What exactly is "vegetable shortening"?

  • I have not heard about this stuff before.. It is not used in Indian cooking..! What exactly is shortening? I read it in a recipe to bake a rose shaped cake and it uses shortening to grease the pan..

    I am new to baking.. so please help!

    If you were using it as an ingredient it would matter, however for greasing pans just use butter instead.

    I personally prefer using clarified butter/ghee for nearly all recipes calling for shortening, though the melting point is slightly different and can affect some recipes. I only use shortening as an anti-rust agent on cast iron pans or my cast iron grill.

    The recipe specifically mentions that butter is not enough. The batter sicks to the pan and u cant achieve the shape of rose !!

    Are you using a nonstick (teflon) pan? If so, butter and that should be slippery enough. Or brush it with any cooking oil - the recipe recommends shortening because you can rub it against the walls, not because it's somehow more slippery than oil. Maybe dust it with semolina or cornmeal and it really, really should come loose. Alternately, try one of those greased baking paper sheets? Cut it to the shape of the pan.

    Note "shortening" is almost universally considered an inferior kind of fat. It has many ease-of-use advantages: very long shelf life, comfortable consistency, no special temperature requirements, versatility, but using correct optimal fats for given purposes - butter, olive oil, clarified butter etc, will usually produce a better-tasting food. Think of it as "easy, dirty shortcut", the kind stock cubes are to homemade stock.

  • SAJ14SAJ

    SAJ14SAJ Correct answer

    7 years ago

    In baking, the term "shortening" alone is used to mean any fat; "vegetable shortening" is a fat made from vegetable oil to be solid at room temperature.

    Most vegetable oils, such as corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and so on are liquid at room temperature because they are unsaturated fats: their fatty acids do not have hydrogen bound to them.

    Vegetable oil is converted into vegetable shortening by hydrogenating it, forcing hydrogen to bind on to the ends of the fatty acids. This is done by forcing hydrogen to bubble through the oil under pressure, heat, and in the presence of a catalyst.

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    Compared to vegetable oil, vegetable shortening is solid at room temperature, white in color, and much less prone to rancidity as it is a saturated fat. It has essentially an unlimited shelf life.


    It is also very neutral in flavor, so is often used to grease pans. However, any fat will do for that purpose.

    In baking, it performs very well in making North American style pie crusts, where it helps promote a flaky crust, but it has little flavor. It also performs very well in deep frying.

    As a solid fat, like butter, it can also be creamed with sugar to help leaven baked goods, although it does not give the flavor benefits of butter.

    Note that margarine is essentially an emulsion of vegetable shortening (about 80%) and water (about 20%) plus colors and flavorings, meant to imitate butter.


    See also:

    Are there any substitutes for Shortening?

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM