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I was specifically thinking about the Crisco shortening that is used in baking.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can use any neutral flavored oil, such as vegetable or canola oil. You can also use butter, but you may have to adjust for the amount of water present in the butter (about 20%), unless you're using clarified butter which is a 1:1 substitution.

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Sir I believe you need to clarify your butter! –  Satanicpuppy Sep 12 '10 at 1:15
    
@Sat: Thanks. :) –  hobodave Sep 12 '10 at 1:20
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Butter, yes - vegetable or canola oil, not so much because they are liquid at room temperature, so when used for baked goods they produce a much different texture. (Compare a cake made with oil vs. butter - both can be good but very different.) –  Michael at Herbivoracious Feb 16 '11 at 16:57

Lard. ... and to build on what @bmargulies said:

Other coconut oil, lard is one of the few fats that are solid at room temperature, and the only reason for using shortening in baking that I'm aware of is to get the little lumps of shortening mixed with the flour that don't melt until it's baked, which will result in a tender texture.

You can achieve the same thing with butter, but butter also has water in it, so you'll end up with some extra lift in the pastry, which isn't always desired for recipes that call for shortening. It also melts at a lower temp, so you have to start with it cold and work quickly.

... now, the other use of shortening in baking is for greasing pans -- again, it's because it's solid, so it'll stick to the sides of the pan. For that, you can often use canned cooking sprays, as they have surficants which will keep them from dripping.

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Seconding lard. I wouldn't buy it in the store, as that's hydrogenated. you can read some good info on lard, health comparisons to butter, and how to render it yourself at home on Homesick Texan –  stephennmcdonald Feb 16 '11 at 21:11

An excellent substitute is coconut oil, because it is solid at room temperature. If you use vegetable oil, it will give the resulting baked good a much more oily texture.

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I bet this isn't the answer you are looking for, but there's always lard.

Whole Foods sells an alternative to Crisco that I've used successfully. I don't have a tub here right now to get the brand.

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I recommend clarified butter, especially if you clarify it yourself, or brown butter, especially if you brown it yourself. It takes a few minutes, and you need to let it cool down again before it becomes solid, which can take a few hours, but it lasts much longer than butter once you do these steps.

I've found it a much more flavorful alternative to shortening, and it offers most of the textural advantages.

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