What Is Crisco (Besides a Great Hair Gel Substitute)

I first encountered the word Crisco sometime in elementary school while reading a Calvin & Hobbes comic. In it, six-year-old hellion Calvin asks his mom for some Crisco for school, which he then uses to intricately spike his hair for class picture day. It wasn’t until much later that I learned Crisco was actually an incredibly useful baking ingredient rather than a hair care product, which, among other things, gives pie crust its classic flaky goodness. But what is Crisco exactly? Well, why don’t we take a deep dive into the stuff! Maybe not literally though, although you’d gotta admit, it’d feel pretty wild between your toes…

What is Crisco made of?

This one’s simple: Crisco is made of partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil. Vegetable oil, as we all know, is typically in a liquid state, but the hydrogenation process allows the oil to thicken, and get it to the solid-ish viscosity of Crisco. 

Is Crisco shortening?

Crisco is indeed a leading brand of vegetable shortening. It was originally introduced in 1911 by Procter & Gamble and was the first shortening product to be made entirely of vegetable oils (at first, cottonseed oil and then later soybean oil). Shortening is used in baking to make whatever you’re whipping up crumbly and flaky. It’s right at home in stuff like pie crust, cookies, and cakes. Also, if you wipe down a playground slide with it, you can go really, really fast. 

Does Crisco go bad? 

Crisco can go sour, but luckily you’ve got a good long while to use it before it starts to turn. An opened Crisco stick lasts for at least six months, and an opened can keeps about a year. You can tell when it starts to go bad because it starts ignoring its homework, buys a leather jacket, and won’t stop listening to that rowdy newfangled rock ‘n roll music at all hours of the night. Also it will get hard and smell weird. 

Is Crisco lard?

Crisco and lard aren’t actually one and the same, but both are a type of fat that’s useful in the baking process. The main difference between the two is that lard is traditionally made from pig fat and Crisco isn’t made from animal products at all. It’s made from all-vegetable shortening. Luckily, if dietary restrictions aren’t an issue, you can use either one pretty much interchangeably (both in baking, and food fights). /

Is Crisco vegan?

Since, as we said, it is a 100% vegetable shortening, Crisco is completely vegan and a great option for baking non-dairy treats! 

So, while it may enrage your parents if you use it as a styling gel on class picture day, Crisco is an incredibly versatile kitchen standby. Your hair looks great anyway, don’t worry about it.

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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