Lard is a traditional cooking fat, and can often be found in recipes that range from pie crusts, to biscuits to chicharrones. If you’ve ever found yourself trying to add some flakiness to a pie crust, you might have a brick of lard on hand, and are wondering what to do with it. Can lard go bad? How should you store lard?
Can Lard Go Bad?
As with all cooking fats, eventually, lard can go bad. Because lard is predominantly made up of saturated fat molecules, it has a tendency to be solid at room temperature, and have a more stable structure. Though lard can certainly be kept at room temperature in a larder, or other crock, the likelihood of spoilage increases greatly when the temperature is not kept constant. Lard kept at room temperature will keep for about four to six months, depending on conditions. By contrast, lard stored in the refrigerator will have a shelf life of up to a year.
How to Store Lard
The most important thing to remember when storing lard is to keep it in a tightly sealed container. A tightly sealed container will limit the exposure to oxygen, keeping the lard fresher for longer. Be sure to keep the lard out of direct sunlight, or heat. Both of these can lead to rancid lard!
Image used under Creative Commons from Josh Larios
A tightly sealed container is especially important if you’re keeping lard at room temperature. Mice in particular seem to be fond of lard, and will certainly not be stopped by the typical foil that lard is packaged in. If you’ve noticed rodent activity in your home, it may be best to store your lard in the refrigerator.
If you are refrigerating lard, just remember that it’s prone to absorbing flavors in the air around it, so be sure to tightly wrap the lard, or store it in a container with a lid.
Can You Freeze Lard?
Lard can certainly be frozen to increase the shelf life even further. Be sure to completely wrap the lard in wax paper, and then cover it in plastic wrap or foil to prevent exposure to the air. You don’t want lard picking up tastes from the freezer! Properly wrapped lard will keep in the freezer for two years.
Unlike many frozen foods, lard doesn’t really need to be defrosted, and can be used straight from the freezer. If you’ve stored lard in a brick, you can just slice off the amount you need and re-wrap the rest. If your lard is in a tub, simply scoop out a bit and replace the container in the freezer.
Lard that is just a bit too hard for your recipe can sit on the counter for a bit to soften. If you’re using lard for frying, there’s no need to thaw – just toss it in the pan! Once lard has been brought back to room temperature, it shouldn’t be frozen again, so try to use the defrosted lard within a few weeks.
Signs That Lard Has Spoiled
Smell is the best indicator in determining whether or not lard has spoiled. If the lard has an unpleasant, sour or otherwise “off" smell, it has likely gone rancid and should not be consumed. This will be more noticeable when the lard is kept at room temperature. Rancid lard will also have an unpleasant taste, so if you can’t smell anything fishy, but are uncertain as to whether the lard is still good, a tiny taste should let you know!
If mice or other pests have gotten into the lard, it should not be consumed. This will probably be pretty noticeable, as there will be bite marks on the packaging, and potentially some bits missing!