April 19, 2009
Get crisp chips
By Chris Tan
Q I have tried and failed to make potato chips. I used best quality Russet/Washington potatoes sliced 0.5cm thick, put them in ice-cold water as well as drained and dried each slice on kitchen towels with a newspaper underneath to absorb all the wetness. But when fried, most of them came out reddish or soft. Where did I go wrong?
A First, slice the potatoes no more than 2 to 3mm thick, using a mandoline for even results - uneven slices do not fry up well.
Second, choose mealy, fluffy-textured potatoes over waxy-textured ones. These have a medium-to-high starch content and make more crunchy, less oily chips. Commercial chipmakers usually use small, round white-skinned potato varieties. Also, sugar content - which increases during the cold seasons or if the potatoes are kept in cold storage - affects colour, as more sugar leads to darker chips.
Third, washing is important. Commercial chipperies often blanch their raw potato slices in hot water to leach out some sugars, resulting in a more uniform, paler colour. Companies that specialise in small-batch, thicker-cut, rustic chips more often skip the blanching or use a cold- water wash, yielding darker, crunchier chips.
Take a look at the chips pictured above. I sliced unskinned potatoes (white- and blue-fleshed varieties) 2mm thick, washed them well in ample water, drained them on paper towels for a few minutes, then deep-fried them over medium heat until visible and audible sizzling ceased - a sign that all their water had been cooked out and they were done. They were then drained again on paper towels.
The difference? The chips in the bottom half of the photo were washed in cold water, while those in the top half in boiling water. The cold-water potatoes curled up irregularly, browned unevenly and were quite dark by the time they reached doneness.
The boiling-water batch browned more evenly without over-darkening and curled only a little. Taste-wise, the cold-water chips had an earthier flavour, a heftier crunch and were faintly bitter from the darker caramelisation. The boiling-water chips tasted lighter and had a more glassy, delicate crunch but tasted less distinctively 'potato-y'.
Sprinkle on seasoning such as salt and pepper while the chips are still a little warm. But because of humidity, cool them quickly, near a fan if possible. As soon as they are cool, store them in air-tight bags, pressing out as much air as you can before sealing. You can slip in moisture-absorbing sachets (sold at $2 stores and food suppliers) to keep them crisp.