In cooking, fat adds flavor, and so much more. And solid fats, such as butter and lard, stand apart in some unexpected ways. They’re particularly good for deep-frying and can contribute a plusher mouthfeel to foods. And in baking, they reduce gluten formation, ensuring a more tender crumb.
While butter is the solid fat most common in U.S. kitchens (and a good go-to choice for baking and sautéing), other options abound. For example, ghee’s high smoke point makes it ideal for high-heat cooking. Other fats, including duck fat, have distinctive flavors that enhance the overall taste of a dish.
Unlike oils, solid fats—which are often sticky, gooey or even crumbly—can be tricky to measure by volume. So when precision counts, we prefer to measure them by weight.
We found the weights of solid fats can vary widely. For example, duck fat weighs roughly 40 percent more than an equal volume of shortening. This difference is due partly to how they’re processed. Certain production methods can incorporate air into the fat, making them lighter by volume. This is why shortening can be so much lighter than comparatively less-refined fats.
|FAT||GRAMS PER 1/2 CUP||IDEAL FOR|
|Beef Fat (Tallow)||112||deep-frying|
|Beef Fat (Suet), chopped||85||Yorkshire pudding, pastry crust|
|Butter||113||baking (cakes, cookies, pastries),|
|Chicken Fat||120||sautéing, soups, stews, braises|
|Coconut Oil (Refined)||110||stir-frying|
|Duck Fat||125||confit, french fries, roasted potatoes, lentils|
|Ghee||105||blooming spices (i.e., tarkas), high-heat sautéing and searing|
|Pork Fat (Lard)||98||tamales, pie dough (leaf lard), carnitas, braised beans|
|Shortening||88||pie crust, cookies, frosting|