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How to Render Ham Fat into Lard

Husband and I scored a sweat deal on a ham. Let’s hear it for seasonal grocery shopping!

Later we found out why our ham was on such a good sale. Our ham was covered in fat. Odd because hams are from the pig’s legs and are typically lean. Apparently Porky didn't like to exercise because his leg was thick with fat.

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Well, at least there wasn’t any chance of the ham drying out in the oven when we baked it. We had to cut most of the fat from each slice before we ate it. We don't want Porky to contribute to a first class ticket to heart attack city.*


Ham fat. I tried to cut just the fat off the ham but a little meat wanted to come along for the ride in spots.

Husband and I don’t want to eat this much ham fat but it is a shame to throw it out. I can’t compost meat so that’s out. I wonder if I can render ham fat into lard? Is that even possible? Don’t you need fat that comes off a special part of the pig to make lard?

Fortunately, my friend Google provided me with answers. There are three fatty areas on a pig they use to render into lard:

  • Fatback – The fat on the back of the pig. So that’s what fatback is! It is news to this Yankee.
  • Leaf lard – The fat around the pig’s kidneys.
  • Belly fat – The fat under the pig’s stomach.
There seems to be as many strong opinions about which type of pig fat makes the best lard as there are web pages on the Internet. Absolutely none of them said anything about rendering ham (leg) fat into lard.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and try this kooky experiment. If it works, I filled a drizzly weekend with a kitchen project that didn’t burn down the house. If it doesn’t work, I’ll get a funny blog post about how I screwed up and earful from the lard rendering purists.

How to Render Fat into Lard in a Crockpot

Let’s make lard!

You will need:

Ham fat – Try to trim as much meat away from the fat as possible

Slow cooker - I like this slow cooker best!


Reusable coffee filter

Paper coffee filters

Fine mesh sieve

A long time – I’m using the crock pot to render lard because I don’t want to babysit it for hours on end but you can use a pot on the stove at low heat if you like.

Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.

Make it:

1. Put the ham fat in the crock pot and cover it with water. After a few tries, I went with enough water to just cover the top of the fat in the slow cooker. Too little and it didn’t render well since I have bits of meat in mine. Too much water will water down the finished product and not give you as much lard as you should have.

2. Turn the slow cooker on low and render the lard (i.e.. slow cook the fat at a low temperature for ever) for approximately 8 hours or until the fat has melted.

3. Strain the rendered fat from the lard and ham broth mixture using a fine strainer.  I strained my lard and ham broth mixture several times because I didn’t expect the meat bits to make broth. First I strained the big bits from the mixture using the strainer you see below.

Next I stained the ham broth and lard mixture through the reusable basket coffee filter like this one I use to strain homemade stock.

My reusable coffee filter wasn’t fine enough.  Eventually I lined the coffee filter with a clean paper towel because I don’t have paper coffee filters.

I set it aside to filter through and then Husband poked his nose in my project.  He saw the strained lard in the coffee filter and tossed it because he though I was straining the mixture to make stock instead of lard. Grr!

4. Separate the lard from the liquid the lazy way! Pour the strained lard broth into a jar or bowl and allow it to cool in the refrigerator. The lard will solidify at the top of the bowl. Use a spoon to scoop the lard from the top of the bowl and into a separate jar or lidded container.

I guess I can add make lard to the skill section of my resume, huh?

If you have enough ham broth liquid at the bottom of the bowl, feel free to put the broth in a separate container and freeze it for later.

5. Store the lard in the refrigerator until you are ready to get cookin’!

I avoid food cooked with lard  but after all that work, I wanted to cook with it just this once. I used the lard to make biscuits and added enough coconut oil in the recipe to make up for the lard Husband accidentally threw away. That made my biscuits taste more coconuty than like the country biscuits I imagined. They were still good though.

Do you cook with lard? What do you make with it?

** Before I get a ton of nasty emails and comments about how wonderful eating lard is and how my avoiding it is wrong, let me say this:

The older members of both of families have a history of heart disease. We have examples of people with our DNA who followed the recommended heart healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and had fewer medical issues. We also have examples of the scary consequence of not following a low saturated fat diet. 

Since I’m too lazy to deal with all of the doctors and appointments poor health requires, I get my fats from sources like olive oil instead of lard. So far Husband and I have relativity few and minor health issues as a result. Sometimes our doctors run our tests twice because the numbers are so good and given our family histories, they often think they made a mistake Smile.

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Frugal Hausfrau said…
thanks for such an informative post. I seldom cook with anything other than olive oil but there are a few special things I'll use lard in. Mainly tamales. But then I don't eat them often, either! I do like the no waste idea! Thanks for sharing this week at Fiesta Friday!

Marshall, Va. said…
I'm going to try it. I keep a cup of bacon fat in my refrig. I use a Tbsp or two to make fried eggs. Why not? ^_^
Unknown said…
You can buy fat-free refried beans, and add the ham (or bacon) fat to them! Why not use your own tasty fat instead of the tasteless lard in regular refried beans?
Rob said…
As I understand it, lard is rendered from FRESH pork fat, not brined or smoked pork, as ham is. Rendered ham fat doesn’t taste like lard, which is rather neutral in flavor, not the same, but more like bacon grease. Rendered chicken fat is called schmaltz and has it’s own special flavor. They all lend their own essence to cooked dishes and when used appropriately, can turn a good dish into a show-stopper.
Like others in the comments, I don't cook much with lard but I've been known to reuse bacon fat. Where we live in Spain there are many products, including sweets, that are made with lard. It's possible to buy it in many groceries, especially around the holidays.

Over the last couple weeks I've been watching cooking videos made in Azerbaijan where the seem to use lamb or beef fat on a regular basis. I always wonder if lamb fat is strong tasting like the meat.

Good on you for experimenting. Who knows? You new skill may come in handy someday!
Dreamaker said…
Lard is a staple in my kitchen, i used it to cook rice, noodles and other savoury dishes and it really enhances the flavor. Thanks so much for sharing and dropping by our linkup party at Fiesta Friday #479. Hope to see you soon again! Pauline @ Beautifulvoyager.com