Once baked then twice fried potato chips are crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – just like perfect chips should be.
I love potatoes, except chips
I do not often eat chips, the only method of preparing potatoes that I’m not terribly keen on. I love mashed, roasted and baked potatoes. I adore new spuds, and could eat potato salad every day. Dauphinoise, boulangère, rösti and hash browns are all my friends. But chips – not so much.
I am that person who goes for a salad with her moules, instead of frites. I trade the fries that come with my burger for extra coleslaw. And I order my fish and chips with no chips.
But in fact, precisely that makes me well placed to judge the quality of a chip. Since I only ever eat a few at a time and mostly nicked from other people’s plates, I can informedly tell when the chips merit another stealthy grab towards co-diners’ food.
What makes a good chip?
First of all, a good chip must have a good crunch.
There is a discourse related to chips that come with fish, about cooking in oil vs. beef drippings – a clear North-South divide exists in terms of which fat they use up there and down here.
But however you want to cook your fish (and I’ll leave that judgement to experts), chips should definitely be dunked in oil. They may well have nice flavour when fried in drippings, but they won’t get crunchy and crispy enough on the outside.
The other prerogative is the fluffy inside. That’s why we have embraced triple cooking so eagerly: boiling fluffs up the surface of the potato. Then they go for their first dip in oil which seals the outside and the second dip ensures that all those fluffy nooks and crannies on a potato chip get gloriously crisp and golden.
Science of fries
There is, I believe, the whole science to it. Which is the right potato variety? What should be the precise temperature of the oil or any other kind of fat? What’s the best possible timing of the first and second dunk?
One or more of those factors failing, the chips will go soggy when they stand around for a while.
Now for some it might not be off-putting: there is the weird desire in some regions to drown the crunch in gravy, curry sauce or melted cheese, not to mention vinegar.
I’m normally all for sauce or gravy floods on my plate but I take exception to chips: it’s like baking a super fluffy sponge and then sitting on it before you frost it.
What's special about these chips?
The recipe below is rather genius, if I say so myself. It’s fool proof; it’s standing-around proof and it might even be gravy proof. The chips remain crunchy for an amazingly long time and don’t move towards sogginess.
It was inspired by a restaurant meal in Tenby, Wales, in the fantastic Salt Cellar where I was served chips cooked like that. Correction: where I pinched a few off The Weather Man’s plate.
On enquiry it turned out they were triple cooked all right, but the first stage was baking them in the oven.
That means there is less hassle with pans, boiling and draining, and watching the potatoes don’t dissolve into soup while boiled, which happened to me once or twice.
The only chore is drying the cut chips that have been soaking in water before arranging them on a parchment-lined tray. To be honest, you might probably afford to skip the soaking.
How to cook perfect chips?
They should bake in a single layer on the tray, for just under half an hour or till barely coloured. They can travel from the oven straight into the chip pan or deep fryer, or hang around if they need to.
The first dip is at lower temperature for a longer time, to make sure they are thoroughly cooked inside but not coloured much.
The final dip, as ever – short and hot. And they emerge golden brown, with a super-crunch which keeps. I’ve served them once after a half an hour wait in the warm oven and they were still wonderful.
More potato recipes
Scoring hasselback potatoes so they look like little hedgehogs is not just an aesthetic trick: you can stuff lots of herbs and butter in those ridges.
Garlic and lemon new potatoes, poached in oil – a surprising cooking method which works surprisingly well.
For those who love roasties: have you tried roasted smashed potatoes?
More chips recipes
Triple cooked chips in a classic way, following the great Heston Blumenthal’s recipe.
And if you want a break from potatoes, here is the recipe for parsnip fries.
Vegan steak made of celeriac with chips made from sweet potatoes, roasted in the oven. It’s a lovely dish not only for vegans.