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Lardo, or Italian Cured Pork Fat

lardo, cured pork back fat

This is one cured product you will almost never see done with wild game; I’m not saying it’s impossible, but to make really good lardo — which is cured and dried back fat — you need that fat to be at least an inch thick. This used to be rare even on domestic hogs, although thankfully with today’s resurgence of heritage pigs, it is no longer so hard to find proper back fat to make lardo. And while it’s not traditional, you can also do this with belly, but again, it needs to be thick.

Why make lardo? It is definitely a conversation piece, served over bread on a charcuterie platter. But lardo also works well in any recipe you might want to use English salt pork or French petit salé in — only lardo is better.

Here’s how to make it.

Lardo, Cured Pork Fatback

A few things to remember: Don’t bother trying this with a factory pig. They’re bred lean and pumped full of nasty hormones and antibiotics, and those things tend to lodge themselves in fats. Go with a small grower who is raising pigs the old way. Farmer’s markets are a good place to look.

Another thing to remember is that fat hates light. Light can turn pork fat rancid, so cure and hang lardo in the dark.

Makes 3 pounds of lardo, but you can halve the recipe if you want.

Prep Time: 60 days

  • 3 pounds high-quality pork back fat, in roughly 1-pound slabs
  • 1/2 pound kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked salt (optional)
  • 1/4 pound sugar
  • 1 ounce Instacure No. 2, about 2 level tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 10 crushed bay leaves

  1. Mix the salt, curing salt and sugar together in a bowl. Do the same with the herbs and spices.
  2. Lay down a layer of the salt mix on the bottom of a large non-reactive (plastic, stainless steel or glass) container, then a layer of the herbs. Put a layer of pork fatback on it, then cover with more salt and spices. Keep layering like this until you are out of pork. Top with the rest of the spices and salt.
  3. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then put a plate or other lid on the pork that is smaller than the top of the container. Weigh down this lid with something heavy, like a dumbbell or some heavy canned goods.
  4. Let this cure for 12 days, rotating the pork every three days. What I mean is bring the fatback on the bottom up one level, rotating the piece of fatback on the top down to the bottom. This helps evenly distribute the cure.
  5. After 12 days to 2 weeks, remove the pork and rinse it well. Pat it dry, then poke a hole about 1/2 inch in on one corner, so you can run string through it to hang. Hang the pork for at least 2 weeks, and preferably 4 to 8 weeks in a dark place that is between 45°F and 60°F, with between 65 and 75 percent humidity. If you are curing other things with your lardo, you might want to wrap the fatback in cheesecloth, and then again loosely with foil. The foil blocks the light when you open the curing fridge door. The Italians have special marble boxes just for this purpose.
  6. NOTE: You can leave the fat in the brine that forms far longer than 2 weeks. The Italians leave it for 6 months or more. It will get saltier the longer you leave it.

More Pork and Wild Boar Recipes
More Charcuterie Recipes

36 responses to “Lardo, or Italian Cured Pork Fat”

  1. JA

    Hey, Hank! I read your posts religiously and love the blog. I am currently finishing my studies in my Germany (no hunting, no real kitchen, no real money) and I feel like your blog gives me a list of projects to riff off of when I finally get back to the states. Thanks for sharing all of your hard work and great ideas. If I ever come across some bit of local food lore, I’ll make a point to share it.

  2. Mark Preston a.k.a. Secret_Ingredient

    BUT, did you cure the lardo in a marble “tub”? It’s the same with Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter, Nut Brown Ale and Porter. They ferment in slate vats. My best understanding is lardo is aged in marble.

  3. Barb M

    I read with interest, the 60 day recipe for Lardo. My question is how do the contestant chefs on Iron Chef shows manage to create what they call Lardo within the hour time frame of the show?

  4. J-Bob

    Hey great article! I’m super interested in making this myself but I have a few questions and would love it if you would oblige in answering them for me 🙂

    During the curing process where abouts would it be best to store the fat? In the fridge? Or in a dark room as you do during the hanging process?

    When you rotate the fat do you flip all the layers as a whole or separately?

    And lastly, is there any particular method you use for rinsing the fat after curing? Just under a tap? Do you agitate the surface to remove as much salt as you can?

    That’s it. I don’t know if these questions seem stupid but thanks for being patient.

    Cheers again 🙂

  5. Jimmy

    1 oz of Instacure seems like far too much. I know 1 oz cures 30lb of meat so about 1 tsp for 5 lbs. I know it’s not mixed in here and is just a rub but this still seems like a great deal. Any info?

  6. Mike Wetzel

    Great article, I just finished cured pork belly in the same fashion you described above. Its great I recommend anyone give it a try. I would like to get ahold of some backfat. The contrast of meat and fat is good for texture, however it needs to be sliced very thinly.
    Awesome all the same
    keep up the great work.

  7. August Ritter

    Just finished nine pounds from one of my Large Black hogs. Not as thick but tastes great. How do you store it for longer periods?

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    […] were talking about Lardo as we walked around the market and literally, right in font of us, was an Italian stall selling it […]

  9. David

    because of the high fat content and large surface area, do you think lardo could be hung in a walk in fridge like pancetta?

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    […] 4, and one for 6 months. I’ll update with photos at those points. This recipe is adapted from here (great […]

  11. Chase

    I have some back fat I got for free. I’d like to make this, but I don’t understand where to hang it. I don’t have a place to hang back fat in my apartment. Any suggestions? Can I do something else after all this like bake it on low heat or keep it in the fridge for 60 days? If I can’t make lardo, what else can I do with this back fat?

  12. Deborah

    Could the fat back be air dried by putting it on a rack in the refrigerator and making sure circulating air is blowing over it?

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    […] author Hank Shaw, famous for his nose-to-tail cook books, has a great recipe to make your own Lardo. He goes by Hunger, Angler, Gardner, […]

  14. David

    Hi, Very interested on this area. i have made this once and the skin went very tough and even the other side was not soft. Do i slice those two peices off or do you leave the skin on?

  15. Jessica

    Hello! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. I do not want to use Instacure. What do you recommend? I’m more than happy to let time do its job instead. I plan to hang this in my unfinished basement or garage as I do not have a curing chamber. Trying to utilize my authentic Italian heritage. 😉 Thanks for your time! Jessica

  16. Steve

    I also make lardo using slab back fat. the Processor for some reason cut the fat in to 1 inch strips, will it still work.

  17. Dickens

    Just to set the record straight, it’s illegal to use hormones to raise “factory” pigs. Not that a nice local pork belly or whatever isn’t worlds better, but commercial pork, in the U.S. at least, doesn’t contain hormones.

  18. Rev

    Hank – if I’m halving the recipe, do you recommend halving the cure-time as well, or leave it at 12 days?

  19. Rachael

    A word to Jessica in particular who didn’t want to use Instacure-I would, as a nurse, strongly discourage you (or anyone for that matter) not using something such as instacure or the like. Botulism although fairly rare, is a massive risk with preserved and cured meats, and instacure and such products virtually eliminate that risk (virtually). Botulism (and other nasties) can kill.

    Think about it-Botulism is a toxin produced by a bacteria, that toxin is used in the beauty industry to ‘paralyse’ muscles/tissues injected with the toxin to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles. Ingesting (eating) this toxin can (and often does) have the same effect, but while injecting areas means a so called desired effect in a particular area, ingesting it means you are subjecting your ENTIRE body to the effects of the toxin, which can mean paralysis of the heart muscle, muscles of breathing and swallowing etc.

    I’m not saying that the age old Italian (or other cultures that preserve meat) are wrong, or that it shouldn’t be done, I’m not saying that at all, but if you plan not to use a product such as instacure, please exercise extreme caution! I personally, and many I know who preserve meat won’t take the risk, putting themselves and their families at massive risk, which can be as I said, virtually eliminated using instacure and such products. After all, botulism is one of the well known risks in home preserved and cured meats, but there are many other potentially nasty (and lethal) bugs out there that could land themselves in our home cured and preserved meats, no matter how much care you take in their preparation and storage.

  20. Paul Dodsworth

    How about adding a culture (T-Spx) to the curing and allowing it to hang at 60-70 degrees, in the dark of course, for a couple days prior to aging??

  21. Chef Al

    I am making the lardo but I am at a loss for a place to hang it @ 60 degrees, and appropriate humidity. The temperature in my restaurant kitchen is at least 70 and the walk-in is , usually, below 40. Any suggestions?

  22. Chef Curt

    Chef Al, build yourself a small insulated box for a corner of your walk-in with a very small chamber in it for a light bulb and either find a thermostat control or build a PID controller for the box. The light is for heat, the small chamber inside the box is to keep the main chamber dark yet warmer than your walk-in. PID control keeps your temperature inside your chamber warm enough inside your walk-in yet colder than your kitchen temp’s. Hope I made sense. And before you say you don’t want to go through all that, here’s a couple things to consider. 1) Trust me, once you try this you (and others) will want more. 2) (and you’ll just have to trust me on this one) Make it big enough to hold a full ham. Down the road you WILL end up wanting to make a procuitto(sp?) ham along with making your continual supply of lardo! Among other things!

  23. Chef Curt

    Oh, I forgot. Place a metal water tray above your light bulb chamber to off humidity in case your walk-in isn’t humid enough. Most walk-ins pretty much are, but occasionally you might need it.

  24. René

    2 tbsp of instacure #2?
    Not teaspoons?

  25. René

    Thank you Hank. Sorry to bother again.
    It is not my intention to ignite a discussion on food safety here but working with nitrite I want to be sure not to apply it the wrong way.
    Where I live Instacure #2 is not available for purchase. Reason being with the incorrect use it can be toxic. Here you can only buy curing salt with 0.6% nitrite. I have been using Instacure #2 sourced from the US via Internet to cure dry sausages. The Instacure directions say 1/2 teaspoon per 3 pounds added to the sausage meat mix. Making Lardo, salt, spices and cure is applied as a rub not in a mix as with sausages.
    That is why it is save to apply 10 times as much?
    Appreciate you knowledge on this matter.
    Greetings from sunny Netherlands 🙂

  26. Rene

    Thx, I find it not easy to fully understand the proper use of curing salts in making different charcuterie. Most information is either very technical, beyond my understanding or limited. I am spooked by bacteria :(.
    Do you know where I can find proper guidance for normal people (like me…) on this subject?

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