Our story so far…
Goddamnit, why can’t I make potato chips? Potato chips are by a long stretch my favourite junk food, and they just so happen to be impossible to make with anything less than a medium sized factory. Oh, I’ve seen recipes. Recipes, recipes, recipes, all over the internet. “These are my favourite potato chips ever!” “My family eats them all in seconds whenever I make these!” “They’re light, crispy, tasty, and even good for you!”
Read a few of those recipes and you will notice no one ever claims “indistinguishable from the real thing.” No one ever managed to convince a small child that their home-cooked burger was in fact superior to McDonalds. And I suspect, behind all those laudatory comments, the kids were more happy not to be eating creamed spinach than overjoyed that mum or dad had whipped up another amazing batch of their super-special patented homemade potato chips.
I am genuinely curious as to why I can’t manage to make good chips. I have tried several techniques (oven baked, fried, grilled). I have experimented with the species and age of potato and the thickness of the slice. I have basted with oil, with butter, with nothing. I have seasoned before and I have seasoned after. The result, which is only sometimes better than creamed spinach, is always a sad disc, dotted with blackened charmarks in places, paper-thin and brittle in sections and disintegrating into a puddle of oil in others. Why can I not achieve the ephemeral lightness of a translucent, crispy, golden potato chip? It’s not fair. Homemade popcorn is just as good as store-bought. As Matt’s posts demonstrate, ice cream and chocolate treats orders of magnitude above store-bought in quality are perfectly feasible to the home aficionado. Why not potato chips?
After getting this far in the post I was writing, I realized I was taking this potato chip thing seriously. So I went out and bought a deep fryer.
My pain was that deep.
Damn Fine Homemade Potato Chips (Indistinguishable From the Real Thing)
Yukon Gold potatoes (probably only one… they go a long way)
The first trick is to slice the potatoes to the thickness of only four molecules. This is achieved with a mandoline. A mandoline is a musical instrument with strings so fine that if you strum it with a potato while playing a tune (I prefer Knocking on Heaven’s Door) you will end up with a perfect mound of potato slices. No, I’m kidding, a mandoline is a kitchen tool that converts whole vegetables into perfect, thickness-controlled slices (okay, it was a bad joke, but when else am I going to get to use it?). Make sure you use the safety guard on the mandoline, unless you want slightly shorter fingers. If you have superior knife skills you can try cutting your own potato chips. I don’t.
Place the potato slices in a bowl of ice water and let sit for 15 minutes.
The second trick is that you will have to fry your potato slices twice. Oh come on, you came this far, didn’t you? Stay with me.
Heat your nice new deep fryer to 300F. The best oil to use for this is peanut oil, which is kind of pricey, but you want amazing chips, don’t you? Drain and dry the potatoes very well. This is important, because if the slightest bit of water gets in the hot oil, your house will explode and you will spend the rest of your agonized life a disfigured wreck (hey, they’re worth the risk). Place some slices in a single layer in the basket, and give it the treatment.
Let it fry for about 3 minutes, then take out the slices, drain them on paper towels, and repeat with the next batch of slices until they’re all done.
Increase the fryer temperature to 375F. Refry all the fried slices for 3-4 minutes until they are golden and crispy and perfect. Drain them on paper towels and sprinkle with salt, or pepper, or whatever. One recipe I read suggested sprinkling them with unsweetened lime Kool-Aid for a salt-and-vinegar effect.
That is almost tempting.