Rendering Lard


bacon-fatWhen I cook bacon in a skillet, I will drain off the rendered fat to a foil-lined container. This is a great kitchen hack for disposing of grease that you should never put down your drain. I keep the foil-lined container in the refrigerator and when it is full I seal it up and discard in the trash. The fat “puck” is brownish in color and hard. Some home chefs will use this fat but I don’t recommend it for health and flavor reasons.

If I am cooking more than a few slices of bacon I will use an oven method. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lay the bacon slices on a half-sheet, cooking in the oven for anywhere from 20-40 minutes. The thickness of your bacon will determine cooking time. When finished I will pour off the fat and refrigerate.

An interesting observation I had was that that fat from the oven method would never fully harden in the refrigerator, and would take on a creamy white color. You could easily mistake this for mayonnaise, it has similar color and texture. I wondered what was the reason for this and did a little research.

The oven method that produces creamy white rendered fat is basically producing lard. The fat is rendered and the moisture evaporated under low heat, as opposed to the direct heat method that cooks quickly at higher temperatures to deep-fry the bacon in its own fat.

As our food culture has moved away from saturated fats to vegetable fats, lard got left behind. This is a shame because it is a versatile fat that has less saturated fat than butter. Made from the fat that surrounds a pig’s kidneys, true lard has no “bacony” flavor or smell and is the key to truly amazing pastries, among other uses.

The oven method for bacon renders the fat from the pork belly – bacon – slowly at lower temperatures than a skillet method. The result is that the bacon cooks but doesn’t heat the fat beyond the smoke point of 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

It does warrant disclosing that lard is better than butter but it is no health panacea and should be used sparingly. However, the human body does require saturated fats, calcium is absorbed with the aid of saturated fat and vitamins A, D, and E are fat-soluble, without fat your body would flush those vitamins out without receiving any of the benefits.

If you are interested in pure lard that is odorless and has no pig flavors, check out leaf lard. You can make this in your own kitchen with no special equipment, simply visit your local butcher inquire about getting the right kind of pig fat to work with.