Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rendering lard, a tutorial

Almost as easy as boiling water. In the morning, preheat the oven to 250. Start with a chunk of butt-ugly lard that looks something like that, cut it into pieces and place in a wide dutch oven with a cup or so of water that will keep the lard from burning in the early stages and eventually evaporate away. In her fine book, Fat, Jennifer McLagan suggests dicing the lard into small cubes but there's a lot of connective tissue and such that made this too difficult for lazy me, so I just broke off hunks the size of my forearm. All was perfectly well. The pot goes into the oven where the lard gently spatters and melts all day long, filling the house with a mysterious perfume that some might find offensive, but I rather enjoyed.
Midway through the afternoon you take out the pot and ladle some of the luminous golden liquid into a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. When you've extracted as much as you can, return the pot to the oven where the diminished chunks of fat will continue to melt and shrink for a few more hours. When you've retrieved every precious drop of rendered lard, throw away the greasy, shriveled bits left in the pan. They look like they might be yummy with salt and lime juice, but aren't. 

Lard goes in containers in refrigerator to solidify, then into the freezer.

Far from grotesque, I found this to be a thrilling and primal food processing experience. 


  1. Sweet! Thank you so much.

  2. I can't believe you rendered your own lard -- you're my personal hero! I've got a killer buttermilk biscuit recipe that calls for the good stuff...

  3. Interesting. How did it taste compared to pre-rendered lard. Was it worth the mess, gas, expense, etc. Or just great to do one time?

  4. Anonymous,
    I didn't taste the pre-rendered lard, as it was raw and unappetizing. Actually, I didn't taste the rendered lard either until it was used in the pie crust at which point it provided a faint porky flavor. Rendering lard is not for everyone, but if you cook tamales, pie crusts, do a lot of frying or are cooking through a book called FAT it comes in handy.

  5. I render the fat from any chicken I dismember, and make cracklings which do taste wonderful with just a little salt, and the schmaltz is perfect for making chicken livers.