Why You Should Be Using Duck Fat For Your Fried Chicken

"I belong to the church of fried chicken." Amen! "Top Chef" judge Padma Lakshmi instantly became relatable to the masses when she made that declaration. The South takes credit for fried chicken, but practically every culture has a version, making it beloved worldwide. In Japan, eating KFC fried chicken is a part of the Christmas celebration (per BBC), whereas fried chicken is considered party food in the U.S., showing up on Super Bowl Sunday and at picnics every summer.

July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day in the U.S., celebrated by more than half of the country, including the peculiar 16% that would "marry it" (via National Today). There have even been prolonged fast food wars over who has the best fried chicken.

The perfect fried chicken is a "multisensory experience," as we eat with our ears, eyes, and mouth. Visually the chicken should be golden brown with a crispy coating. When biting into the chicken, we should hear the crunch before tasting the salty, fatty exterior and the juicy meat (via Inverse).

When making fried chicken, home cooks have many options regarding the best technique (pan-frying, deep-frying, or broasting), whether or not to brine the chicken first, which coating to use (flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, cereal, breadcrumbs), and finally which is the best fat to cook the chicken in. Crisco can be used in place of the traditional lard, but trans fats are often frowned upon, leaving oil as a common cooking fat, but there are other tasty options available.

Frying chicken in duck fat helps it soar

Chefs like Rachael Ray season a dish at every cooking stage to impart the most flavor, and choosing the right fat to fry your chicken can add both extra flavor and crunch. Duck fat — an essential ingredient in making confit — has a high smoke point and can be reused, which makes it ideal for frying (per D'Artagnan). According to Healthline, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months, or a year if frozen.

Ludo Lefebvre, the innovative chef who popularized the 'pop up' or 'touring' restaurant concept, has been frying his chicken in duck fat since a late-night encounter with food critic Jonathan Gold at his Los Angeles restaurant "Ludo Bites." Gold surprised Lefebvre after hours, forcing the chef to think on his feet, resulting in his now-famous duck-fat fried chicken. The late critic sang the praises of the chef's Basque-inspired chicken, writing in LA Weekly that it was "​​pan-fried crisp in duck fat, which could have made a New Orleans grandmother weep with happiness." Lefebvre's success with fried chicken led to a food truck following a brick-and-mortar restaurant, "Ludo Bird," which has locations throughout Los Angeles.

Home cooks can purchase duck fat at the store or online. D'Artagnan is a familiar brand you may encounter. It's pricier than other fats, so use accordingly. As Michael Pollan once stated, "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself."