The L.A. chef—and mastermind behind fried chicken fave LudoBird—shows us how to make perfect fried chicken, every time.
"I became famous for my fried chicken," says Ludo Lefebvre. The chef, whose game-changing pop-up LudoBites helped contribute to a Los Angeles dining revolution, once famously wooed Jonathan Gold with a last-minute fried chicken preparation. Word caught on, and the reputation stuck: says Ludo, "I was a colonel—not KFC, but I was Ludo colonel." Here, he shares his secrets for a perfect chicken fry:
Dredge with corn starch—only corn starch.
Ludo eschews traditional coatings like buttermilk and flour, opting to pre-marinate his chicken and then roll it in corn starch. Press the corn starch into the meat to get a nice, thick layer—this will give the crispy coating a "nice, big flake."
When it comes to the frying fat, ditch those usual oils.
"We are not going to fry in regular oil," says Ludo, "like grapeseed oil or peanut oil." For decadent fried chicken, you have to kick it up a notch: "We're going to fry it in duck fat." It adds more flavor to the meat—and, if we're being real, it's pretty badass.
Make sure your oil is hot enough.
350F is the ideal frying temperature, says Ludo. If you don't have a cooking thermometer on hand, you can test the oil...with a potato. "Just take a little bit of potato and put it in the oil," he says—if "you can see the bubbles around the potato are not very aggressive," your duck fat is still not hot enough.
Cook your white and dark meat separately.
"White meat, dark meat—we're going to fry them separately," says Ludo—they don't take the same amount of time to cook. It will be easier to ensure you're meat is cooked through, moist enough but not overdone, if you give the dark meat a little more time.
Don't crowd the pot.
Ludo starts with four pieces. "You don't want to overload your pot with chicken," he says, for a couple different reasons. "First, you're going to drop the temperature of the fat" if you add too much—which could lead to an uneven, uncrispy fry—and "you want to leave good circulation all around the meat."
Test to be sure your chicken is cooked through.
Ludo shows us a neat trick to ensure your meat is cooked after frying. "I'll put a fork inside my meat," he says, "and leave it like ten seconds." If the tines are hot when you press them against your lips, the chicken is done—a cold fork means the meat should go back in the fryer.
Check out Ludo's fried chicken recipe here.