Potato chips might be fast to devour but making them involves time and technique. We’ve come to inhale them almost absent-minded by the fistful, stopping only to take air or a bite from the burger they’re accompanying. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to try a really well-cooked, crisp and pillowy-centered chip, you’ll agree with us that these are stars worthy of individual attention.
Heston Blumenthal calls his potato chips his “proudest recipe”. His incarnation of the world’s most famous bistro side is triple cooked to tanned and crunchy perfection, while fellow Brit Jamie Oliver opts for the double-cook. But, let’s start at the beginning:
Do you go floury or is starchy best? The camps are divided. Both Jamie and Heston agree that Maris Piper potatoes are best for chips while Gourmet Farmer's Matthew Evans likes the starchy King Edward. Food’s maddest scientist favours the waxy variety as they tend to crisp up and bronze the best while their centre remains fluffy. Heston’s recipe calls for peeling the potatoes and cutting them into 2 cm x 2 cm x 6 cm chips but Jamie leaves the skin on for a more rustic “finger-sized” affair.
Crinkled or straight?
For Matthew Evans, hand-cut crinkled fries were a childhood staple. "I grew up with hand cut chips, and want my son to have the same thrill," he says. "We have a little hand crinkle cutter that we got from an op-shop that Hedley and I use to cut chips, before twice cooking them in beef fat." If you're keen for some retro-tastic crimping, use a crinkle cutter to cut your potatoes into batons, about 8 mm thick and as long as they are wide.
Get Matthew's crinkle cut chip recipe right here.
Not all fats are equal
Heston recommends groundnut oil for the fry-up "as it is very pure and odour-free", adding that "rendered beef … goose or duck fat would be delicious too". Australian/ New Zealand chef Sean Connolly (Sean’s Kitchen, The Morrison) also uses duck and poultry fat for his batch of fries and Evans likes to fry with beef fat. Meanwhile, the more health-conscious Jamie uses sunflower oil, but concedes that, if it’s flavour you’re after, “cooking chips in beef tallow (rendered beef fat you can get from your butcher) gives you better flavour and colour.”
Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty
If time isn’t on your side, Sean and Jamie both skip straight to the deep-fryer. Sean batters his chips in a mix of beer and plain flour for added crunch, then heats his duck fat up to around 130°C while Jamie heads up to 140°C. Both say a deep-fryer is best for temperature control, but Jamie also tips that you can recreate the industrial version at home with help from a large sturdy pan. No thermometer? No worries, says Jamie. “If you don’t have a thermometer, use a raw chip, and as it starts to float and fry the temperature should be about 140°C, which is perfect for blanching.”
Heston’s secret extra step
If it’s a pillowy soft centre you’re after (you know, that creamy don’t-need-teeth, fall-apart kind of tender ) then make like Heston and run your cut chips under water for five minutes to rid them of any excess starch. Then, add them to a pan with two litres of cold tap water and simmer them. “The first secret is cooking the chips until they are almost falling apart,” Heston says, tipping that this will take around 20-30 minutes. “The second secret is allowing the chips to steam dry and then sit in the freezer for an hour to get rid of as much moisture as possible.” You do this by carefully removing the chips from the pan (they’ll be super soft and crumbly by this stage) and onto a cooling rack, then into the freezer to completely dry out for at least one hour. Get Heston's triple-cooked chips recipe right here.
Sizzle and fry
At this stage, Jamie fills a deep-fryer or pan to 10cm with oil and brings this up to 130ºC (like Sean). If you’re following his tips then you’ve already blanched your potatoes in oil and removed them with a large sieve when they’re soft and coloured. Now it’s time to turn up the heat to around 180°C and cook the chips again in batches until they are perfectly golden, draining on a paper towel.
If you’re going the whole Heston hog, you’ll be up to removing the chips from the freezer for their first fry at 130ºC, submerging them in oil until a light crust forms (approx. five minutes) and draining. Then it’s back onto cooling racks and into the freezer for another hour. The good news is, at this point, Heston says the chips can be stored like this for three days before their final fry.
The triple whammy
It’s time to exalt your fries to saintly status. Reheat your oil, this time to 180ºC and fry the chips until golden (approximately 7 minutes), then drain them and serve immediately.
Salt, vinegar, aioli or tomato sauce – the rest is in your hands.
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These chips are one of my proudest legacies! You see them on menus up and down the country now but the original recipe came out of endless experimenting at home long before I even opened the Fat Duck. The first secret is cooking the chips until they are almost falling apart as the cracks are what makes them so crispy. The second secret is allowing the chips to steam dry then sit in the freezer for an hour to get rid of as much moisture as possible. The final secret is to cook the chips in very hot oil for a crispy, glass-like crust.