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What are Lardons?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Lardons are small pieces of fat, typically pork fat, that are used extensively in French cooking, as well as in some cooking from other regions. They add a distinctly rich, salty flavor to food which some consumers find quite enjoyable. The term “lardon” is also used to refer to the strips of fat that are used to lard meat; in larding, strips of fat are threaded into a roast of meat to help keep it moist while it cooks.

Some recipes call for lardons in the early stages; many French soups and stews, for example, use them to provide a starting layer of fat for browning meats and vegetables. The fat pieces can also be cooked until they are crispy to add texture and flavor; crisped lardons may be sprinkled onto salads, roasts, and other dishes. They may also be added to quiches, omelettes, and an assortment of other foods.

In some regions, lardons can be found for sale, prechopped, in sealed packaging. In other cases, cooks may purchase a piece of fatback and slice it to the right size. Fatback in a fatty cut of pork from the back of a pig that is also used to make bacon. In areas where lardons or fatback are not available, some cooks improvise with fatty strips of bacon cut into small pieces.

The pork used to produce lardons is typically cured so that it acquires a salty, slightly smoky flavor and so that it will keep for an extended period of time. Salt curing can also integrate other spices such as pepper and bay leaves, so it is possible to find the fat with a wide range of seasonings. Some cooks like to cure their own fatback, if they have access to fresh pork; this allows them to control the salt and spicing. Lardons should not be confused with rendered lard, pig fat which is processed to make it uniformly smooth and creamy.

Although the thought of adding small chunks of pure fat to food might seem odd to some people, lardons really do add a distinctive flavor without making food feel greasy or oily. Pork fat is also a great frying medium, which is why it is used to brown and cook vegetables and meats. When crispy, lardons have a rich, salty flavor that could be likened to potato chips and other fat-rich, salty, crispy foods. When used as the base of a soup or stew, the the fat itself is almost undetectable, but the rich flavor is certainly noticeable.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1005533 — On Sep 17, 2021

I actually just heard of lardon. I prefer to use lard and bacon fat over Crisco and olive oil. The fat from an animal is easier to digest than one from a plant. I do have fatback in my freezer, so I may just use that to make the parmesan cheese soup recipe I found calling for lardon.

By mikeinchgo — On Oct 11, 2013

So what if it's chopped fat? It's not processed and yes, the French do eat butter almost every day, and yes they are still healthier than 80 percent of the American population, who manufactures the food to the point that it's not even food.

So for all those who are so scared to eat natural fat, look around you when you are walking in to a McDonald's or Burger King and let me know how many "fit" people are hanging around.

By anon140761 — On Jan 08, 2011

If you think French cooking is healthy - you're very wrong. Butter is the staple ingredient in French cooking and baking and yes, lardons are very common. French food is rich. This requires fat and many times sugar. That's why we only have small portions.

By CopperPipe — On Jan 08, 2011

This sounds fantastic! I heard about lardons when I was looking for a recipe for champignons and a friend mentioned them to me, so I scooted over here to get a lardon definition, and I was not disappointed!

As always, wisegeek, you provide a clear and concise answer for burning questions of people like me...and apparently impassioned discussion about the merits of fat in cooking too!

Nicely done -- now I'm off to buy some lardons for my champignons...

By rallenwriter — On Jan 08, 2011

@yournamehere -- You obviously feel very passionately about this, and I can understand the point you are trying to make, but I think you may misunderstand the way in which lardons are actually used.

Most of the time they are only used very sparingly, for instance, in a lardon salad you may only have a very small amount (teaspoon or less) of lardons mixed in with the salad. You can google some pictures of frisée aux lardons and see what I'm talking about.

Likewise, in other dishes, it's not like people are just pouring on the lardons on top of dishes -- they are used more as a supporting culinary actor than the main player, if you get what I'm saying.

And if you're getting super picky about fat on salad, olive oil is considered to be one of the healthiest toppings out there for salad, and yet it is almost pure fat too. Not animal fat, I'll grant you, but still, it's not like lardons are all that unusual in terms of the way they're used.

Just some (non lardon) food for thought...

By yournamehere — On Jan 07, 2011

When I first read about these I thought that it was a joke! I mean, seriously, people using actual chopped up fat in cooking? So I looked up the lardons definition, and lo and behold, it wasn't a joke -- people have actually gotten to the point where they can't make a salad without sprinkling fat all over it.

I think that it's just such a shame that such a thing as a lardon salad even exists. I mean, what's the point of eating a salad if you're stuffing yourself with animal fat at the same time?

And here I thought that French cuisine was supposed to be really healthy...you know, all veggie pates and stuff like that. Well, I guess I got that one wrong if they use such a thing like lardons in their daily cooking!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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