What do you call the fat of pork?

Pork fat goes by many names. Some of the most common names for the fat from a pig are lard, pork fat, pork grease, and pig fat. But there are also more specialized names that refer to fat from specific parts of the pig.


Lard is the most common generic name for pork fat. It can refer to fat from any part of the pig, but most often refers to fat that has been rendered and clarified for cooking and baking. Lard was once the most commonly used fat for cooking, baking, and food production, before the rise in popularity of vegetable oils in the 20th century.

Leaf Lard

Leaf lard refers specifically to the fat around the pig’s kidneys and loin. This fat is prized for baking and pastry making because it has a flaky texture and mild flavor. Leaf lard remains solid at room temperature but melts quickly when baked. It produces tender, flaky pie crusts and pastries.

Back Fat

Back fat refers to the thick layer of fat beneath the pig’s skin along the back. This fat is often used to make sausages because it has a favorable meat-to-fat ratio. Back fat can also be rendered into lard.


Fatback is similar to back fat, but comes specifically from fat along the back of the pig between the skin and the loin. It is a very popular fat for making sausages, adding moisture and fat to lean ground meat. Fatback can be fried up into pork rinds or rendered into lard.

Belly Fat

The belly is one of the fattiest parts of the pig. Pork belly is used to make bacon, often being cured and smoked. Fresh pork belly can also be roasted until the fat becomes crispy crackling. Belly fat has more intermuscular fat marbled into the meat, which gives it a soft, tender texture when cooked.

Jowl Fat

The jowl is the lower cheek area of the pig. Like belly fat, it is very well-marinated and suitable for curing into guanciale, an Italian cured pork jowl product similar to bacon. Jowl fat is also excellent for making sausages and confit.

Picnic Shoulder Fat

The picnic shoulder comes from the upper area of the front leg of the pig. It contains a large amount of collagen and fat interlaced into the meat, which helps keep it moist when roasted. Picnic shoulder can be cured into cottage bacon or ground for sausage meat. The fat is often used for sausage making or rendering into lard.

How is Lard Used in Cooking?

Here are some of the most common uses for lard in cooking and baking:

  • Frying – Lard reaches high temperatures and has a high smoke point, making it excellent for deep frying and pan frying.
  • Baking – Lard makes baked goods tender and flaky. It is especially good for pie crusts, pastries, biscuits, and any recipe requiring a tender shortening.
  • Sautéing – Lard is ideal for sautéing aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs to start a dish.
  • Roasting – Rubbing lard over meat helps keep it moist and adds flavor as the fat renders and browns.
  • Adding richness – Whipped lard can be used to finish sauces, soups, and stews adding a silky texture.

Nutrition of Lard

Here is the nutritional breakdown for 1 tablespoon (14g) of rendered lard (source: USDA):

Calories 115
Fat 13g
Saturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g

As you can see, lard is almost entirely fat, and mostly saturated and monounsaturated fat. Like other animal fats like tallow and schmaltz, it was prized in traditional cuisines for adding rich flavor. But with rising concerns over saturated fat and cholesterol, vegetable oils became more popular in the 1900s.

Today, many chefs and bakers are rediscovering animal fats like lard, tallow, and duck fat for their flavor and cooking properties. Used in moderation, they can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Buying and Storing Lard

There are a few options for purchasing lard:

  • Fresh lard – Fresh lard can often be found in the meat department of specialty butcher shops or ethnic grocers, particularly Hispanic, Asian, or European markets. It will be near the fresh pork products.
  • Manufactured lard – Products like Armour Lard and Fleischmann’s Lard are widely available in the baking aisle of supermarkets. These are processed and hydrogenated for stability.
  • Render your own – You can save pork fat trimmings from meat and render your own lard at home. This results in the freshest product.

To store lard:

  • Fresh lard can be refrigerated for months, or frozen for up to a year.
  • Canned and packaged lard products are shelf stable at room temperature for months after opening.
  • For optimal freshness and flavor, store lard in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Rendering Lard at Home

To render your own lard at home:

  1. Cut fresh pork fat (back fat, leaf fat, etc.) into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Place the fat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and cook over low heat. Rendering takes 2-3 hours.
  3. The fat will slowly melt out and separate from any meat or skin pieces.
  4. Let cool slightly. Then pour through a fine mesh strainer to filter out any solids.
  5. Pour the liquid lard into jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Store lard in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or freezer for a year.

Home rendered lard will have a delicious fresh pork aroma and flavor. Use it for all of your cooking needs.

Frying with Lard

Lard is excellent for frying as it has a high smoke point and Adds delicious flavor. Keep these tips in mind when frying with lard:

  • Use refined lard for high-heat frying rather than unprocessed pig fat which may burn.
  • Lard can be reused several times for frying if strained after each use.
  • Combine lard with oils like canola or peanut oil to raise the smoke point.
  • Fry foods at 350-375°F for optimal results with lard.
  • Some foods to fry in lard include chicken, fries, donuts, hushpuppies, and tamales.

Frying with lard will add crispness and rich pork flavor to foods. It’s a delicious alternative to processed vegetable oils.

Baking with Lard

Lard has excellent baking properties and was once the most common fat used in baking. Here are some tips for baking with lard:

  • Use leaf lard for the flakiest pie crusts and pastries. Or combine with butter.
  • Substitute lard 1:1 for butter, shortening, or oil in baking recipes.
  • Lard adds amazing flakiness to biscuits, scones, and pie doughs.
  • Add a touch of lard to cookie dough for extra richness.
  • For a tender crumb, use lard in place of oil or butter in cakes and quick breads.

Lard contributes to baked goods with unparalleled flakiness, moisture, and rich taste. Rediscover the wonders of lard in your baking!

Lard in Ethnic Cuisines

Lard remains an integral ingredient in many ethnic cuisine traditions. Some examples include:

  • Hispanic – Lard is called manteca and used for tamales, beans, peppers, and frying tortilla chips.
  • German – Schweineschmalz is spread on bread or used for schnitzel and sausages.
  • Polish – Smalec flavors bigos stew and pierogi dough.
  • French – Saindoux gives flakiness to laminated pastries like croissants.
  • Indian – Vanaspati ghee is clarified lard used for cooking and frying.

In many cuisines around the world, lard remains the fat of choice for its distinctive flavor and culinary properties.

Lard Substitutes

If you want to avoid lard, there are a few good substitutes to use:

  • Coconut oil
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Butter
  • Bacon grease
  • Tallow or beef dripping
  • Duck fat

While these won’t replicate lard exactly, they can approximate the properties in most recipes. Vegetable oil can also work but may result in less tender or flaky baked goods. When choosing a substitute, match it to the recipe – bacon grease for savory foods, butter for bakery items, etc.

Is Lard Healthy?

For many years lard was regarded as an unhealthy fat because of its high saturated fat content. But views are changing as we gain a better understanding of fats.

Lard is very high in monounsaturated fatty acids, the same heart healthy fats found in olive oil. It also contains Vitamin D and antioxidant pigments like lutein. Lard consumed as part of a balanced diet is not detrimental to health.

Still, lard should be used in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet low in processed foods. Other animal fats like tallow and duck fat can also be healthy alternatives to vegetable oils and trans fats when used responsibly.


Pork fat has been an essential ingredient in cuisine worldwide for centuries. From leaf lard for pastries to back fat for sausages, the unique fats of the pig impart delicious flavor and texture.

Lard remains one of the best cooking fats for achieving the perfect crispness, tenderness, and flakiness. Render your own or seek out quality products for baking, frying, roasting, and sautéing. In moderation, lard and other carefully sourced animal fats can be healthy and delicious alternatives to processed oils.

So don’t be afraid to cook and bake with lard. This traditional fat still has a place in modern kitchens!

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