Are you getting into more traditional, animal-based eating and are wondering how tallow and lard stack up? This is an overview of tallow vs lard so you can know more about the nutrition of each, and how to use them differently.
What is Tallow?
Tallow is simply the rendered fat from a cow. The raw, hard fat found around the loins and kidneys of cattle is called suet, and that suet gets melted, simmered and strained to form tallow. Tallow and suet are the both cow fat, just at different stages of processing. Tallow is shelf-stable while suet is not. Sometimes other ruminant (in other words, grazing animals) rendered animal fat is also called tallow. If unspecified, cow suet is usually the source of tallow.
What is Lard?
Lard is rendered fat from a pig. The fat can come from the back or around the kidneys. The fat from the back will be more unsaturated and more pliable than the fat that comes from around the kidneys, which is stiffer and more saturated, and is called leaf lard. Leaf lard is considered the highest grade of lard as it is spreadable at room temperature.
Tallow vs Lard Smoke Points
Beef tallow has a smoke point of 400°F . This high temperature makes tallow perfect for deep frying.
Lard has a smoke point of around 370°F . Since the smoke point is slightly lower than beef tallow, it’s slightly less suited for deep fat frying, but it would still work.
Tallow definitely has a distinct beefy flavor. It is not neutral and not suited to be used in desserts or recipes that call for a neutral cooking oil. It’s no wonder that McDonald’s originally used tallow as the cooking oil to fry their french fries, as the taste is addictive. A word of caution though, tallow’s strong flavor may not be appetizing to everyone, particularly if you aren’t a beef lover.
Lard, when rendered properly, has a fairly neutral flavor. Lard is a wonderful addition to a variety of dishes, from sweet to savory.
In my opinion, both tallow and lard give food a richness that is distinctly not the same as the oiliness of vegetable oils or shortenings. I greatly prefer the depth and texture of animal fats.
Tallow imparts a delightfully rich, beefy, savory flavor to anything fried in it. It’s perfect for frying, roasting and and broiling, since it has a high smoke point. In addition, tallow makes a perfect rich moisturizer for skin and a great alternative to wax for candles and soap. The stiff, crumbly texture makes it perfect for cosmetics.
Lard shines best when used in pastries, particularly pie crusts. They make the flakiest tastiest crusts. Additionally, lard is also the traditional fat in tortillas. Lard is actually quite neutral in taste when rendered properly so it doesn’t clash with sweet flavors. Lard is a wonderful substitute for any recipe that calls for Crisco or vegetable shortening. Actually, lard was the original Crisco, so your cooking will taste more authentic and rich, besides being healthier. Lard is also perfect for frying and searing just about anything, and it can season a cast-iron pan beautifully.
Tallow vs Lard Vitamins
Tallow is a great source of vitamin D, Vitamin E, and trace amounts of selenium, all of which are rarely found in food .
Lard is a good source of fat-soluble vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 . The more time pigs spend on pasture, soaking up the sun, the more vitamins end up in their fat.
Tall vs Lard Fat Content
Tallow is mostly composed of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Per a 12.8 g tablespoon, tallow has 6.4 g of saturated fat, and 5.4 g of monounsaturated fat .
Lard is mostly composed of monounsaturated and saturated fats. Per a 13 g tablespoon, lard has 5 g of saturated fat, 5.8 g of monounsaturated fat, and 1.4 g of polyunsaturated fat . Lard has slightly less saturated fat than tallow. Note, the content of their fat will vary wildly depending on the animals’ diet.
The Importance of Sourcing
The quality of life of the cow or pig that you source the fat from determines the quality of the tallow or lard.
It is best to get your beef suet from a 100% grass-fed, organic local farm and render it yourself. Rendering your own tallow is a rewarding and fairly easy process. Though I know this is not always possible, some brands of store-bought tallow I’d recommend are Fat Works and Epic. If you’re looking for high-quality tallow for skincare, Vintage Tradition is a great brand that carries rich scented and unscented balms.
Similarly, the pig’s lifestyle will determine the nutrition and quality of your lard. It’s hard not to overstate this enough, especially since the quality of commercial, factory-farm pork is deplorable. Again, I recommend sourcing your leaf lard locally and rendering it yourself, but if you are unable to, some great brands are White Oak Pastures, Primal Pastures, Fat Works and Epic.
Some questions to ask the farm where you source from:
- What do the pigs eat?
- Do they get to roam outside on pasture?
- Are the cows 100% grass fed? If not, what is their diet?
- Are they fed GMOs?
- Are they fed soy or given antibiotics or hormones?
Tallow vs Lard Verdict
In conclusion, tallow and lard are both healthy and nutritious fats that you should consider adding to your diet if you haven’t already. Lard is better suited for baking and sweet creations, while tallow is perfect for frying savory delights such as french fries or onion rings. Finally, be sure to check out my article on Tallow vs Ghee to see how other traditional, healthy fats compare.