How to Make Cooking Oil and Fat

Take the next step toward food self-sufficiency by making cooking oil from seeds and nuts, making butter, and rendering lard and tallow.

  • Home rendered lard, butter and other cooking fats
    Store-bought butter doesn’t begin to compare to homemade, creamy butter made from the milk of a healthy cow.
    Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • Hank Will III feeding his hogs on his farm in Kansas
    Oscar H. Will III raises mulefoot hogs on his Kansas farm.
    Photo By Karen Keb
  • Chopping fat for rendering lard
    To make lard, use chopped or ground fat from healthy hogs.
    Photo By Photoshot/Cuboimages
  • Oilseed sunflower heads
    Be sure to grow an oilseed sunflower variety for a high oil-to-seed ratio.
    Photo By Superstock
  • Piteba Press for small-scale production
    The manually operated Piteba press is a great option for small-scale cooking oil production.
    Photo Courtesy Piteba

  • Home rendered lard, butter and other cooking fats
  • Hank Will III feeding his hogs on his farm in Kansas
  • Chopping fat for rendering lard
  • Oilseed sunflower heads
  • Piteba Press for small-scale production

If you pride yourself on doing most of your grocery shopping in your backyard (“Tomatoes? Check. Eggs? Check. Berries? Check.”), you may be interested in learning how to make cooking oils and render your own cooking fats. Making creamy butter, rendering lard and tallow from pork and beef fat, or coaxing nuts or seeds to give up their liquid riches is worth your time.

How to Make Butter

Butter is simple to make. Step 1: Milk your cow. No cow? Find a local source of heavy cream. Add the cream to a quart canning jar until the jar is one-third full. Screw on the lid and shake the jar until you see the butter bits separate from the liquid, which is now buttermilk. You can also make butter much faster using a blender or food processor.

Strain the butter bits out of the buttermilk and place the fresh butter in a bowl. Use a paddle or spatula to press the butter under cold, running water until the water runs clear. Some sources recommend salting at this stage to remove the last of the buttermilk. One quart of heavy cream can yield up to 1 pound of butter. To make even better-tasting cultured butter, read How to Make Butter That Is Really Flavorful.

Rendering Lard

Fat rendered from pigs, called lard, has been used for centuries for cooking, lighting, lubrication and soap. Lard is particularly good for frying, because it can be heated to a high temperature without burning. Lard contains less saturated fat than butter, and lard rendered from humanely raised pigs with access to fresh air and pasture is better for you than the bleached, deodorized and hydrogenated lard commonly produced from pigs raised in industrial confinement and fed antibiotics and growth stimulants.

There was a time when hog farmers actually earned more money from rendering pig fat than they earned from the pork, says Oscar H. Will III, Editor-in-Chief of Grit magazine. But for most hog farmers today, the opposite is true.

For a collection of lard lore and recipes — including a lard pie crust recipe — read a review of Grit’s book Lard at The Lost Art of Cooking With Lard.

3/26/2019 2:10:46 AM

Really great reading thanks! How about coconut palm oil from this type of tree?

8/21/2016 8:29:30 PM

As a natural nut, I love this article. There's nothing like fresh oil for cooking your other natural home grown foods. - Josh Owner of Paradise

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