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Strutto, or clarified pork fat, a type of shortening common in Italy.

Shortening is a semisolid fat used in food preparation, especially baked goods, and is so called because it promotes a "short" or crumbly texture (as in shortbread). Shortening is fat or lard from an animal or vegetable. The term "shortening" can be used more broadly to apply to any fat that is used for baking and which is solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard, or margarine. Shortening often has a higher smoke point than butter and margarine, and it has 100% fat content, compared to about 80% for butter and margarine.

Although the term has been in use for many years, it is now known that shortening works by inhibiting the formation of long protein (gluten) strands in wheat-based doughs. The similarity in terms is entirely coincidental since full understanding of the structure and chemistry of dough is comparatively recent.


Vegetable shortening

A 1918 advertisement for shortening.

Crisco, a popular brand in the USA, was first produced in 1911. In Ireland and the UK Cookeen is a popular brand, whilst in Australia Copha is another popular brand. While similar to animal derived shortening such as butter or lard, it is cheaper to produce; originally, lard was far cheaper and edible oils came at a higher cost. Shortening also needs no refrigeration, which further lowers its costs and increases its convenience, especially for people who live in countries without refrigeration. As a substitute for butter, it can lengthen the shelf life of baked goods and other foods. With these advantages, vegetable shortening gained popularity, as food production became increasingly industrialized and manufacturers sought low-cost raw materials. Vast government-financed surpluses of cottonseed oil, corn oil, and soy beans helped found a market in low-cost vegetable shortening.

Health concerns and reformulation

Vegetable shortening has become the subject of some health concerns due to its traditional formulation from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain trans fat. Trans fats have been linked to a number of adverse health effects. Usage of shortening lacking trans fats has grown, notably with the 2007 reformulation of Crisco such that it contains less than 1g of trans fat per 12g serving. Cookeen was also reformulated in autumn 2006 to remove trans fats.[1]


  1. ^ The Guardian: Grease is the Word, Guardian Unlimited, 27 September 2006


  • William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, 2007. "History of Soy Oil Shortening: A Special Report on The History of Soy Oil, Soybean Meal, & Modern Soy Protein Products," from the unpublished manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soy foods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s. Lafayette, CA (US): Soyinfo Center.[1]

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Strutto, a common (in Italy) shortening made from pork fat]] Shortening is a semisolid fat used in baking. It makes foods crumbly. Shortening doesn't smoke as easily as butter or oil, and it is 100% fat. Butter is 80% fat. It works by stopping long gluten polymers from forming in the food. It does not need to be refrigerated. It also is cheaper than butter. It can make foods last longer.

Shortening is made from hydrogenated oils, which have trans fats in them. Trans fats can make heart attacks. People making shortening try to take out the trans fats.


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