(Image: flickr user Rex Roof (cc:by-nd))

The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.

Lard was once the most common fat for baking, but came to be seen as dirty and unhealthful. Now, food scientists have shown that home-rendered lard isn't as bad for your health as, say, margarine. And it tastes wonderful.

On "The Takeaway," Todd Zwillich and Andrea Bernstein talked to food writer Regina Schrambling and chef Zarela Martinez, a self-proclaimed lard crusader, about the benefits of lard.

Martinez has been preaching the gospel of lard for over fifteen years and is glad that people are finally listening. She says lard gained a bad reputation when it became commercially produced: "Lard originally was home-rendered and soft, when you turn something hard you saturate the molecules and that was when it became really bad. But home-rendered lard is two-thirds unsaturated, plus it has oleic acid which is the exact same thing olive oil has that helps you break down cholesterol. So it's only when it became commercially produced that it became a bad thing for you."

Schrambling says the negative image of lard is wrong, and that it's the transfat products like margarine that's bad for us: "It's not bad for you, number one, and it's natural -- that's the thing ... we've been sold the synthetic all these years and we've swallowed that, that it's good for you, it's not good for you."

Martinez explains what it is about the chemistry of lard that makes it great for baking: "It has bigger crystals than oil, so if you're using it in baking for instance ... when you beat it, beat it and beat it, it becomes this fluffy, wonderful mass ... and when you bake them, all of the lard seeps out and you're left with this fluffy, wonderful thing."

She walks through the steps of home-rendering lard: "All you have to do is just get unsalted pork fat of good quality ... and then you just cut it in little pieces, freeze it a little while, and cook it very slowly on the stove for about an hour."

Schrambling says high-quality lard can be purchased: "You can buy it, like at a farmers market -- Flying Pigs makes an amazing lard ... Flying Pigs Farm -- it's excellent. It's six dollars for eight ounces."

Watch video of chef Zarela Martinez making home-rendered lard:


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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