What to Use as a Shortening Substitute
Don't fret if you have a recipe that calls for shortening, but you don't have any or would prefer to avoid it. There are simple substitutes that are commonly used. Which fat you pick depends on which qualities of shortening are desired.
Shortening is used in baking for short doughs—ones where a stretchy dough that forms gluten is not desired. If you want a flaky pie crust, you don't want the gluten forming in the dough or the crust won't have the right texture. The fat in shortening coats the flour and keeps water from activating the compounds that form gluten.
Before vegetable shortening was invented, lard was commonly used for this purpose in baking. Both lard and shortening are almost entirely fat, without water that would activate gluten formation.
Another advantage of using shortening and lard in flaky, tender pie crust and baked goods is that, as solid fats, they don't mix as completely with the dry ingredients as oils do.
This leaves streaks of solid fat in the dough that when they melt during baking, they produce that light and flaky result.
If you're using a swap to avoid the trans-fat in shortening, you might want to think again. Shortening got a bad reputation as it was high in trans-fatty acids.
Manufacturers such as Crisco and Cookeen reformulated their products to reduce trans fats. Some recipes call for shortening just to grease a pan.
In that case, you can substitute cooking spray or use oil, butter, or lard to grease the pan.
Butter or margarine can be used instead, adding a couple of extra tablespoons per cup of shortening called for in a recipe. So for every 1 cup of shortening called for in a recipe, use 1 cup butter or margarine plus 2 tablespoons.
Butter has a lower melting point than shortening and might change the texture of your recipe slightly, making it more or less crisp, less flaky or less fluffy.
The best approach is to experiment, and if possible, do a test run before making your dish for an important occasion Thanksgiving dinner.
Note that butter generally shouldn't be used for deep frying but it works fine for greasing a pan.
The Spruce / Elnora Turner.
Coconut oil can be substituted for butter and most other fats in equal measure. Since it's solid at room temperature, it can also be used as a spread, although it tastes very different from butter.
When using coconut oil in recipes, you can melt it or beat it with sugar just as you would with butter or shortening.
It has become popular as a healthier alternative to butter since it has beneficial fats.
Coconut oil can be a bit more expensive than butter, and if you're trying to reduce the fat in a recipe, coconut oil is not the way to go: it has as much or more fat than butter or shortening.
Lard is a perfectly acceptable substitute for shortening in most recipes. Know that lard is an animal product and if you want to eliminate animal fats from your diet, avoid lard. Deep-frying is fine with lard. It has a higher smoke point than butter and will spatter less because it contains less water.
Kitchen Kersplat: Tips to Reduce the Splatter
One-dish meals are lovely: Throw everything in a pan, cook it and dinner is done. Just one pan to clean, then sit back and relax for the rest of the night. Or perhaps not.
Scanning the stovetop, you may see sauce on the backsplash, oil on the countertop and grease on nearby appliances. Simple meals can evolve into a scrubbing nightmare without quick action or prior planning. Try these tips to avoid or reduce splattering:
Start with Dry Food
The water-and-oil dance that is so cute when testing a hot pan turns into a messy rave when tossing in frozen vegetables. The best bet: Pat dry food before placing it in the pan to saute.
Use a Large Enough Pan
Give food space to cook by choosing the right size pan with taller sides to help prevent splatter.
While a watched pot may never boil, a boiling pot may not cause to a mess if you stay nearby. Rice and other grains that require a lid when cooking can boil over, leading to sticky goo around the burner.
Prevent it by staying close; occasionally lift the lid to release steam. When cooking thick liquids and sauces, bubble eruptions occur when the pan gets too hot. Before that happens, pick up the pan and hold it over the burner while stirring for a few seconds.
Indirect heat and slow stirring helps calm boiling bubbles.
If You Can’t Fight it, Manage the Mess
1. Use a lid. If preparing food with wet heat, such as steaming, a lid can trap water droplets and prevent the pan’s contents from splattering. When removing the lid (lift away from your body to avoid steam burns), some splatter still may escape.
2. Put up a splatter shield. This contraption is a mini voting booth. With a three-sided wall around the pan, splatter is contained to the pan and its most immediate surroundings. It doesn’t prevent splattering, but it can make cleanup easier.
3. Use a splatter screen. a cross between a lid and a strainer, a splatter screen fits on top of a pan and is designed to allow steam to escape while controlling some of the splatter. Vented dome- covers are made for microwaves to help control splatter.
4. Cover neighboring burners. To keep the rest of your stove clean, place a baking sheet upside-down to cover one or two burners.
Healthy Kitchen Hacks: Cooking with Fats
Create a better pour. When first opening a new bottle of cooking oil, don’t remove the foil covering (if there is one). Instead, make a slit with a sharp knife. This will give you more flow control when measuring or pouring directly into a pot or sheet pan.
Use DIY cooking spray. Be earth-friendly and save money by making your own cooking spray. Mix 1 part oil with 3 to 4 parts water to distribute a thinner and less greasy coat to your cooking vessels. Pour the mixture into an aluminum or glass spray bottle and store in a cool, dry place. Before use, shake the bottle and use the “mist” setting.
Clean grease spills with ease. If an oil spill is still wet, dust it with cornstarch, flour or baking soda and let sit for 15 minutes before wiping it up with a cloth or paper towel.
If a grease splatter has cooled and hardened, drizzle with dish soap and wait 10 minutes before scrubbing with a sponge.
For tougher, caked-on grease, apply vinegar and let sit for another 20 minutes before wiping clean.
Recycle leftovers. Instead of dumping used oil into a container and throwing it away (never pour it down the drain), look for a local disposal center, drop-off bin or service that converts used cooking oil into cleaner-burning biodiesel. Avoid reusing cooking oil for future meals, as it may affect flavor and can become rancid.
To see the Healthy Kitchen Hacks series, click here.
- Food Trends
- Healthy Kitchen Hacks
Save Money with Homemade Dog Food
When suppertime rolls around, there’s nothing a healthy home-cooked meal. This is true not only for the human members of your family, but for your dog as well. Cooking for your canine companion has many benefits, including fewer preservatives and additives, more varied and potentially better ingredients and, of course, more interest for the canine palate.
Homemade meals may even make it possible to feed your dog well for less. A 15- pound bag of high-end dry dog food costs approximately $42, and a 5.5 oz. can of high-end wet food runs approximately $2.
Feeding a medium-sized dog two cans of wet mixed with two cups of dry food costs about $5 per day. That doesn’t include the treats, bones and tidbits that inevitably make their way into her tummy! Compare that with four cups of Puppy Stew (recipe here) at $2.
25 per day. Add the cost of a vitamin/ mineral supplement and calcium, and it is still less than the cost of feeding high-end commercial food.* (You can also combine homemade meals with commercially available dry dog food.
This will, of course, change the nutritional calculations as well as the price, but your pup will still be pleased.)
As both able hunters and scavengers, dogs ate from a diverse menu when they began accompanying humans. An omnivorous diet of protein, carbohydrate and fat sources suits them; dogs in good health can also handle the fat in their diet more effectively than you can— their bodies use it for energy and then efficiently clear it from the bloodstream.
The caveats? Dogs have different nutrient requirements than people. For example, they need high-quality protein, more calcium and more minerals for their proportional body size. Calcium is particularly critical.
In The Complete Holistic Dog Book, co-author Katy Sommers, DVM, notes that “calcium is perhaps the single most important supplement for a successful home-cooked diet. Even if you’re feeding a variety of foods, you’ll need to supply an extra source of calcium.
” She recommends giving one 600 mg calcium carbonate tablet (or 1⁄2 teaspoon of the powder form) for each 10 to 15 pounds of body weight daily for most adult dogs.
(She also points out that, if you’re mixing homemade and commercial foods, you don’t need to supplement as heavily, as commercial foods contain adequate or possibly even excessive amounts of calcium and phosphorus.) More good advice on this subject can be found in Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn.
There are some human foods that dogs should never be given, including macadamia nuts, chocolate, tea, coffee, raisins, grapes, onions or excessive amounts of garlic. And, of course, check with your veterinarian before making big changes to your dog’s diet, particularly if she has any preexisting health conditions.
Once you get the green light, make the changes gradually to avoid digestive upsets; introduce new foods slowly, substituting a small proportion of the new food for the old over time.
Finally, be careful not to provide too many overall calories (energy), as obesity is just as unhealthy for dogs as it is for humans; your vet can help you determine how much your dog should be eating.
Food safety is also an issue. While dogs have many defenses against bacteria, parasites and other food-borne pathogens, they are not immune to them.
Be sure to keep utensils clean, perishables refrigerated and ingredients cooked to appropriate internal temperatures to kill off any unwanted bugs.
This is particularly important for puppies, old dogs or those with a health condition that makes them vulnerable.
In general, your homemade recipes should contain a high-value protein source (muscle meat, eggs, fish, liver), a fat source (safflower, olive, canola or fish oil; the best and most easily available fish oils are salmon and cod), a fiber-containing carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, oats, barley), and a phytochemical source (fruits, vegetables, herbs). Substitutions can be made; for example, if you know your dog s whole-grain pasta, substitute pasta for barley as a carbohydrate source. Some dogs, some kids, hate veggies but will eat fruit, so use fruit instead; fruit can complement meats just as readily as vegetables can. Yogurt, cottage cheese, beans and tofu can occasionally be used as protein sources, but keep in mind that not all dogs can tolerate dairy products, beans or soy and may become flatulent or experience other gastrointestinal “issues”; test tolerance with small quantities.
When you cook a batch of homemade food, let it cool, and—if you make more than your dog can eat within a couple of days—portion it into reusable, washable containers, then freeze and defrost as needed. You can safely keep cooked food in the refrigerator for three days; after that, spoilage becomes a concern.
By adhering to the basic guidelines, you can be creative, provide great homemade meals and know that the ingredients are wholesome. You might even try serving some of these recipes to your human family so they can feel special too.
These recipes are calculated for a healthy adult medium-sized dog (approximately 35 to 40 pounds) who’s moderately active. The ingredients listed are standard (not organic) and can be purchased at any supermarket. Dogs of this general description require approximately 1,800 mg of calcium daily, according to Sommers, et al.
If your dog is smaller or larger, her total calcium requirements can be calculated using 600 mg for every 12.5 pounds.
(If your dog is a senior, still growing or has health issues, please consult your veterinarian— we really can’t say this often enough!) For a veterinary nutritionist– developed canine vitamin/mineral (calcium- inclusive) supplement, check out BalanceIT® powder.
Important: Many veterinarians, while acknowledging that pet food recalls and the poor quality of some pet foods are causes for concern, still feel that homemade diets, when fed exclusively, may result in nutritional imbalances and vitamin/mineral deficiencies that may pose threats to canine health. Therefore, if you choose to feed your dog a homemade diet, it is important that you understand and provide what your dog needs to stay healthy; veterinary nutritionists can assist in developing suitable homemade diets. While caution was taken to give safe recommendations and accurate instructions in this article, it is impossible to predict an individual dog’s reaction to any food or ingredient. Readers should consult their vets and use personal judgment when applying this information to their own dogs’ diets.
*The cost of feeding homemade will vary according to the size, activity level and health of your dog. Dogs who are pregnant or lactating, growing pups and those who perform endurance activities require much more nutrition (calories, protein, fatty acids) and have other special nutritional needs.