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Old 02-28-2007, 02:48 PM   #1
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Shortening, Lard, Oil

I just don't understand the difference between these three items.
Are they interchangeable based on preference, or do they each have very distinctive uses.
I am frying chicken tonight and I don't know if I have to use oil in my pan or if I have to use lard.
One other thing I would like to know is if a recipe call for oil and I melt down the required amount of shortening, is that the same thing? If not, why would it make a difference, what would the outcome be?
I am grateful for any and all replies.

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Old 02-28-2007, 03:19 PM   #2
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I might be wrong but:
shortening = vegetable fat eg crisco
lard = pork fat
oil = liquid vegtable fat

I know there will be a technical reason why shortening is solid. I almost always use veg oil when I can, ie for frying chicken. Why? because its easier, and although I may be mistaken, I believe healthier. Furthermore it is easier to dispose of afetr cooking, lol. I still prefer duck fat with roast potatos.


As for the interchangability, well..I don't know. With some things it will definitely work, but others, well I'm not sure. I imagine, for example, a carrot cake made with lard might be heavier than one made with oil. In UK we have a sort of bun called lardy cake, and that is certainly heavy. On the other hand, we use suet (beef fat) in many things too.

Someone will help you with technicalities, but rest assured you can fry your chicken in oil!
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Old 02-28-2007, 03:20 PM   #3
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ok, roughly speaking, shortening can be either Veg or animal fats so it requires a specifier in that respect.

yes you Can cook with Any of the above mentioned, and it will make little difference to the dish, except where Strong fats like Lamb or Beef are used (it will flavour the dish somewhat).

but up to temp, all will work quite well as an "oil".
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Old 02-28-2007, 07:36 PM   #4
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As for frying ... you can use any of them with equal success since basically all you are looking for is a liquid medium which can be heated far enough above the boiling point of water to promote browning reactions and to form a crust. At frying temps - they are all liquid.

As for baking - melted shortening, or lard, will definately make whatever you are making heavier due to the increased percentage of saturated fats. You will also have to add them while still warmer than room temp to keep them from re-solidifying. That's one advantage of oil - it's liquid at room temp.

Different fats (solid or liquid) do have different flavors - some are subtle and some are very pronounced ... as Lulu and YT noted about duck, beef and lamb fats. Although lard (pork fat) if probably the most subtle of animal fats, I can taste the difference in some foods fried in it (especially mild flavored things like Indian Fry Bread).

Health and Nutrition: Lard is about 40% saturated fat, and contains about 12mg/Tbsp of Cholesterol. Shortening is usually about 25% saturated fat, Corn oil is about 12% saturated fat, and Canola (Canada oil!) is only about 6% - these non-animal fats don't contain cholesterol.
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Old 02-28-2007, 07:47 PM   #5
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My input as a Grandma cooking, I would never use anything but oil when baking, unless it calls for shortening, then I would use Crisco-(solid shortening) I like the flavor. Pie crust made with lard are awesome, I don't make my own but Mom did. Fried chicken, Mom always used Crisco, so that is what I use if I want it to taste like hers !
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Old 02-28-2007, 08:26 PM   #6
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Aside from the saturated fat/cholestrol content and flavor, the other big variable is "smoke point" -- i.e. the point at which a fat will burn. Butter, for instance, has a very low smoke point, as does olive oil. You don't want to use either of those for heavy-duty frying. However, don't obsess about it too much. In many parts of the world, only one type of fat is readily available for cooking, and folks do just fine.
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Old 02-28-2007, 10:23 PM   #7
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I would really like to know who started the myth that you can't fry in olive oil! It has been documented that the Greeks and Romans were doing it nearly 2,000 years ago, according to Apicius compiled in the 4th-5th century CE.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (406F) has a higher smoke point than Vegetable Shortening (356-370 F) - Extra Light Olive Oil (which is a refined oil) is even higher at 468 F- refined Peanut oil smokes at 450 F. Clarified butter (butter oil) - about 350 F. If you want the ultimate highest smoke-point oil - it's refined Avacado Oil (520 F) - with safflower a close second at 510 F.
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Old 03-01-2007, 12:24 AM   #8
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I never use anything but extra virgin olive oil. And when I have a pan of onions that I'm stir-frying, I do better with grapeseed oil. Sometimes I'm just not up to the delicate touch required with evoo.

I'm sure the ancient Greeks didn't care if their oils smoked a bit, and they certainly didn't care about the possible carcinogenic effects of same.

I will say that I've used evoo in every conceivable form of cooking, including baking and frying, because there have been times when I've been pinching pennies, and that's all that is in my cupboard!
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Old 03-01-2007, 11:47 AM   #9
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There's no doubt that making pie crust with lard is superior than any shortening, however, because this is pure animal fat the cholesterol and saturated fat content is very high. My mother in law and her sisters all made pasties with the crust made of beef suet. There wasn't a pasty on the face of the earth that tasted better and the crust melted in your mouth, but I was amazed at how much food she made with lard. She fried foods in lard also. My husband had 4 major heart attacks and she herself had 2. It wasn't a good choice. I use olive oil and on rare occasions Mazzola corn oil and nothing else. But I have to admit that when I saute cabbage, I drop a teaspoon or two of apple smoked bacon grease into the pot. Wow. Awesome.
BTW I never use Extra Virgin olive oil for cooking. The delicate flavor goes away when it's heated and other food is mixed with it. I use Pure Olive oil and still get a good taste. I save the EV for dipping and salads when it's flavor can really be appreciated. I spend about 25.00 to 35.00 per bottle and I'm not dropping this into a frying pan. LOL.
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Old 03-01-2007, 11:48 AM   #10
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Health-wise, your best bet is some type of mono- or un-saturated cooking oil, such as olive, canola, peanut, grapeseed, etc. Stay away from shortening, either pure vegetable or not, which contains trans-fats. Lard, which is pig fat, and beef tallow, which cow fat, contain saturated fat.

If your intent is to cook and eat healthy, you need to limit your saturated fats to 5% to 10% of your daily fat intake. Trans-fats, on the other hand, are so bad for you that no one has yet established a quantity that is safe to consume, so you should consider the recommended daily intake to be a big ZERO!
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