Cooking with Lard

A conversation with CStM about deep frying this evening. Mostly because we’ve just bought a deep fryer. It claims it should be filled with vegetable oil and not olive oil – apparently that’s unsuitable. Has to be corn oil or sunflower oil. Well it uses so much that olive oil would be prohibitive anyway, due to cost.

Then again, olive oil has been shown to have health benefits whereas corn oil definitely doesn’t. Still the fryer says it won’t work.

Anyone my age will remember the ‘chip pan’. A saucepan with a mesh basket for deep frying – mostly chips, but basically anything. When it was cold you couldn’t get the basket out because it was in a saucepan full of set lard. It was only washed when the lard needed to be changed.

It didn’t really need to be washed. There isn’t a living creature, microorganism or otherwise, that could survive in boiling lard. Once the heat was turned off, that damn thing was sterile.

Yes it was a high-risk cooking thing. There were many TV ads about what to do if it caught fire and that childhood indoctrination is why I insist on having a fire blanket near the cooker. Never needed to use one but it’s there just in case.

It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. Is cooking with lard really as bad as they say? Or is it going to one day be scoffed at, like the ‘butter is evil, buy our plasticine substitute’ has been debunked? I’ve always preferred real butter. No substitute comes close.

I’ve fried meat in butter and it’s well worth it.

I think the clincher for me was fried bread. Some years back, the radio in Local Shop (while they were still allowed to use it in the back room before the ‘public access’ licencing became silly) had a talk show on. The DJ didn’t believe ‘fried bread’ was a real thing. Really. The youth have no idea what that is.

So what is it? In the old days, you’d have a lot of fat left in the frying pan and fat is food. You can scrape it into the bin or you can use it to fry something else or you can have it right now by frying some bread in it. If you were poor, as many people were, you could get that extra energy rather than waste it.

Fried bread, done properly, is gorgeous. If you have never experienced it you’ve really missed out. However, it does not work with modern cooking oils. It has to be in hard fat.

Maybe there’s a food scientist who can help with this. If you try to make fried bread in vegetable oil, you get a soggy mess. If you do it with lard or butter or bacon fat, you get a crispy result like a fried version of toast.

I have wondered if the hard fats have to be hotter so the surface of whatever is fried seals quickly and goes crispy. The vegetable oils are already liquid, they don’t need to melt, so they are cooking at a lower temperature. So they don’t seal the surface and have more time to soak into the food.

Which would mean that cooking with lard gives you less fat intake than cooking with vegetable oil. Most of the fat stays in the pan, not in the food.

Incidentally, these days, after frying up some bacon, we clean the frying pan. My grandmother didn’t. That bacon fat cooked tomorrow’s food. A friend of mine once described how, after he left home, he couldn’t get his baked beans to taste the way his mother made them. He was following the instructions on the tin – heat gently, don’t boil…

Then he visited his mother while she was cooking up some baked beans. In a frying pan. His words, as far as I can remember them –

‘The pan was bubbling like bloody Vesuvius. I said you’re not supposed to let them boil. She said fuck that, there’s two ounces of butter in there as well as yesterday’s bacon fat.’

Try that. You’ll be amazed.

We didn’t have an ‘obesity epidemic’. We didn’t have pompous arses telling us what we should eat (well yes we did, but we ignored them). We didn’t have things we couldn’t believe were not butter, we had butter. Not the processed plasticine that isn’t even margarine now. We didn’t have corn oil, we had melted lard. So why were we not all Weebles?

Well we also didn’t spend twelve hours a day sitting in front of computers playing at imaginary lives. We were outside playing real ones. That might have more of an effect than anything to do with food.

The fryer we have doesn’t mention lard in its instructions. Maybe it can’t handle that.

Maybe we have to get an old style chip pan to get the real deal.

33 thoughts on “Cooking with Lard

  1. I’m the same age as you.

    I remember the fascination of watching the chip pan heat up and the lard melting around the basket – we made our own fun in those days!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That’s why you use lard to cook Yorkshire puddings , what about fish and chips cooked in beef dripping, the health police would have a fit if they found that out, but the taste is magnificent so they can sod off.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The frying temperature is critical for foods requiring immersion for more than a few minutes. The horror that is soggy chips results from inadequate cooking temperature allowing the oil / fat to be absorbed. Overloading the chip pan with too many sliced spuds also cools the oil below optimum frying temperature. I’m not an advocate of the current trend of triple cooked chips as they tend to be too hard and crunchy on the outside for my liking. But I have fond memories of being a student retuning from the pub and cooking a batch of chips before bedtime. Lovely. I like the outside of chips to be reasonably brown and caramelised. Mind you this may have resulted from nodding off during cooking as per too much beer, so I completely endorse your fire blanket point and fortunately, I’ve never had need to use one either. Restaurants never cook chips long enough these days, they’re often anaemic and lack flavour, and don’t get me started on fries versus true doorstep chips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For really crunchy chips, pre cook your potatoes whole in the microwave until three quarters done (Do not peel yet!). Let cool for twenty minutes or so before cutting to desired shape. Outer skin should easily peel off at this juncture.

      Heat oil / lard to desired temperature. Throw in microwaved potato and cook until crispy golden brown. This will take nowhere near as long as cooking from raw, so lowers any fire risk (I find around five minutes or so per batch). Works for any cut of potato from wedge to american style thins.

      Drain, consume. Pat self on back and promise to be a better human being.

      Re the fried bread thing; Bacon fat is best. There’s nothing quite like it. As for baked beans, throw in a little grated cheddar and melt in a slow boil for two minutes. Food perversion personified but very, very tasty.


  4. Yes, I tried to fry bread in oil the other month, and it didn’t work. It’s all down to the melting point of the lipids. Lard is all straight-chain fully-saturated alkyl fatty acid chains. So the bread’s surface flash-cooks much faster,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The only oil I cook with is Olive. Don’t deep fry on account of being a lazy sod.

    For all purposes it’s fine, however shallow frying means a low to medium heat otherwise the oil starts to steam and it degrades the taste. It’s possible the stuff will ignite, I think. And that steam is a righteous swine to clean up.

    So it seems the folk behind your deep fryer are doing you a favour.

    You’ve stirred some memories with the fried bread thing. Also close to my heart is French Bread. I do so like. With a couple of soggy fried tomatoes on top.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Overheating oil causes a greasy film over everything. You can’t get it hot enough to make a proper fried bread without a choking mess of oil fumes.

      I use olive oil mostly too, but fry slowly at lowto medium heat.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, olive oil ignites if too hot as my kitchen ceiling will testify!

      Does anyone remember cream that came in a little tin, made by Nestle (not condensed milk)? It was thick and had an almost buttery taste to it. I haven’t seen it for years, sadly.


  6. May I contribute your honour? I’ve been frying bread for over sixty years I reckon and have learned that fried fresh bread is pretty poor. Two days old or even three works best. I can find very little difference between all the oils ,butter, lard, dripping, However I try to stick to Rapeseed oil especially after you have fried bacon in it. It is very important not to fry it too hot or too cool and important to drain it on tissue.
    Best of all is two day bread deep fried in rapeseed. I’ve tried almond oil, sesame oil, pumpkin oil,and others I’ve forgotten. Some are “interesting” to say the least. Some are fit to spit out.
    If no-one is watching you could try deep fried cheese sandwiches. You’ll need cocktail sticks to sew them together.
    I’ve never had acceptable fried brown bread but burger buns and baps cobs and rolls cut in half (if you wish) are very good ‘cos they can be got well crispy but soft in the middle. Fried ciabatta is an acquired taste. French sticks (in France) are OK if left for two hours to go stale.
    Legiron how do you keep coming up with topics that hit a nerve? A rare talent.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “The fryer we have doesn’t mention lard in its instructions. Maybe it can’t handle that.”
    It almost certainly can’t because of the way it heats the contents of the frying bowl – it’d burn the lard near the element and maybe if you were really lucky explode! But if you wanted to use lard you could melt the lard then pour it in to the deep fryer. I haven’t tried this but it ought to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve bought an old style chip pan and wonder if it’s still ok to use lard in it. I’m 70 years old and when I found this site it was a joy to read legirons comments. Having a retired firefighter in our family I will take due care. We can now look forward to eating decent chips again!

    Liked by 1 person

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