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Lard is basically animal fat from the pig and is often used in cooking and baking. While butters and oils have gained popularity, lard is still the fat of choice for many cooks. And if you are one of them, you must know how long the lard in your pantry will last, if it is usable or if it is time to chuck it in the bin.
Lard already has a longer shelf life than regular butter because lard is made of saturated and monounsaturated fats, which are more stable than polyunsaturated fats. The shelf life of lard is usually 6 months to a year depending on temperature and storage methods, irrespective of whether it has been opened or not. This is a rather long shelf life, but it is still not uncommon to find a tub of lard in your pantry or fridge and wonder if it is still usable.
Leaf lard, which is the lard rendered from the fat around the kidneys of pigs, is softer and creamier than regular lard and has a much shorter shelf life.
Homemade lard has an even shorter shelf life than store bought, as usually home kitchens aren’t as sterile as working kitchens and the storage process is also more stringent in professional kitchens.
How To Store Lard?
Despite its long shelf life, lard does turn rancid and most often than not, we have to throw out practically unused lard. But if we store it properly, we can not only keep it from spoiling quickly, but we can also extend its shelf life. Whether homemade or store bought it is important to store the lard correctly. Lard often gets spoiled earlier than its expiry date because of improper storage. Rodents love lard and often find a way to get them, so if you have a mouse problem, it is critical that lard is not stored anywhere a rodent can have access to.
Lard must be stored in an airtight container. Crockery and glass are ideal for storing lard. Do not store lard in aluminum foil or trays as the lard starts tasting a little metallic and because it won’t be as airtight as you need.
Lard does not need to be refrigerated and can have a shelf life of around six months even when not refrigerated. But ensure that you are storing it in a place with no direct heat or sunlight, otherwise it turns rancid sooner. You can also store lard in the fridge, this will allow it to last for about a year. Again, ensure that it is not constantly exposed to the elements or fluctuating temperatures.
If you want lard to last for a long time, you have the option of freezing it. Not only will the lard last for close to two years, but it also doesn’t need time to thaw when you need to use it. Just scoop out the amount you need and start using it right away. It might need a couple of minutes to soften up though. Also, do not refreeze lard that you have frozen and used.
Can You Reuse Lard?
Since lard has a long shelf life, we are prone to reuse it. If the lard is not past its expiry date and doesn’t seem to have turned, you can certainly reuse lard. But there are a few measures to follow first.
- If you have lard lying around in the pan after cooking and you are loath to throw it out, run it through a strainer or cheese cloth first, squeeze out all the liquid and make sure none of the solids or bits pass through.
- Store the used lard in a separate airtight container. Do not mix it back in with the rest of the unused lard.
- Lard should not be reused more than once or twice and should not be heated above 360 degrees F as it will burn. Lard starts losing flavor and turns when repeatedly exposed to oxygen, which is what happens when we reuse it.
How Do You Know If Your Lard has Gone Bad?
For a product with such a long shelf life, it is sometimes difficult to figure out if its time has come, especially if it has not gone past its expiry date. If you know the product hasn’t expired, but you are unsure if it has spoiled, the best way to find out if it can still be used is the smell test.
Like most food products, the smell is the surest way to find out if the lard has turned rancid. Lard doesn’t have a very strong, distinct smell. It should have a faint smell of pork. But if your lard smells funky, or has a distinctly unpleasant odor, it is definitely spoiled. If the lard doesn’t pass the sniff test, throw it out. Eating rancid lard can lead to several debilitating gut issues.
Now, if the lard doesn’t have conspicuously stale smell but it is past the expiry date, you don’t necessarily have to chuck it out yet. If your lard has a shelf life of more than a year, and it is a few weeks past the date of expiry you can still use it. But if you are using leaf lard or a homemade lard, with a short shelf life of a few months, then throw it out even if it is a couple of days past its shelf life. This type of lard is prone to spoiling quicker and easier, so do not risk it.
Another surefire way of seeing if your lard is still usable is to see if it has anything growing on it. If the lard is not past its due date and has no discernable smell it can still spoil because of improper storage and use. If you see any discoloration or anything growing on the lard, the lard is done, and it needs to be tossed.
How Long Does Lard Last and How to Extend its Shelf Life?
Depending on the type of lard you have, and how you’re storing it, lard can last from a couple of months to up to two years if freezing it. Many believe lard needs to be refrigerated, but that is not necessarily true. Lard can thrive at room temperatures if the temperature doesn’t get very high, like say about 75 degrees F. If you live in cooler climes, you can safely leave your lard outside. Having said that, refrigerating the lard can ensure a longer life.
|Storage||Shelf Life of Lard|
|Fridge||Close to 1 year|
|Freezer||Almost 2 years|
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get the maximum possible use of the lard you have and extend its shelf life:
- Store it in a cool dry place away from direct sun and heat.
- Do not use your fingers to scoop out the lard, always use a spoon or spatula as they are cleaner and more sterile.
- Store the lard in an airtight container always, ensuring that it does not repeatedly get exposed to air.
- Store used lard separately
- Do not refreeze lard that has thawed