Bisquick – A Shortcut Loaded with Trans-Fat

We got the following question from Lanette:

I do much of our cooking from scratch and am trying to eliminate processed  foods.  I have found several ‘recipes’ for make-your-own-baking-mix but they all call for shortening.  I don’t know which is worse!  I’m wondering if you could
do a post on Bisquick vs. Homemade options.  I use it all the time for pot-pies, dumplings, the occasional biscuits, pancakes, etc. so it’s handy to have a mix on hand.  I’d love to hear Fooducates take on this kitchen.

Excellent question. We’re happy to read that you’re making lots of food from scratch. Now let’s take a look if Bisquick is worth the time it saves. But first a note on shortening.

Shortening is basically a fat that is semisolid at room temperature and can be used for baking. It provides an amazing texture to baked foods – making light and fluffy breads, biscuits, and rolls. You don’t get the same mouthfeel with liquid oil.

Historically, shortening meant lard. But then hydrogenation was invented, and vegetable oils, bombarded with hydrogen atoms suddenly became semisolid at room temperature too. They were cheaper than lard, and became very popular. Crisco, anyone?

Unfortunately, the side effect of hydrogenation is the creation of trans-fatty acids, which are even worse for health than saturated fats of butter and lard.

What you need to know:

Betty Crocker’s Bisquick was invented in the early 1930′s to save time for busy cooks by premixing the ingredients needed for baking biscuits. Betty Crocker is part of General Mills.

Here’s what you’re getting in the Bisquick box:

Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Salt.

Dear Betty: you lost me at Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil. Is there any reason to continue selling a product with trans-fat in this day and age? We know how bad these fatty acids are for us. The recommendation is for NO consumption of trans fats a day.

What to do at the supermarket:

It’s really easy to mix your own bisquick equivalent. Buy the following ingredients at the supermarket: flour, baking powder, salt, Canola oil / butter. And here’s the “recipe”, that takes all of 96.3 seconds to prepare:

  1. pour 1 cup flour, 1½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, and 1 tbsp oil or melted butter into a mixing bowl.
  2. mix

Butter based recipes will taste better than ones with oil but you’re going to get more saturated fat. If you really want to go all out with a recipe – lard is making a comeback.

Get Fooducated

  • http://inspiredrd.com Alysa Bajenaru, RD, CPT

    I love your posts! So straight to the point and helpful. Keep it up!

  • David

    Too bad you buy into the saturated fat is bad for you myth!

  • http://plate-by-plate.com Penny

    I gave up using Bisquick a while ago. If you would like to make your own quick mix in bulk I just recently posted a recipe for it on my blog: http://plate-by-plate.com/homemade-quick-baking-mix-and-biscuits/ There’s also a biscuit recipe too. Using butter works great but beef tallow or lard also works wonderfully. Pass on the transfats and check out Good Calories, Bad Calories if you are worried about saturated fats.

  • Lanette

    Thanks for taking the time to answer, and thanks, Penny, for another mix recipe that doesn’t use shortening! Fooducate rocks.

  • http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com Lauren Slayton

    I think Bisquick surprises a lot of people. Your recipe provides a middle ground between trans fat yuck and all natural/high fiber options that can get the “too healthy” vote from many.

  • Daria

    I never used Bisquick much, really only to make pancakes every once in a while because I found it made really light and fluffy pancakes. When I read the label I stopped buying it, it is pretty easy to just make your own pancake mix from scratch. But I’m pretty sure I saw a trans-fat free version of Bisquick in a store one day.

  • Brooke

    I find it frustrating that Fooducate chooses not to highlight (or even mention) the fact that Bisquick makes a “heart smart” product. I feel as though most Fooducate readers are more likely to purchase such an item over the original, therefore it would be more relevant to the readers to highlight products such as these (if nothing else, in addition to the original). In this case, the heart smart bisquick contains no hydrogenated oils, and has about half the fat of the original. Yes, it is still processed, yes, it does have more ingredients than the do-it-yourself recipe, but it’s what I’ve kept on-hand since the product was released and I don’t feel guilty about occasionally using it in a pinch.

  • Miranda

    Thanks Brooke, I had written off Bisquick after reading it’s ingredients and seeing the amount of transfat in it. I will be picking up a box of the heart smart to have on hand, I agree that homemade mixes are probably best, but in the real world there are times when being able to use something in a box is the difference between cooking at home and the drive through!!

  • http://thetakebacktour.com Dr Renee Lea-Currie

    As a Southern gal myself, I LOVE biscuits and have been baking them from scratch with my grandmother when I was a small child! It is possible to make great tasting biscuits without trans fat or LARD-(OMG-LARD)! I do love butter as the conjugated linoleic acid that is a natural component can actually be efficiently digested and used by our bodies. You can also use great tasting, affordable coconut oil or palm fruit oil which can be found in the cooking oil sections of most grocery stores. They contain mostly medium chain fatty acids so they are more solid at room temperature and give the great mouth feel texture of a good biscuit. I recently tried mixing all the dry ingredients in a container and saving the milk and fat source for the last step. It really does save on time and helps you avoid Bisquick with the bleached stripped flour that is the main ingredient. For those of us with very little time, this is a real time saver. Thanks for calling attention to the baking mix dilemma. But please know there are non-animal sources of fat that are available and affordable that also make a great tasting biscuit. I use these for my vegan friends; normally I do use butter.

  • J in VA

    I’ve been making home-made Bisquick for years. Several years ago, I switched from shortening to lard with great results.

    I don’t buy the saturated fat is bad argument and made some lovely lard last fall in my crockpot from fat from my local natural (no this, no that, no the other thing) farmer. All it required was cutting the fat into ~1 inch cubes and dumping in the crock. Twelve or so hours later after no attention paid while it cooked slowly: I had great fat! I put it in some containers, popped it in my freezer until ready to use. I leave one in the ‘frige in summer (my house is cool enough in winter).

    Try it

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com kc

    I agree with J in VA about the home-rendered lard. This ridiculous “saturated fat is bad” motto is really irritating. Fat is essential to health but as with everything else, you need to consider the source of that fat. Hydrogenated fats, fat from cornfed beef, and GMO oils are all terrible for us. Just because those fats are the ones used exclusively in the processed food industry, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that there are healthy fats and we need to cook with more of them. If readers are still too terrified to use lard or tallow from grass fed animals, they can try virgin coconut oil or raw butter as a suitable substitute for shortening.

    Fooducate, shame on you for encouraging canola oil in recipes. Canola is no better than cottonseed or soybean oil and should not be recommended as a “healthy fat”. All of those oils are made from GM crops which are some of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Don’t let that “organic” label fool you: there is evidence of GMO contamination of even the “organic” fields of these crops. You have to assume that some of the readers are cooking for entire families which can include small children. Small children need saturated fat for healthy brain development and canola oil isn’t going to do it. It’s time someone noticed that the children from fat-free homes are suffering just as much nutritionally (albeit from different problems) as children from fast food homes.

    Making biscuits couldn’t be easier than my grandmother’s method. She had a huge bowl with a lid that she used to store the dry ingredients. When she wanted to make biscuits, she simply added the fat and the milk and mixed them in a well in the center. This allowed her to add flour to the wet mixture easily until the biscuit dough was perfect consistency. She made biscuits almost every day of her life using this method. There is no box or mix that could have made it faster.

    One other note: any ingredient that is vitamin enriched or fortified contains GM corn as the vitamin carrier (and sometimes the vitamin itself is derived from GM corn). Be sure to use unenriched organic flour and organic milk that isn’t fortified (hard to find, I know) if you don’t relish the idea of GM corn oil in your milk.

  • Corey

    @kc
    I don’t think GM crops are some of the most heavily sprayed… most of the time they modify them so they DON’T have to spray as much… follow?

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com kc

    @Corey
    Actually, that is incorrect. Most of them are modified to withstand herbicides so that the entire field can be sprayed and only the weeds will die. Obviously, herbicides are useless without transgenic crops so non-GMO crops don’t get sprayed with herbicides at all. That leaves pesticides and fertilizers which are absolutely necessary in large monoculture crops and less important when using crop rotation and biodiversity practices. The amount of pesticides and fertilizers necessary to grow genetically modified crops increase every year. (http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCIPU.php) Now, there are “superweeds” which can’t be killed with Round-up (herbicide the crops are genetically modified to withstand) just like the “superbugs” that no longer respond to normal antibiotics. None of this even addresses the increased allergenic properties of GMO crops and the damage they do to our digestive system when we ingest them. GMOs are a failure and a fraud.
    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/SpreadtheWord/HealthRisksBrochure/index.cfm

    • hotmail

      I totally agree with you/most people don’t know realize this !! I don’t eat GMO and people think I’m nuts We need more people like you! keep spreading the word! Thanks for your insight!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sabrina.carroll.5 Sabrina Carroll

    Can you make a huge batch of this homeade stuff and store it premixed ahead of time like a box of bisquick, too?

    • David Fulwood

      Probably not for long cause it actually has nutrients in it and nutrition spoils. Maybe for a week

  • http://www.facebook.com/sabrina.carroll.5 Sabrina Carroll

    can I make this homemade version in a big premixed batch , too?

  • Joan

    Hey! what about the Aluminum phosphate? That sounds bad to me.

    • Dave

      buy the powder without it. Rumsford makes some it’s just costs a little more cause it’s special

  • Tommy

    One big question… Why is there aluminum put in our food. If you look at the ingredients you will see that. I don’t think the fat content is the worst of our worries now at this point. Why are these food companies putting aluminum in our food? An known cancer causing metal…

  • Penny Brown Conlan

    If I’m reading correctly, looks like I could use coconut oil to make my mix. Mine is set up (looks like Crisco) in the winter but tends to liquefy in the summer, even with air conditioning.

  • Jolow

    No on the Canola! Fooducate, please do a post about this GMO oil.