What Is The Difference Between Lard And Shortening In Baking


Lard and shortening are two of the most common fats, especially when baking pastries. Like butter, they also have a high fat content, and make the baked goods flaky. While behaving similarly in baking, lard and shortening may differ in some ways. So, what is the difference between lard and shortening in baking?

Lard is made from animal fat (most used Lard is from a pig’s fat), while shortening is made from vegetable oils. Baking with lard will give you a rich flavor and a flaky texture. Shortening will also provide a flaky texture but it doesn’t taste as strong as lard or butter.

If you want to find out more about these two ancient cooking fats then keep on reading this post!

Main Differences Between Lard And Shortening

I want to start by briefly and precisely pointing out the differences. I know most of you just want to find out the straight answer to this question so here you go. Those who are more curious and want to find out more, I’ll explain each of these fats thoroughly later.

  • Origin. Lard comes from animal sources, shortening comes from various vegetable oil sources. Lard is made from a rendered animal’s fat. Shortening was originally meant to substitute the animal fat that lard has. Vegetable oils like palm oil, cottonseed, soybean and even avocado are used to make shortening. There are a lot more vegetables that can be used for shortening.
  • Taste. Both lard and shortening have a neutral taste.The flavour they add to pastries can be quite different though. Lard coming from animal sources gives off a richer and stronger taste. With shortening, you’ll get a greasier pastry.
  • Health Benefits. Lard is known for its healing abilities. It is a healthy remedy for cuts and burns, applying it speeds up the healing process. People even use it as a refining moisturiser for their skin. Shortening on the other hand, has proven to be bad for your cholesterol and it can cause heart problems.
  • Texture. Shortening can be found in liquid, semi solid or solid form. Lard is traditionally in a semi solid form. But, I’m sure you can find other kinds in a grocery store. Both fats have a white colour and a thick consistency.

What is Lard

As I said, lard comes from rendered animal’s fat, most often from a pig. It’s one of the most used fats in the kitchen over the years, centuries even. It can be used for sweet and savory dishes. I love using lard when I cook something savory, like pork tacos, grilled vegetables all the way to extra crunchy pie crusts.

Lard has a semi-solid consistency and is made from 100% fat and is actually one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Besides its bad reputation( because of the high cholesterol content), lard is actually not that unhealthy. It contains B vitamins and minerals.

A little known fact is that lard is used outside the kitchen doors. From ointment for cuts and burns to skin moisturiser and even moisturiser for your skin ( this is because of the Omega3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and also helps absorbing Vitamin D from the Sun when you put it on your skin).

Please note that not every type of lard is safe for skin use, so make sure you do a little research before using it.

How to Make Lard at Home

The lard you usually find in stores is processed, like any other shelf bought product. So if you have some free time on your hands and pork back fat meat, I highly suggest making your own lard. The recipe I have prepared for you is very easy to make and it will make you a clean batch of unprocessed lard.

  1. Cut your pork back fat in medium sized chunks (make sure they’re close in size so they cook evenly). Put the chunks of fat in a cooking pan that is a little wider and deeper than a regular frying pan.
  2. Now, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent your meat from sticking to the pan. Don’t worry, the water will sizzle off as the fat starts to melt.
  3. The fat has to be cooked in a low- medium heat so as to not burn off. Because we’re cooking on low heat, the fat won’t immediately start melting, and that’s good.
  4. Stir the pot occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking. After 20 minutes or so, you should finally be able to see the fat being extracted from the pork.
  5. Stir again and leave it on the stove for 40-45 minutes checking on it constantly. After the pork is done, strain your fat with a cheesecloth and collect it in a jar and let it cool off completely. The rendered pork fat should have a light golden/brown colour.
  6. When the lard has cooled, put a cloth over it and put it in the refrigerator to let the fat solidify.

And there you have it, homemade lard from scratch that will last you for months.

What is Shortening

The name explains it all. Shortening is used in baking for literally shortening the dough. Some recipes (like pie crust or any pastry that crumbles) require the dough not to be elastic and stretchy, but to crumble and keep its shape(opposite of the pizza dough which stretches and can be easily moved ). When using shortening, your dough should look a little denser and stiffer.

So, that’s where shortening comes in handy. It melts into the dough and creates a barrier between the gluten molecules, disabling the dough from expanding.

Just like lard, shortening is white, has a semi- solid consistency and melts above room temperature. It’s made from hydrogenated vegetable oils which allow the oil to turn into a semi solid form.

What You Should Know about Shortening

  • Shortening is very cheap to buy, unlike butter or lard. That’s why most of the neighbourhood bakeries use shortening in their pastries. Shortening is also used in most of the frozen pastries you buy in the market.
  • It has a higher shelf life than lard or butter. Butter can last to a month or two which makes it okay for families. Lard lasts for four months. Shortening can last you for up to 8 months. That’s why it’s a popular choice for commercial use. Be sure to check the expiration date on the container.
  • It is higher in fat than butter so it produces a flakier, and more tender pastry. Butter contains only 80% fat, opposed to shortening that is 100% fat. Shortening doesn’t require water in the recipe, so there is no steaming process. This allows the pastry to be extra soft and moist.
  • Shortening is mostly used in baked goods like cookies, pie crusts, frosting and cakes. It can easily mix and melt into the dough, making the softest cookies you will ever try.
  • Shortening is 100% fat. That means that it is full of calories and no nutrients, so please don’t consume it in large doses. It is processed , usually made from palm oil (which is one of the most unhealthy oils out there). It can affect your health if consumed on a regular basis. Stay off the frozen baked goods that contain palm oil.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

What Is The Best Substitute For Both Lard and Shortening

The best substitute for both of these fats is definitely butter. If you wish to use something else than butter, try coconut oil or olive oil. I find that baking with butter gives my pastries an extra rich taste.

What Types Of Shortening Are There

There are a few varieties of shortening. A solid, liquid, and a shortening that’s made specifically for icing. The liquid shortening is usually used for deep frying or for recipes that require melted oil. The solid one is typically used for making pie crusts, bread, or baked goods (that is how you get the crumbly dough, by using a solid butter stick or shortening)

What Is The Difference Between Shortening And Margarine

This was one of the most asked questions relating to shortening.

Margarine is a vegetarian substitute for butter.It is made from 20 % water and 80%vegetable oil. Also it may have milk.

Margarine is made with oils like canola, corn, soybean, or olive oil.

Shortening is also made from oils like the margarine but it does not content water or milk products. It is a 100% vegetable fat.

What Is The Best Vegan Substitute For Lard In Baking

Coconut oil has given me the best results when baking without animal fats.It stays solid at room temperature and you can treat it the same way you do butter or shortenings. It melts through the pastry and gives it a nice moisture.

Keep in mind that the coconut oil tastes like coconut, so if you’re opposed to that, this may not be the choice for you.

You can always buy vegan margarine or vegan butter if you don’t want to risk it.

But, as margarine and butter are in solid form, make sure they’re room temperature before using them for baking.

Jessica Blythe

Jessica Blythe is a passionate home cook, preparing delicious home cook meals daily for her family, She also enjoys baking as her favorite hobby.

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