Every one seems to have been converted to microwave or oven chips these days, but they just don’t taste like real “Chip Shop” chips, or even those made by your mum! Actually these modern alternatives are often surprisingly unhealthy, and often devoid of the vitamin C that the well made home made chip still contains.
In the old days (pre 1970, when the world was only in black and white!) the Brits preferred lard, specifically beef lard to cook chips in, and I have to admit that the chips were great but artery hardening in the extreme …. For traditionalists, I believe that Scotland can still provide the full ‘pre colour’ chip experience (They still deep fry Mars Bars and Pizza slices), and I am sure the chips are still made the old fashioned way!
Anyway, for those who would like to try the old fashioned method I have checked around and this appears to be the accepted procedure.
- Choose large and firm, white-skinned potatoes. If buying from a supermarket, make sure that the bag they come in says they are suitable for chipping.
- Wash the potatoes thoroughly and dry with a clean cloth or kitchen roll. Peel with a potato peeler in cold water - vitamin C dissolves in hot water, so the vitamin can leach away. Similarly, only peel as required - Don't leave the peeled potatoes standing in water for more than a few minutes.
- Heat a good quality, low-cholesterol, oil in a chip pan with a basket, at gas 180c or electricity mark 5. Don’t ever leave the pan unattended! In theory the oil should only be used a maximum of seven times but as long as its clear it’s OK.
- Vegetable lard doesn't taste as good as the old fashioned stuff, and it's less healthy, and does not drain away from the chip so use oils.
- As the oil heats, thoroughly dry the potatoes, and then cut the potatoes into chip shapes, about 1/2in by 4in, using a large, straight-edged chef's knife. Fat chips are good, as chips cut thinner will soak up more fat (Bad!).
- Soak potatoes in water for 10 minutes to remove excess starch. Thoroughly dry the cut chips using either a clean cloth or kitchen roll. Dried chips will stop the oil spitting.
- Test the oil is hot enough (about 180 degrees Celsius) by dropping a piece of potato into the pan. It should begin to cook straight away. If the oil isn't hot enough, the potato will sink to the bottom. If chips are cooked in oil which isn't hot enough, they will be very greasy.
- When the oil is at the correct temperature, lift the basket out of the chip pan, place the chips inside and lower into the oil. The volume of chips should be half that of the pan - otherwise the oil will cool and the chips will absorb too much fat.
- Blanching method (optional); the chips are fried at 170C for 4-6 minutes and lifted out just as they start to colour. The heat is then raised to 190C and the chips are plunged back into the oil for a further 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
- Cover the pan with a lid for the first eight minutes of cooking. During this time they will steam fry.
- For the last five minutes, remove the lid. This will allow water to escape from the oil, and the chips will crisp.
- Shake first then turn out onto a clean cloth or kitchen roll to remove excess oil.
- Serve immediately and allow each person to add their own salt and vinegar (I use a vinegar spray which puts a fine coat onto the chips!
Potatoes types?Selecting the right variety of potato is also crucial for creating the perfect chip, and the King Edward is king. Like the other favourite chipping varieties, including Maris Piper (the chip shops’ favourite), Cara, Wilja, Saxon, Maris Peer, Desiree, Sante, Pentland Dell, and Fianna, it is tasty, and neither too watery or too high in sugar, which respectively give it a crispy texture and a light golden colour.
Lard, Peanut Oil, Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil?
Lard is just a health “No No” these days, and many think it’s not as tasty, but I am not sure about that taste thing.
Vegetable Oil is cheaper than Olive oil.
Sunflower Oil is better than vegetable oil because it has a higher smoke point.Peanut Oil, well, this is more a US thing and therefore I can’t comment.
Virgin olive oil is expensive, and has a lower smoke point than vegetable oil. Why is that important?
Firstly; you will have to empty the pan and throw the oil away every few uses, so less expensive oils are less costly.
Secondly; every time you use the oil, you lower its smoke point - the point at which the molecules break down into a gunk called acreolein, and spread smelly smoke around your kitchen in the process.
Most common frying oils and vegetable shortenings start out with a smoke point in the 445F (229c) range with some lower (olive oil and lard @ 375F - 190c) and some higher (sunflower @ 510F - 265c), so after you've used it a few times the smoke point starts to drop near your frying temperature, usually around 365F - 185c, and smoke often begins to rise before you can even get the food in.
Obviously every usage builds up food particles and silt in the oil that can burn, turn black, and generally make everything taste bad like them. Careful filtration between uses can limit this quite a bit, but few people do it.
So if you want to re-use it's probably best to use a cheaper sunflower or vegetable oil, however taste makes a difference and I use olive oil.
- Fry with safflower (sunflower) oil. The high smoke point it starts with gives you more re-use before it degrades below your frying temperature.
- If something you're frying is throwing off a lot of itself into the oil, consider straining it through some cheesecloth between uses.
- Don't overload the pan and keep your frying temperature up. Many things fry just fine at around 365F (180c) , and people often fry lower than that unintentionally by overloading the pan on first load up.
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