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Shortenings : what are shortenings?
Since the invention of hydrogenated vegetable oil in the early 20th century, shortening has come almost exclusively to mean hydrogenated vegetable oil. Vegetable shortening shares many properties with lard: both are semi-solid fats with a higher smoke point than butter and margarine. They contain less water and are thus less prone to splattering, making them safer for frying. Lard and shortening have a higher fat content (close to 100%) compared to about 80% for butter and margarine. Cake margarines and shortenings tend to contain a bit higher percentage of monoglycerides that margarines. Such “high-ratio shortenings” blend better with hydrophilic (attracts water) ingredients such as starches and sugar.
Health concerns and reformulation
Early in this century, vegetable shortening became the subject of some health concerns due to its traditional formulation from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain trans fats, which have been linked to a number of adverse health eﬀects. Consequently, a low trans-fat variant of Crisco brand shortening was introduced in 2004. In January 2007, all Crisco products were reformulated to contain less than one gram of trans fat per serving, and the separately marketed trans-fat free version introduced in 2004 was consequently discontinued. Since 2006, many other brands of shortening have also been reformulated to remove trans fats. Non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening can be made from palm oil.