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Making Lard: Part 2 (How To Render Lard)

If you are new to the world of lard, feel free to read my previous post for more information. On this page we’ll dive right in to the nitty gritty of how to make it in your own kitchen. 

Getting ready

Start by either harvesting or buying raw pig fat. Get leaf fat (from around the kidneys) or back fat (from the pig’s back), either will make great lard.

For size reference, I have used a 5 qt cast iron Dutch oven pot, and 6 lbs of pork fat filled it. The rule of thumb for how much you’ll end up with is 1 pint (2 cups) of lard per pound of pork fat.

The goal of rendering fat is to melt it and evaporate the water. The higher temperature you use the faster this will happen, though it also imports a much stronger flavor to your lard and the fat is easy to scorch (you don’t want that). Low and slow is your best motto for delicious lard, low temp for a long time.

Heat source

You can use an oven, electric turkey roaster, the back burner, a crock pot, or the top of a wood heating stove. My favorite method is the oven, as I can ensure an even heat.

A stovetop burner could scorch the bottom, a crock pot can scorch the sides, and a wood stove can have variable heat.

I have used an electric turkey roaster in the past, but it did not heat evenly. Even though I set it for 225-250, I think the heating elements heat up higher than this and my lard became pretty yellow (instead of white) and had a porky flavor. It was still fine, but I like the oven method better for a mild flavored lard.

If using a crock pot or a stovetop burner keep it on low. For a wood stove make sure it’s on a cooler part of the stove, and remove the pot if the fire gets really hot. For the oven, preheat it to 225-250. I start at 225 for 8 hrs and then bump it to 250, and I don’t go higher. Some people will go up to 300 in an oven, but I prefer to keep it lower.

The process

Now you must chop up (or grind) your fat – the smaller the pieces the faster it will render. Ground fat renders the fastest, but it is a pretty messy process. Keep your big pieces in the fridge, and get one section out at a time to make the chopping easier. If the fat is frozen you’ll never get your knife through it, but if it’s room temperature cutting it will be a very messy, greasy, slippery process.

Chop away, but don’t feel like you have to go itty bitty. I cut mine into 1-2 inch pieces.

Place your fat pieces into your pot and stick it in the oven. Now wait a long time. It will take half a day to even look like it’s doing anything, but it will. Stir it every 4-8 hours. The pieces will get smaller and there will be more and more liquid.

My process is to start it in the morning, stir it in the afternoon, and turn off the oven at bedtime. By morning it has started to cool and solidify. I turn the oven back on to 250 and it melts pretty quickly and continues rendering. It’s ready to be ladled into jars in the afternoon, or wait until evening if you’re busy.

You can take some liquid out and start jaring it (my word – putting it in jars), but make sure all the water is out first. Do this by checking the temperature – it will stay around 212 degrees until the water content is gone, then the temp will climb to the temperature of your oven. If the liquid fat is 240-250, it’s ready. 

Filling the Jars

It’s done, now what?? Multiple ways exist to get the liquid out of the pot. Many people use cheesecloth, pouring it through several layers into a jar to keep out chunks and bits. This method gives the purest lard, but I don’t have cheesecloth and don’t want the mess of trying to pour from my hot Dutch oven. I have a mesh sieve/colander I simply push down into the pot. From inside the sieve I ladle the liquid and pour straight into my jars. The colander pushes the chunks aside, and I am not worried about tiny little bits in my lard. (They fall to the bottom of the jar anyway.)

Homemade rendered lard

Fill the jars to at least 1/2” of the top; you don’t need to leave your usual “head space” if you are used to that in other canning processes. Screw on your lid (no need to heat your lids in water first – we want to avoid water) and let it sit there several hours to cool.

Most of mine vacuum seal overnight, but do not check for this until they are completely at room temperature. (I use reusable canning lids, but you’ll know your disposable lid sealed if the button sinks in and the lid does not pop off when you gently push on the side of the lid with your finger.) 

Storing Lard

Let’s talk about storing lard. The internet is full of conflicting information here, I think because no one wants to say it will last “this” long on the shelf and then get blasted by an unhappy person who’s lard spoiled.

The longest storing option is to freeze it. After that is refrigeration, followed by keeping it at room temperature on the shelf. Air and water are the main things that will make your lard go rancid, so make sure you avoid both. Don’t jar it until the water is gone, fill your jar completely to minimize air exposure, and seal it well to ensure no further airflow.

Due to limited freezer and fridge space I choose to go the shelf route; do what sounds good to you and research it if you are nervous about storage time. I have used 6-month old lard from the shelf, the vacuum seal was still intact and it had not started to spoil.

It’s hot when it comes out of the pot and has been for a very long time, so water bath canning is not needed. If using a sealable jar like a mason jar, it will seal itself as it cools like other canned foods. 

If you store it on a shelf, keep it out of the light. Put the jars in a cardboard box or something similar. I always keep a jar out, sitting behind my stove for easy use. It’s ok on the counter, being used periodically and exposed to light, for the short-term (a month or so). When that jar is gone, I get another one from the box on the pantry shelf.

Using Lard

Use it as a butter (if you’re dairy-free) or shortening replacement in recipes as a 1:1 ratio. Also use it for stove cooktop uses like sautéing, frying eggs/potatoes, cooking pancakes, and most other things you do on your stove.

It’s great for deep frying but keep the temp below 370, it hits its smoke point at 375. Grease pans and muffin tins, season your cast iron, add it to homemade dog treats. Get creative and enjoy!

How to Make (Render) Lard

This how-to instruction set starts with raw pig fat and walks through how to turn it into lard.
Prep Time30 minutes
Oven Time2 days
Total Time2 days 30 minutes
Course: Basic Ingredients
Yield: 4 Quarts

Materials

  • 6 lbs Pig Fat or more/less

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  • Chop up (or grind) your fat – the smaller the pieces the faster it will render. Stick it in the freezer for a while to make the chopping easier. Let it sit on the counter if it’s totally frozen, or you’ll never get your knife through it, but if it thaws all the way it will be very messy and greasy trying to cut. You know that great temperature for cutting chicken, not so slippery as cutting raw but not so firm as cutting frozen? Go for that. Chop away, but don’t feel like you have to go itty bitty. I cut mine into 1-2 inch pieces and was rather tired of chopping by that point.
  • Place your fat pieces into your pot, and stick it in the oven. Now wait a long time. It will take half a day to even look like it’s doing anything, but it will. Stir it every 4-8 hours (yes, it can stay in there overnight and no, don’t set an alarm to stir it). The pieces will get smaller and there will be more and more liquid. You can take some liquid out and start jaring it (my word – putting it in jars), but make sure all the water is out first. Do this by checking the temperature – it will stay around 212 degrees until the water content is gone, then the temp will climb to the temperature of your oven. If the liquid fat is 240-250, it’s ready.

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