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.//
Crisco, a popular brand in the USA, was first produced in 1911. In Ireland and the UK Cookeen is a 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.
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.