken or goose fat. It is an integral part of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, where it has been used for centuries in a wide array of dishes, such as chicken soup, latkes, matzah brei, chopped liver, matzah balls, fried chicken, and many others, either as a cooking fat, spread, or flavor enhancer.

Peanut oil Mild-tasting vegetable oil derived from peanuts

Peanut oil, also known as groundnut oil or arachis oil, is a vegetable oil derived from peanuts. The oil usually has a mild or neutral flavor but, if made with roasted peanuts, has a stronger peanut flavor and aroma. It is often used in American, Chinese, Indian, African and Southeast Asian cuisine, both for general cooking, and in the case of roasted oil, for added flavor. Peanut oil has a high smoke point relative to many other cooking oils, so it is commonly used for frying foods.

Crisco American brand of shortening

Crisco is an American brand of shortening that is produced by B&G Foods. Introduced in June 1911 by Procter & Gamble, it was the first shortening to be made entirely of vegetable oil, originally cottonseed oil. Additional products marketed under the Crisco brand include a cooking spray, various olive oils, and other cooking oils, including canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, and blended oils.

Corn oil Oil from the seeds of corn

Corn oil is oil extracted from the germ of corn (maize). Its main use is in cooking, where its high smoke point makes refined corn oil a valuable frying oil. It is also a key ingredient in some margarines. Corn oil is generally less expensive than most other types of vegetable oils.

Soybean oil Oil from the seeds of the soya plant

Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean. It is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils and the second most consumed vegetable oil. As a drying oil, processed soybean oil is also used as a base for printing inks and oil paints.

Sunflower oil Oil pressed from the seed of Helianthus annuus

Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil pressed from the seeds of the sunflower. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient.

Avocado oil Edible oil pressed from the pulp of avocados

Avocado oil is an edible oil extracted from the pulp of avocados, the fruit of Persea americana. It is used as an edible oil both raw and for cooking, where it is noted for its high smoke point. It is also used for lubrication and in cosmetics.

Pork rind Pork skin, raw or fried

Pork rind is the culinary term for the skin of a pig. It can be used in many different ways.

Cooking oil Oil consumed by humans, of vegetable or animal origin

Cooking oil is plant, animal, or synthetic liquid fat used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking. It is also used in food preparation and flavoring not involving heat, such as salad dressings and bread dips, and may be called edible oil.


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