Shortening and lard are fats used in cooking and baking to add moisture, richness, and flavor to dishes. They can be used for greasing pans, enhancing savory dishes, and creating tender textures in baked goods.
But what sets them apart?
Firstly, the main difference lies in their composition. Shortening is typically made from vegetable oils like soybean, cottonseed, or palm oil, while lard is derived from pig fat.
Another distinction is their texture. Shortening is a smooth and stable fat that solidifies at a low temperature. This makes it ideal for achieving a flaky texture in pie crusts and other baked goods. Lard, on the other hand, is softer and more pliable, making it better suited for creating a tender texture in baked goods.
Flavor is another contrasting factor that can affect the taste of baked goods. Shortening has a neutral flavor, meaning it doesn’t add much taste. Some may find it too mild, lacking in flavor contribution. In contrast, lard has a rich, savory pork flavor that can enhance the final product. While desirable in certain recipes like savory pastries, it may be overpowering for some.
So, how do we use these fats?
Shortening is commonly used to add texture, moisture, and tenderness to baked goods. Its high melting point makes it suitable for icings and frostings.
Lard is best utilized in savory dishes such as sautéed vegetables or fried eggs. It can also produce flakier and more tender pastries in baking. However, due to its lower melting point compared to shortening, it is not as suitable for icings and frostings.
The choice between shortening and lard depends on specific recipe needs and desired outcomes, whether in home baking or commercial settings. Bakeries specializing in flaky pie crusts might prefer lard for texture and flavor, while a cookie shop could opt for shortening to achieve crisp and firm cookies. Each fat has its place in baking, with the best choice determined by individual recipe requirements.
The use of shortening or lard significantly influences the final result in baking, impacting both taste and texture. Lard is often preferred due to its ability to produce flakier and more tender pastries. Its flavor, derived from pig fat, enhances the taste of baked goods, especially noticeable in pie crusts. Lard’s moisture-retaining properties contribute to flaky and tender pastries.
Shortening, made from vegetable oils, possesses a neutral flavor. This makes it suitable for baked goods where the taste of pork fat is not desired, such as certain cookies and cakes. Its higher melting point makes it a suitable choice for baked goods requiring a firmer texture like icings and frostings. Additionally, for those seeking to exclude animal products, shortening made from 100% natural vegetable fat serves as a great alternative.
Health benefits of using lard or shortening
Considering health aspects, lard has often been regarded negatively due to its saturated fat content. However, recent research indicates that lard may have health benefits, as it contains high levels of monounsaturated fats, which improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, shortening has faced criticism due to the presence of trans fats in hydrogenated vegetable oils. Nevertheless, manufacturers like FoodGrid now produce trans fat-free shortening from non-hydrogenated palm oil, ensuring a healthier option for cooking and baking.
In terms of health, lard is considered a better choice than shortening due to its monounsaturated fats. Homemade lard, free from additives and preservatives, provides a natural and healthier option. Shortening, particularly if sourced from non-hydrogenated palm oil, can also be a quality option without health risks.
Ultimately, the decision between shortening and lard depends on personal preferences, recipe requirements, and desired texture and flavor. Each fat possesses distinct properties and can be utilized in various ways in baking.