While most people might not consider lard to be a substance that can go bad, you only need to understand a little about what it is made of to realize that this isn’t the case.
What Is Lard?
Lard is a white fat product made from catching, filtering, and congealing the fat from pork products.
There are many uses for lard in cooking, namely as a cooking fat (instead of oil or butter), for “shortening” (making crumbly pastry), or as a spread similar to butter.
Lard is low in trans fats, and high in saturated fatty acids and salt, and whilst dependent entirely on the way it is rendered and stored, the finished product is usually odorless and tasteless.
Can Lard Go Bad?
Quick Answer: As it is made from pork products, and is therefore a naturally occurring byproduct of pork, lard can indeed go bad over time, however the time this takes is dependent on how it is stored.
Pre-packaged, store bought lard usually has a longer shelf life than homemade, namely due to the more controlled conditions under which it was prepared.
Store bought products also come with a recommended shelf life, meaning you can use that as an indicator of how safe lard is to use.
Whether store bought or homemade, the general shelf life is usually considered to be between 4 to 6 months when stored at room temperature, or around a year if refrigerated properly.
Signs Of Spoilage
Of course, if the shelf life of your lard is nearing its expiration, there are several signs you can look out for to check whether it is safe to use.
One way to check the safety of using old lard is to check for mold and discoloration on the surface. Fresh lard will be white and completely colorless, whereas discoloration indicates that it is past its best.
Whilst usually odorless when in good condition, lard does indeed release a bad smell when its shelf life has elapsed.
Rancid lard can be indicated by unusual, odd, or unpleasant smells emanating from the block, and if any major smells are present (other than the standard smell), then the lard should be disposed of immediately.
Will Bad Lard Make You Sick?
Consuming lard that has gone beyond its shelf life can indeed make you sick. This is because you are putting strain on your digestive system and can cause cellular damage.
This can be as simple as feeling ill, getting food poisoning, or more long-term health issues such as digestive disorders.
How To Store Lard
There are of course several ways to store lard so as to avoid illness and get the longest lifespan possible.
Whether you plan to refrigerate it or not, an airtight container should be used to stop harmful bacteria or debris from getting to the surface of the lard.
Cool, Dry Storage
If you are not planning to refrigerate the lard, be sure to store it in a cool, dry place like a pantry, where the sunlight cannot reach it.
Similarly, do not keep it on your work surface, whether sealed or not, and ensure it is not near ovens, toasters, kettles, or anything else that gets hot.
Even when in the refrigerator, you should store your lard in a sealed, airtight container to ensure no bacteria, crumbs or mold gather on the lard.
To stop it from freezing, keep it away from the back of the refrigerator, and do not put it in a place where other foods can potentially drip onto the container, as this could potentially contaminate the lard, depending on how airtight your container is.
Can Lard Be Reused?
When using lard to fry meat in a pan, or for other kinds of cooking, it can sometimes be tempting to save the lard to use again. But is this safe?
Ultimately this depends on the food you were cooking, but by and large, it is perfectly safe to reuse lard which has already been used.
However, the best way to ensure there are no safety issues, the best thing to do is to use a jar or an airtight container to store this lard in, keeping it separate from the fresh lard – cross contamination is the enemy.
However, reusing lard should only happen once with any portion, as the constant heating and cooling can cause it to degrade.
When cooking with lard, it is important not to use temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 185 degrees Celsius.
This is because those temperatures can cause the lard to degrade and make it less safe to consume.
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