Fried chicken falling in the air isolated on white background.
The Smoky Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Fried Chicken
By Kalea Martin
Seasoning every component — from the buttermilk to the breading — is crucial when making fried chicken, but a lot of people don’t think to season the oil. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson recommends adding fresh rosemary to the oil, and TODAY suggests adding ginger or bay leaves, but there's a smoky ingredient that works just as well.
While you could settle for a slightly more flavorful oil (like peanut or corn oil) for frying your chicken, you'll actually get tastier results by simply combining vegetable oil with bacon fat. To impart a smoky flavor to every bite of your chicken, reserve the pan drippings left over from frying bacon and measure out a 1/4 cup of it to mix into your frying oil.
Some fried chicken recipes call for lard instead of vegetable oil, but don’t assume lard and bacon fat are interchangeable, because while they’re both pork fat, bacon fat has a more pronounced flavor. You can use the grease leftover from any type of bacon, but if you want the smokiness to really shine through, look for kinds smoked with hickory or maple wood.