In Praise of Pork Fat

We agree with reader mschatelaine from our post on marbling: the push to make everything lean and fat free does tend to go overboard sometimes. Lucky, that won't be a problem as long as pork fat is around!

There are three factors that make pork fat more useful and versatile than just about any other fat: it has a mild flavor that doesn't overwhelm, it has superior melting quality, and it's incredibly smooth and creamy. The best fat lies just under the skin and comes from the pig's belly and back.

Pork fat can be used as is to add moisture and richness to those lean cuts of meat. Thin strips can be wrapped around lean cuts (barding) or inserted into the meat itself in thin slivers (larding). Fresh pork fat is also ideal for making sausages, patés, and other forcemeats.

Once rendered into lard, pork fat is ideal for baking. It makes pie crusts, pastries, and biscuits unbelievably tender and flaky. Rendered fat is also great for frying and sautéing.

You can render your own pork fat simply by buying fat back or any other fatty cut of pork, melting it slowly over medium heat, and then straining it to remove any gristle or other tissue. Stored in a container in the fridge, lard can last for months. For a mild smoky flavor, try saving your bacon grease and using it instead of oil in your cooking!

Do you cook with pork fat?

Related: Less Meat, More Flavor: Salt Pork

(Image: Flickr member Rex Roof licensed for use under Creative Commons)