Rendering Lard

If you remember, last week I posted a teaser photoof my first batch of rendered lard. I had so much fun with this project and I haven’t even gotten to make soap yet!I referenced our Soapmaker’s Forum as well as Punk Domestics and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. All three sources were extremely helpful in this project and I thank them for their help!

To begin my project, I started storing the fat that came with the pork meat I purchase on a “almost” daily basis for our meals. Here in China, the butchers block of any grocery store is open to the customers. Unlike grocery stores in the USA that have the big enclosed cases, grocery stores here allow you to sort through and pick your favorite cut of meat. Using wooden “tongs”, you can simply pick up and examine each piece of meat before deciding to keep it or not. (It has taken me a while to get used to this process and some days I still can’t buy meat!)

The most common meat pieces that I purchase are pork loin with the backfat and skin still attached. The Chinese feel that the best meat is something that has a a fair amount of fat. I trim most of the fat (and all of the skin) off our meat and instead of throwing it away, I bag and then store it in the freezer. When I ran out of room in the freezer, I had 2-1/2 gallon-sized freezer bags stuffed with pork backfat.

Time to render! I began by pulling the bags of fat and set them on the counter to defrost. It took about 2 hours for the backfat to thaw enough for me to cut it up easily. Once the backfat had thawed, I started cutting the slabs into small chunks. I used a Chinese style meat cleaver and a small paring knife on my bamboo cutting board. It took me 2 hours to cut all of the backfat into small-ish chunks and I had a few blisters by the time I was done. I think a meat grinder would make this task easier.

If you are going to render your own fat, I would HIGHLY recommend grinding into small chunks or if you purchase from a butcher to have the butcher grind the fat before you take it home. I promise it will save you time as well as your hands! As I can’t communicate well with my butcher so I chopped up the fat by hand. :)

When all the backfat was cut up I had a completely full pot, and silly me, I forgot to weigh the backfat and skin before I started the rendering process. I estimate that I had around 5 to 6 pounds of back fat when I started. I added 1/2 cup of water to the pot and turned on the stove. Since my gas stove has three options of heat (hot as Hades, “I’m thinking about medium-low”, and “Oh! I’m on?”), I turned the heat to what my stove considers medium-low.

As this was my first time rendering, I was nervous about things turning out right. I stayed in the kitchen working on other projects while the pot heated and slowly, the lard began to melt. I stirred approximately every 15 minutes while the lard melted. When I could see and scoop out the liquid lard, I began to do so. I poured the lard into a glass water pitcher that had a brand new knee-high nylon hose stretched across the mouth of the pitcher. This allowed me to filter the liquid lard easily.

I reached a point where it seemed that only the biggest chunks were left and the stove wasn’t “quite” producing enough heat. I pulled out my stick blender and used it in the pot to help break down the chunks. Once the chunks were tiny pieces, I stopped blending and let the stove continue working on the smaller pieces in the pot. The process seemed to speed up and the lard floated on the top easily.

The overall time spent cooking on the stove was about 4 hours. I used a total of 2 pairs of brand new nylon hose to filter all my lard. (I really don’t care about that since I rarely wear nylon knee-high hose and I keep it on hand more for cooking than wearing.) I ended up with 75 ounces of rendered lard once the process was over. I didn’t keep the “cracklings” because I had the last portion of lard filter by gravity over night by hanging the filled hose over a clean pot to drip the last of the lard.

Now on to the questions!

Reader: What is the purple coloring on some of the pieces in your pictures?
Andee: That is a food safe ink that is used to mark meats at slaughter houses, processing plants and butcher’s shops. These marks help determine the which animal it is as well as helping create a paper trail through the process of butchering.

Reader: What exactly is the difference between lard and tallow?
Andee: The difference between these two fats is that lard is rendered pig fat and tallow is rendered beef fat. Lard is used for frying, baking and soapmaking. Tallow is used for frying or soapmaking. I’m sure some of our readers can also give us other examples of uses for these two fats.

Reader: After rendering, are you going to soap with your lard?
Andee: Absolutely! I’m currently formulating recipes to work with the ingredients I have on hand.

Reader: I love using soap made with lard, but I can still smell the “piggy” odor and I can no longer use my soap due to the smell. Any suggestions?
Andee: The smell can vary depending on the type of lard you have as well as the percentage of excess fat in the soap batch. I have read suggestions of adding baking soda or bay leaves to the pot during the rendering process to lighten odors, but I don’t know if it works. If you still have some of the soap and it bothers you, I can recommend gifting the soap or even donating to a local food pantry or shelter.

Reader: What benefit does using animal fats in soap have over not using animal fats?
Andee: It is simply a matter of preference. Some people like using lard or tallow in soap and others prefer to not use it. I enjoy soaps of both types. As soap isn’t a leave-on-product, I’m not sure if there are any skin benefits.

I also got a lovely e-mail from Dianne P. with tips from her experiences of rendering lard. It was so nice, that I just had to share the whole thing with you!

I just thought I would share a tip. I render my own lard & also buy some. When I render it, I keep it in the freezer as it spoils faster. I start with ground fat (not chunks). I use a big roaster, outside, as it is smelly. I probably do 15# at once. I keep stirring it off & on. When the “cracklings” are brown, we strain the lard in cheesecloth. It will be a nice white color. Makes a big mess (when I do it)!

I guess the “store-bought” kind is sterilized or something to keep it fresh. I keep it on my shelf.

I enjoy your blogs & posts!
thank you,

Diane P.

Do you have any questions about rendering lard? Do you have questions about soaping with lard? I would love to hear your questions and help you find answers! Even if you just have a comment to share, I would love to hear them!

Backfat with skin attached and waiting to be chopped into small pieces.
Using a meat cleaver to chop the backfat.
Pile of chopped backfat.
Stirring the pot of melting backfat.
Using an immersion blender to break up the larger chunks into small pieces to allow faster melting.
Stirring the pot again!
Removing the oil floating on top.
Strained lard that is still hot.

Completely cooled lard.
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11 thoughts on “Rendering Lard”

  1. Does the lard have an odor now that you have finished rendering it? Would you add the water again in the future? Would you add salt or lemon juice to the water to help coagulate any protein bits?

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    1. Tina,
      The lard has a faint “meaty” odor to it after rendering, but I don’t think the odor would be overwhelming in any product. I would add water again as I feel it helps prevent burning in the pot. I think salt or lemon juice would be great ideas to try with the coagulation of the proteins. I’ll have to try that next time I have enough fat!

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  2. I really appreciate this post! I have both beef and pork fat to render tallow and lard, and I was hoping to do it this winter. But I’m curious about the smell. I don’t want to stink up my entire house!

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    1. Denise,
      The odor didn’t smell bad. It made my very small apartment smell more like I had been slow cooking a pork roast all day rather than burning things or like rancid oil. Overall, a pleasant smell and made my husband drool when he came home from work that night!

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  3. I use lard or tallow (remdered at home) in ALL of my soaps. Either makes a nice hard bar of soap. There is some odor…..not unpleasant. I always use some water, but have learned over the years not to add as much as I once did! :-) I also learned the lesson about grinding or at least chopping the fat really small to spead up the process, and finally it took me a while to figure out about using my stick blender……guess I’m a slow learner!

    When I render tallow, I usually have about 10 pounds of FREE fat from the butcher. The hard fat is really the best, but I used it all. I rendered it outside using my “turkey fryer” and propane. I pour all of the fat and water into big glass measuring cups and stick it in the fridge to harden. I break off the hard tallow/lard on top and discard any remaining water. Once I have that all done I reheat the tallow/lard one more time and repeat the process, just to make sure I don’t have any water “trapped”, then I pour it into lined loaf pans, and refrigerate until solid. I weigh, wrap, and freeze it all ready for soaping!

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    1. Mary,
      It sounds like you have quite the process for rendering lard! I hope you have fun with it!

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  4. I buy ground suet from my butcher. That’s the fat from around a cow’s kidneys, which makes the best tallow. 4 lbs of suet = about 2 lbs of tallow, which goes pretty far for soap, and costs about $12 – my butcher charges an extra $1 per pound to grind it, and it is worth it.

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