Substitutes for Crisco in a Pie Crust

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Crisco, a solid white vegetable shortening, has tenderized pie crusts since 1911. Procter and Gamble originally produced the shortening as an alternative to animal-based fats that had a shorter shelf life. Crisco consists of vegetable oils that undergo a hydrogenation process to make them stable and solid at room temperature. Crisco, or one of its alternatives, keeps pie crust tender instead of tough.

Lard

  • Lard is the rendered fat of pigs. Pie crust recipes older than Crisco's 1911 release date called for lard or butter as the shortening agent. Although it is a saturated fat and, therefore, solid at room temperature, lard is only 40 percent saturated, which compares favorably to coconut oil and palm kernel oil, two highly-saturated vegetable fats. Substitute lard for Crisco in a one-to-one ratio in any pie crust recipe that calls for solid shortening. Despite its animal origin, lard imparts no porky flavor to food.

Butter

  • Unlike Crisco and other pure-fat shortenings, butter contains water in addition to its solid fats. Butter is also temperature-sensitive; bakers chill it and cut it into tiny pieces for pie dough instead of adding it in one portion as they do with Crisco. A butter crust flakes, while a Crisco crust is more tender. Butter also browns more easily than Crisco; if a baker desires a golden crust, adding butter instead of or alongside another shortening helps. As butter contains water, subtract 2 tbsp. water from a recipe that requires it for every cup of butter used in place of Crisco. Butter also imparts a rich and distinctive flavor.

Bacon Fat

  • Frying bacon produces copious fat that solidifies at room temperature. This solid fat can double as a shortening in pie crust. However, it has a strong smoky flavor that clashes with many pie flavorings; diners may not appreciate a bacon-flavored key lime pie. Use bacon fat instead of Crisco for pot pies, meat pies and quiche crusts. Its salty smokiness enhances a meat- or egg-based savory pie.

Vegetable Oil

  • Crisco's hydrogenation process makes it solid at room temperature, but chefs who prefer to use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can use liquid oils in pie crust recipes. Substitute oil at a ratio of 7/8 cup of oil to each cup of shortening. Oil makes a softer crust than a solid fat, so account for spreading when pinching pleats in the pie crust. Mix the crust by hand instead of in a processor to keep it from turning too soft to handle easily.

References

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