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Olive Oil’s Great. But Have You Tried Lard?

By Amanda Agee Published

Lard kicks up richness and savoriness like no other fat can.

Olive oil has been America's cooking fat of choice since the 1980s, when its popularity surged amid reports of its health benefits and as the culinary community embraced it for its complex taste. I'm so conditioned to reach for it that I never think twice about subbing it in when recipes call for another cooking fat. 

My colleague Lan Lam even made this swap at first when she was developing a recipe for cacio e uova, a Neopolitan egg and cheese pasta that traditionally calls for lard. But a conversation with Italian food historian Francine Segan made her reconsider that choice—and our whole team was sure glad she did. While the dish boasted a subtle complexity when made with olive oil, lard made the pasta taste both fuller and richer, the cheese flavor heightened, and lighter and cleaner on the palate. Consider me a convert.

But of course, this discovery isn’t anything new: This creamy pork fat was this country’s favorite fat for baking and frying for centuries, and it is still a common sight in kitchens in Thailand, China, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Mexico, and the American South. If you’re unfamiliar with lard, but want to make use of this powerfully porky fat in your kitchen, read on. 

Buying Lard

Lard can typically be found in the meat section, in the oil or baking supply aisle near the shortening, or in the refrigerated section near the butter. The most versatile lards taste neutral, clean and rich, but others taste savory and porky. While we like both, if you’re planning to use lard in a variety of applications, savory and sweet, we recommend opting for the former. Some lards have been hydrogenated, a process that helps the fat firm up and resist oxidizing, but we recommend looking for a lard that is not hydrogenated or only partially hydrogenated, as this process has been linked to health issues.

Taste Test Lard

This creamy, white pork fat used to be America’s mainstream choice for baking and frying. Is it time to bring lard back?

Cooking with Lard

Here are some ideas for applications that could benefit from the added richness of swapping in lard for oil or butter.

Recipe Pasta alla Gricia (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano)

The porky-peppery flavors of pasta alla gricia deserve big recognition.

Recipe Pasta All'Amatriciana

To perfect this controversial Italian dish, we looked to a staple of the American larder.

Recipe Foolproof Spaghetti Carbonara

An overload of fat makes a smooth, stable sauce for this classic Roman pasta. But could we dial back the fat and still have a velvety consistency?

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.