Unraveling the Enigma of Crisco: From History to Health

I. Introduction

For cooking and baking enthusiasts, Crisco is a household name that has played a prominent role in the kitchen for over a century. However, it continues to be a topic of debate and controversy, with many people questioning its health implications and suitability for use in the kitchen. This article will delve into the many aspects of Crisco, including its history, health implications, alternative uses, and even recipes that call for this iconic vegetable shortening.

II. From Lard to Crisco: A Brief History of Vegetable Shortening

Crisco is a vegetable shortening that was first introduced in 1911 by Proctor & Gamble. By the late 1800s, vegetable oil had become more readily available, and the concept of vegetable-based fats had begun to take hold. However, it wasn’t until the development of hydrogenation that vegetable oil could be transformed into a solid, shelf-stable fat that could replace animal fats like lard. Shortening was born, and Crisco was the first brand to bring it to the masses.

At first, the public was skeptical of this new product. However, through aggressive marketing and clever advertising campaigns, Crisco soon became a household name. In addition to its convenience, Crisco had several advantages over animal fats like lard. It was cheaper, had a longer shelf-life, and was easier to work with in the kitchen since it didn’t need to be rendered like animal fat.

People also preferred Crisco because it was seen as a healthier alternative to lard, which was high in saturated fat. However, over time, the health effects of Crisco came into question as well.

III. Is Crisco Bad for You? Separating Fact from Fiction

Crisco and other vegetable shortenings have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to their high levels of trans fats. Trans fats are created during the hydrogenation process, which is used to solidify vegetable oils. Studies have shown that trans fats can increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and contribute to heart disease and other health problems.

However, not all products that contain trans fats are created equal. In 2007, Crisco reformulated its recipe to reduce trans fats by 50%. Today, if you buy a tub of Crisco from the grocery store, you will see a label stating that it contains zero grams of trans fats.

But, even with this reformulation, Crisco is still high in saturated fat, which can also contribute to health problems. Therefore, it’s important to use Crisco in moderation, just like any other cooking fat.

It’s worth noting that the health implications of Crisco are the subject of controversy. Some individuals and organizations believe that Crisco is unsafe to consume, while others believe that it’s perfectly safe in moderation. The bottom line is that, while Crisco may not be the healthiest option for cooking and baking, it can still be used responsibly as part of a balanced diet.

For those in search of healthier alternatives, there are several options available, including coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. However, it’s worth noting that these alternatives may not work as well as Crisco in certain recipes since they have different properties.

IV. 10 Surprising Uses for Crisco You Didn’t Know About

While Crisco is most commonly associated with baking, there are several alternative ways to use this versatile vegetable shortening. Here are ten surprising uses for Crisco that you may not have known about:

  • As a lubricant, particularly for rusted bolts and other machinery
  • To polish leather, shoes, and other items
  • To make homemade soap, as it creates a lather and helps bind ingredients together
  • To remove makeup, particularly waterproof mascara
  • To clean and condition wooden cutting boards
  • To shine stainless steel appliances
  • As a substitute for shaving cream
  • To prevent snow and ice from sticking to a shovel or other outdoor tools
  • To prevent rust from forming on metal items, such as bike chains or tools
  • As a natural bug repellant when combined with essential oils

V. Crisco vs Butter: Which is the Superior Baking Ingredient?

Crisco and butter are two common options for baking, but which one is better? The answer depends on what you’re baking and what outcome you’re looking for.

Crisco is often favored for making pie crusts, biscuits, and other pastry items because it creates a flakier, more tender crust. This is because Crisco is 100% fat, while butter has a small percentage of water content, which can interfere with the formation of gluten.

Butter, on the other hand, is preferred for cookies and cakes because it adds a rich, buttery flavor. It also browns slightly differently than Crisco, which can impact the final product’s appearance.

Ultimately, the choice of fat comes down to personal preference and the desired outcome. Some recipes may even call for a combination of Crisco and butter to balance taste and texture.

VI. Recipes for Classic Dishes That Use Crisco

Crisco is a staple ingredient in many classic dishes. Here are a few recipes to try:

Buttermilk Biscuits


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup Crisco, chilled
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the chilled Crisco and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. Mix the ingredients together until a dough forms.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it lightly until it comes together.
  7. Pat the dough out until it’s about ½ inch thick.
  8. Use a biscuit cutter or a cup to cut out biscuits. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.

Perfect Pie Crust


  • 2 and ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup Crisco, chilled
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar.
  2. Add the chilled Crisco and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ice water and vinegar.
  4. Add the ice water mixture to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon or your hands to bring the dough together.
  5. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disc. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  6. When ready to use, roll out the dough to the desired thickness and use it as directed in your pie recipe.

VII. Conclusion

So, is Crisco bad for you? The answer isn’t straightforward, as several factors come into play. While Crisco has been criticized for its high levels of trans fats and saturated fats, it can still form an essential part of any baker’s repertoire if used in moderation.

For those looking for healthier options, there are several alternatives, but it’s worth noting that these options may not work as well in certain recipes. Regardless of your choice, it’s important to be informed about the product you’re using and make your decisions according to your preferences.

Through exploring Crisco’s history, debunking myths about its use, offering alternative uses, and providing recipes, this article aimed to shed some light on the enigma of Crisco. By learning about this iconic product, you can make more informed and conscious choices about the role it plays in your cooking and baking endeavors.

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