I had been testing rendering animal fat for a while now, so it’s time to share it: let me start by saying that lard is an excellent cooking fat, what’s so great about it?
a) it has excellent wetting abilities, so you need very little of it to grease a skillet. Way easier than working with olive oil or butter. This helps keep energy intake in check, if you need to.
b) it has a very high smoke point, which makes it highly resistant to heat degradation, and thus a healthy fat for cooking
c) it has a very mild taste, almost undetectable, unlike other fats
d) it’s excellent for browning without burning - great for cooking eggs and vegetables.
e) you’re taking a waste product that would otherwise end up in a dumpster, fat trimmings, and turning it into something useful. Which ultimately saves everyone energy, time and money.
How do you make it? simple, there are two methods: dry and wet. Wet entails boiling the fat, and looks like a process that’s a bit more involved to me, though I haven’t tried. Dry however is quick and simple.
What you need: non-stick skillet, spoon, a container that can take hot fluids, and a fitting sieve.
Take uncooked fat trimmings (partly cooked is OK too, and is easier to cut). Pork’s will give you lard, beef’s tallow, and poultry’s schmaltz. I used pork’s trimmings, of course.
For the best results the trimmings should be cut into smaller or small bits, but it’s optional, if the fat is tender enough and the trimmings not too large. I’m told with some types of beef fat this step may be necessary.
Apply high heat to your skillet: you need high-ish temperature for rendering.
Throw the trimmings in, wait until they start fizzling, move the fat bits around and you should notice a liquid underneath them.
With a plastic spoon, squeeze the fat bits.
As the liquid collects, lean the skillet and let it pool on one side. When there’s enough, spoon the liquid up and drip through the sieve in the container, or pour it directly. The sieve is there to stop the bits of meat that can still be attached to the fat, preventing the lard from spoiling.
For pouring, you may need to remove temporarily the fat bits, or, if it’s not too hard, keep them in place with the spoon.
Keep repeating until no liquid is released any more. The leftover bits will assume a deep brown color but will not burn unless you’re being overzealous - if that’s the case, throw them away.
If you’ve done this right, now you’ve got cracklings, the cooked fibrous part of the fat tissue, that can be used as flavoring for other recipes. And rendered fat, which is basically a mixture of fatty acids, is highly stable and won’t spoil easily, although I recommend storing it in the fridge for extended shelf life.
Above a certain temperature it will retain its liquid form, but when cooled down it will turn semi solid, assuming a creamy texture and a light yellow color.
A very simple recipe I’m really fond of. You see, when I was a kid, I hated string beans. Never been a big fan of vegetables, either. Honestly? Bleargh. Until I started cooking myself, and vegetables found their way back into my life.
What you need: non stick skillet with lid, colander; lard, string beans, salt, pepper. No, I’m not kidding.
Bring salted water to a boil into the covered skillet. I find a wide skillet works better for me, as string beans want to float anyway, so the increased surface is a winner VS depth. Throw the cleaned string beans in: personally, I use frozen string beans, so convenient. Bring back to a boil, then set your timer for 4 minutes. 3 makes them a bit too chewy, 5 is a bit too soft for my taste. The fresh product will likely require more time, but better err on the side of caution, as you will see later.
When time’s up, strain the string beans using the colander. If you’re the recycling type, the water can be kept for other uses, like watering plants after it’s cooled down.
Take the same skillet, which should have dried itself by virtue of its temperature, and grease with lard. I use a plastic spoon, because lard at room temperature tends to stick to kitchen implements otherwise, so I let the spoon warm up in contact with the skillet’s surface, minimizing waste.
Apply high heat; when the surface is hot enough pour a bunch of string beans without overcrowding the skillet, you can break up this second phase into several rounds, if needs be. The surface’s temperature should be high enough that the string beans quickly brown, not too fast though or they may burn, not too slow, or they will cook more without browning.
With a wrist flick, turn them over, repeat a few times, but not in too quick a succession, or there won’t be time for the browning to happen. If your string beans turned out a little too chewy, you can later lower the heat and let them go a little, they will soften without browning. Conversely, if they’re just right, you want to keep the browning time to a minimum, this will save you time and energy.
Sprinkle them with salt and pepper liberally, the non-descript slightly sweet flavor of the string bean will magically transform into super tasty.
Thanks to this quick, simple recipe, I cook mountains of string beans (even a kilo at a time), with which I proceed to stuff myself to happiness.
If you need extra carbs, the string beans cooked this way may be mixed with steamed potatoes cut in chunks; for maximum flavor, let the tatties go in the skillet with butter or lard, until they acquire a little color. Salt and pepper to taste.