pastry fat debate

Joined Oct 19, 2001
So this Thanksgiving. my house turned into a war zone. The battle was fought over the timeless argument over which fat yields the best pastry: shortening, butter (unsalted, of course), lard, or oil.

I'm a butter gal myself- I love the taste. And while I'll yield that lard does make a nice flakey crust, I just cannot stomach the taste. And I've never actually used oil, but hey, maybe the next time I'm bored on a Friday night, I'll give it a try.

What're y'alls thoughts?
Joined Mar 6, 2001
I go 50/50 to 60/40 butter and shortening. It's pretty rare for me to use one OR the other.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
It depends what I'm baking. If it's a French tart, a one crust tart it's pure butter. If I'm making a double crust tart it's butter and shortening. I never make a crust using shortening only, I find it's hard to work with.

For everything else, cookies, cakes and pastries it's only butter.
Joined May 29, 1999
I have been known to use shortening for my rolled fondant.
In pies I like 60% butter and 40% shortening.
Tarts it is butter, cookies = butter, sauces = butter, curd = butter.
Butter is the fat of choice for most items but when it becomes nessesary to have a very high melting point, shortening is the best way to go to avoid too much smoke.
Joined Jan 15, 2001
Pie crust= 50% butter 50 % shortening. I use butter for its superior flavor and shortening for a more tender piecrust(since butter is 80% fat and shortening is 100% fat)
Sugardough= all butter
Cookies, muffins, cakes and pastries= almost always butter, depending on which particular recipe.


Joined Apr 6, 2001
Here's an excerpt from Christopher Kimball's (Cook's Illustrated) "The Dessert Bible" on this topic:

"The Great Crisco vs. Butter Debate -- Crisco (vegetable shortening) is hydrogentaed vegetable oil -- hydrogen atoms are pumped into veg. oils -- which is a solid, stable product even at room temperature. This process creates a relatively unhealthy saturated fat, but the good news is that it works wonders with pie dough. (As for the health issues, Americans consume very little veg. shortening through home cooking, so I doubt this is much of an issue. However, it is used extensively in convenience foods, which is where the lion's share of our consumption occurs.) The reason I like to use both Crisco and butter is that the Crisco does a good job of coating the flour, which makes the dough flaky and tender, while the butter adds flavor. Unlike butter, Crisco will hold its share even in hot conditions, which makes the dough almost foolproof, immune to overworking. Butter, of course, has lots of flavor, while an all-Crisco crust will be disappointing in terms of taste. Experienced bakers use only butter, but I find that most home cooks (myself included) are beter off using 50-50 combination of Crisco and butter."


Speaking of the health issues with Crisco, over the weekend I found an organic veg. shortening by Spectrum Natural that doesn't have the trans-fatty acids of Crisco. While initially excited by my find, my enthusiasm was stemmed when I made a batch of chocolate cookies with the product. While the end result had similar consistancy and staying power as if I used Crisco, the funky oily taste is a little too much for me. If anyone knows of a good Crisco substitute, that would be greatly appreciated.

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