How To Render Lard In A Cast Iron Skillet

Rendering lard is not that difficult, and it is simply a term for melting down pork fat into a liquid form. 

We show you how to render lard in a cast iron skillet and store it for later use. We’ll also look at the different types of pig fat and what each of them are used for. 

How To Render Lard In A Cast Iron Skillet

Types Of Pig Fat And Its Uses

Pigs have more than one kind of fat and the different types can have various uses. The sections of a pig that fat can be extracted from are the belly, the back and around the kidneys. 

Belly fat is commonly used as bacon as it has layers of meat. The back fat is typically used for frying. The leaf fat, the fat from around the kidneys, is the purest of pork fat and is used to make things like flaky pie crust. 

Although the leaf fat is the cleanest, with no tones of pork if rendered properly, it is not the most plentiful on the pig. At most, you will get a couple of pounds of fat to render. 

A normal sized pig will give approximately 25 pounds of fat in total which you can render down or add to meat for making sausages. 

How To Render Lard In A Cast Iron Skillet

You can either render lard in a cast iron skillet or in a crock pot. Using a skillet is a more traditional method and is faster than using a crock pot. 

Place the cubed pork fat into the cast iron skillet which should be on a low heat. You will need to keep an eye on the fat and stir it on occasion, so this is not something you can leave to its own devices. 

After a while the fat will begin to release oil, which is basically what lard is. You can now stir the fat more frequently and keep an eye on the fat chunks, not allowing them to crisp up. 

The idea is to get the liquid fat out of the pork without over cooking the connective tissue, the cracklin.

You need to get it hot enough to extract the fat but not so hot that it begins to brown. If this happens the flavor of the lard will be influenced by the pork. 

Of course, it depends on what you intend to use the lard for. If you are going to use it just for frying then a little pork flavor is not a bad thing. But if you want to use it for things like pastries then you want a nice clean flavor. 

When the pan starts to fill with clear liquid fat and the cracklin starts to brown your lard has been rendered. 

Strain the lard through a cheesecloth into a warm glass container, cold glass will crack under the heat of the rendered lard. 

You can now store the lard in sterilized, sealed glass containers until you want to use it. 

How Long Does It Take To Render Lard?

The length of time it takes to render lard really depends on the method that you use. If you use a cast iron skillet then it can be done in a few hours, although you do have to keep the heat low to get as pure lard as possible. 

Some people use a crockpot to render lard and this means you can leave it on low overnight or for 10-12 hours. 

How long it takes will also depend on how much lard you wish to render, a small amount won’t take that long. But if you have fat from a whole pig, around 25 pounds this will take a while. 

How Long Does It Take To Render Lard?

The smaller the pieces of fat the quicker the process will be and if you have ground fat then this will take less time than chunks to render. 

The temperature that you render at will also determine how long it takes. Ideally, you want to render pork fat low and slow to preserve a clean flavor. If the heat is too high the taste of the cracklin will infuse into the lard. 

Tools Needed To Render Lard

The tools you need for rendering lard are a cast iron skillet or crock pot, some cheesecloth for straining and glass mason jars for storing. 

How To Store Lard

Rendered fat will never go moldy, although it can become rancid. If you store your lard at room temperature, properly sealed and in a dark place it should keep for 4-6 months. A larder is ideal if you have one. 

If you refrigerate your lard, you can keep it for between 9 months and a year. For freezing, the lard must be in glass jars with tightly sealed lids. In these conditions the lard should keep for 2 years or longer. 

When storing lard in the freezer use straight sided jars. Curved jars are more likely to break when they are frozen. 

Tips For Rendering Lard

Remember to remove as much of the meat as possible from the fat prior to rendering and cut into as small chunks as possible for faster rendering. One pound of fat will render down to make one pint of lard. 

Cut up your pork fat when it is semi frozen as this makes it easier to handle than when it has warmed up. 

Use the fat from pastured pigs for the healthiest lard. The fat is where chemicals from industrially raised pigs are stored, so a healthier pig will provide better quality lard. 

Render over as low a heat as possible to avoid burning or smoking. 

Use a cheesecloth to filter out as much sediment as possible after rendering and store it in warmed glass jars. 

Final Thoughts

Rendering lard was once commonplace, but it was deemed unhealthy and replaced with low fat options. 

The tradition of rendering is making a comeback, so we hope you may use this guide to render lard for your cooking needs.

Matt Sommersville