Can I bake with the lard that’s in plastic tubs at the grocery store?

Price check: one tub of lard.

Reader Ronnie, there are good reasons for bakers to avoid lard in plastic tubs. For one, because it tends to be the lower grade stuff with the piggier taste. Second, a lot of store-bought lard — unless it’s a Mexican brand — is rendered at a very low temperature so it lacks the roasted flavor notes that are so important to its overall profile. Third, store bought lard is partially hydrogenated to extend its shelf life — and partial hydrogenation produces trans fats. I myself don’t think trans fats are worth worrying about. Many other people, however, do. That’s one reason for the turn back to solid animal fats over processed shortenings. Buying store lard, therefore, rather defeats the purpose.

However the main reason you don’t want to buy tub lard is because it’s not as firm as high quality leaf lard, which is the baker’s best friend. Oh my goodness I can see now that I’m going to need to put up a post on leaf lard next. That’s going to have to wait until morning!

12 thoughts on “Can I bake with the lard that’s in plastic tubs at the grocery store?”

  1. I use tub lard—Mexican brand (I think)—for savory pastries, biscuits, etc. LOVE it. I’ve lived in Central American countries for 4 years and bought the stuff fresh, in little plastic bags from the market. The tub lard is much firmer (more like Crisco) than the market lard. Not sure what that means…but both make scrumptious pastries!

    1. Very interesting Jennifer Jo!

      Yes lard is a common fat in a lot of baking in Latin America. Honestly I don’t know what it’s like outside of the States. However I can say that I vastly prefer rendered leaf lard for baking American pie crusts and flaky Euro-style layered pastries. There you definitely need the extra firmness of the more saturated fat. But your point is well taken. Better for what? Great point.

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  2. Joe, awhile ago I commented here (in an earlier discussion about lard) about the fact that shelf-stable commercial lard was a hydrogenated Frankenfat, and would be an issue for people concerned about trans-fats. But I’ve read several times since then that commercial lard is fully, as opposed to partially hydrogenated, and that full hydrogenation doesn’t result in trans-fats.

    I’m not sure that my sources were accurate or not, but if so, it would let people relax a bit about using it. And I’m all for relaxation.

    I notice also that Crisco now lists a liquid vegetable oil, a fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, and a partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients. This blend brings the level of trans-fat down to where it can be listed as zero grams per serving.

    1. Hey Tom!

      I’m not sure about that to be honest. However you’re absolutely correct that fully hydrogenated fats have no transfats in them. The problem is that when you fully hydrogenate a fat it tends to be rock hard. Why? Because the fat molecules become much more uniform and start stacking up on each other to form crystals. The mass becomes almost impenetrable to a spoon. This is why it was so difficult for the makers of Crisco to come up with a trans-free formulation. Fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil is firm as a bar of soap. They solved the texture problem (sort of) by blending a non-hydrogenated liquid oil into a quantity of fully-hydrogenated cottonseed oil (and a little partially hydrogenated oil as you point out).

      Where lard is concerned it may well be that it contains so many different types of fats that full hydrogenation doesn’t firm it to the point that it becomes soap-like in its consistency, but I’d have to look into that. Thanks for the great comment!

      – Joe

      1. Thanks, Joe. I’m wondering if the lard sold in boxed brick form may be different than that sold in the tubs. I have limited experience, but the brick lard I’ve bought before has indeed been very hard. Certainly much harder than shortening, and I doubt it would scoop from a tub easily. I think maybe this is this is the fully hydrogenated stuff?

        1. Interesting. I’ve never seen that, but if it’s that hard it most likely is fully hydrogenated. Where are you located? I want to find some of that!

          – Joe

          1. I’m in Northern California. I’ve now found online two conflicting ingredient lists that just confuse the issue. One lists only hydrogenated lard and some preservatives. Another lists lard and hydrogenated lard along with the preservatives, which sounds like it would yield a softer consistency while avoiding the trans-fat issue.

            I’m heading to the market later today, and I’ll see what the boxes on the shelf have to say. Frankly, I was put off using lard for crusts by how hard the boxed lard was when I tried it some years ago. Maybe it’s changed.

          2. Hey OOTT!

            That’s interesting. My feeling is that you still want to go for leaf lard if you can since it’s going to be in between hard back fat (which it sounds to me like you might be finding) and the more oily belly/organ fat that’s often in tubs. Leaf lard is just the right consistency…more like butter.

            As for the products you’re finding the first sounds like it might be soft lard that’s been firmed with hydrogenation, the second a mix of maybe hydrogenated soft lard and harder back lard. Maybe…just a guess! The true test is in the baking!

            Thanks for keeping me updated!

            – Jim

          3. One last update then. I found three brands on the shelves today, two of them in the boxed brick form. The brand I bought before that was very hard, seems to now be softer and lists both lard and hydrogenated lard. I think the product has changed, but maybe it’s my memory.

            Interestingly though, the other two brands only listed lard, BHT, and citric acid, with the word “hydrogenated” banished from the label in any form. That brick was quite soft. I think the industry is adjusting to popular health concerns.

            I wish I could find leaf lard locally. I know I can order online.

          4. Interesting. You may just have to try some things, OOTT. Have you checked local farmer’s markets? Small local meat purveyors can generally hook you up!

            Cheers,

            – Joe

      2. Hi Joe,

        FYI – Having made Crisco shortening once upon a time, I can tell you that vegetable shortening such as Crisco has always contained liquid vegetable oil in it and that the oil has always contributed in part to why the shortening has/had that creamy texture (the way the shortening is frozen out and the degree of hydrogenation of the partially hydrogenated fats are equally important parts of the equation). So the presence of liquid oil is not a new thing brought on by the trans fat fear craze, but the addition of fully hydrogenated fat is no doubt.

        1. Great addition to the discussion, Deb. Thanks very much for the info!

          Your friend,

          – Joe

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