Where there is pig, there will be lard. 🐷 Lard is animal fat derived from the fat of the pig. In China, people have been using and consuming lard for centuries and likewise in some parts of Asia and the world. From cooking delicious dishes, deep frying and making flaky pastries to making soap and more, lard is an amazing fat.
Homemade rendered lard (pork oil 猪油) and crispy pork lard (chu yau char 猪油渣).
Unfortunately, in the past couple of decades, lard has been scrutinized and shunned for its health damaging effect. This resulted in a love-dislike relationship by the masses who consume lard. “I love lard but I don’t want to eat it because it’s bad for health.” However through the eyes of the awakens, one knows that lard is not the bad kid in the block. In fact, lard is one of the healthiest fats along with tallow, butter, ghee and coconut oil. Ok, even chicken fat too. Whenever you can, always choose pasture-raised animals for they have the highest bio-available nutrients.
Truly liquid gold! Using 277g pork fats, the final rendered lard is 164g and crispy pork lard is only 80g (!!!) with a loss of 33g.
What does render means? Render is the act of slowly cooking the fat to melt it and clarify it (cook off the water and other impurities). Rendered lard aka pork oil (猪油) under low heat will give off a light gold color in liquid form and when cooled into almost-solid it changes into white to off-white color. The resulting crispy pork fat pieces which are adored by many pork lovers out there including yours truly are called chu yau char (猪油渣) in Cantonese. Some people called it cracklings but I beg to differ because cracklings must at least be made from pork skin.
Chu yau char!!! 🐽 Sprinkle ’em on your food (here & here) and your life will never be the same again. Ohh it can be eaten just like that as a snack too which I usually do. I can finish this whole thing in just one sitting.
Notes & Tips On Rendering Lard:
1. The best kind of fats to use for rendering lard is leaf lard (from the kidney areas) followed by back fat and lastly belly fat. So far the pork fat that I’m using to render lard is precut back fat. I’m guessing it’s back fat judging from its shape and color (pinkish). They are definitely not leaf lard (white and irregular shape) or belly fat.
2. I’ve tried using stainless steel pan, claypot (what??) and cast iron skillet to render lard and found cast iron skillet to be the best bet. I had major tough times with the other two especially when the fats keep on sticking to the bottom and each other even though I had preheated the pan. Tsk, I don’t use non-stick pan anymore. I haven’t tried using wok yet. Other ways to render lard are slow cooker and oven.
My choice of cookware for rendering lard will always be cast iron skillet and cast iron Dutch oven. Using cast iron will guarantee super easy and smooth rendering of lard. No more sticking plus when you render lard in cast iron, you are also helping to season the pan.
3. Many online articles advise on adding some water at the start of rendering to prevent the fats from burning. I’ve tried both ways and found no different because we are supposed to render lard in low heat. However, when water is used there will be more sputtering, popping and splashing actions at the later stages of rendering. Nowadays, I don’t add water anymore.
4. When I started making lard the first few times, I added the just wash+wet pork fat right into the pan. The result? Lots of sputtering, popping and splashing at the later stages of rendering compared to less of those if drying the fats beforehand.
5. Although drying the fats with a towel beforehand will still make the pork lard to sputter and all, at least it’s way less. And if you have a lid for the pan, use it when all those actions begin. I don’t have one, so I use a kitchen towel to cover the skillet.
6. When rendering lard, make sure to do it at low temperature and with lots of patience (it takes around 1 hour to 1.5 hours). This is because rendering lard at a higher temperature and also over-rendering it will make the lard smells porky, taste porky and the lard brownish in color. If you’re using the lard to cook a strong smelling dish, this is okay. But if you’re using it for making pastries or mild flavor dish, then it’s a no-no because it will smell porky.
Can you spot the difference?
The lard on the left picture (first photo) is brownish compared to the light yellowish (in actual it’s white in color) lard on the right. I made a mistake with the left one by rendering at low heat but higher. So the end result is this brownish lard and it smells porky. The one on the right doesn’t smell at all!
7. If the pork fat is bought whole, cut them into even size of 1.5cm-2cm cubes so that they can render evenly at the same time. You don’t want the cube size to be too small because the resulting crispy pork lard is much smaller in size compared to its raw form.
You must be thinking why all the hassle? Sure you can buy lard from the supermarket though I’ve never seen it in Malaysia. Do know that most of them are not as pure as when you make your own. If you can find pure lard, they most probably cost a bomb.
Every time you make your own lard, be d@mn proud of it!
🐖 Lard makes ones dish yummier!
Currently, I’m using lard for all my cooking and butter and sometimes coconut oil for baking.
Rendered Lard (Pork Oil 猪油) & Crispy Pork Lard (Chu Yau Char 猪油渣)
pork fats from pasture-raised pig if possible (very important to know your source), cut into 1.5cm-2cm cubes, dried with a towel if wet
pinches of unrefined sea salt
1. Heat a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over low heat.
2. Once the skillet or Dutch oven is hot, add cubed pork fats. You can skip the preheating step if your cookware is very well seasoned.
3. Allow the pork fats to render out the oil slowly and use a wooden spatula to stir from time to time to make sure they don’t stick to the pan or each other and also to ensure even rendering.
Process of rendering lard (pork oil 猪油). Compare #1 and #6 and notice the size difference in the raw pork fats and the finished crispy pork lard.
A few minutes later, the pork fats will start to foam with medium sized bubbles to more vigorous larger bubbles as it cooks down the water and crisp up the pork fats. Eventually, it changes to small tame bubbles with crispy pork lard starting to float to the top. It’s done when there are no more or very minuscule bubbles coming out from the floating light golden crispy pork lard. Remember the lard and crispy pork lard are still cooking when you remove from the skillet. So don’t over-render them.
4. Use a stainless steel ladle and sieve to strain the lard into clean glass bottles. You can also use cheesecloth or kitchen towel for extra straining power.
5. Place the crispy pork lard in a big bowl and add pinches of salt to season it. Mix well.
6. Allow both lard and crispy pork lard to cool before covering with lids. The lard can be stored in the fridge for many months as long as it’s not contaminated with water/liquid. Use a clean spoon to scoop out the lard when using. For the crispy pork lard, it can be stored in room temperature for a few days and remain crispy as long as the lid is tightened. It usually doesn’t last long as it’s amazing food to snack on.