One of my favorite questions that I like to ask on my Fearless Eating Facebook page is, “What’s the one junk food you really miss?”
My answer is Lay’s potato chips.
God how I miss them.
When I was a teenager I could plow through a bag of Lay’s like the Tasmanian Devil. I just LOVED the thin-cut, crispy texture and of course, the divine saltiness.
And I’ll never forget when they came out with the sour cream and onion flavor somewhere in the 1980s. As far as I’m concerned, it was the Holy Grail of potato chip perfection.
Total marketing genius.
But then I learned about real food and real fats and now I don’t eat them anymore. Just look at the nutrition label and you’ll understand why.
Like most snack products, they’re cooked in genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils like corn, cottonseed, canola or soybean oils.
But the good news is that it’s pretty easy to make homemade potato chips and contrary to popular belief, you can actually make healthy versions of them by using good quality oils.
Homemade Potato Chips Key #1
So the first key to making homemade potato chips is using a good quality oil. Contrary to popular belief, you want to use saturated fats for cooking at high temperatures. The reason is that saturated fats hold their chemical structure at high heat. And that is very important if you care about your health!
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) such as the ones used in Lay’s and other conventional potato chip products are not stable at high heat. But the food industry loves them because they’re cheap. That’s why you’ll see them in 99% of snack products, including your local health food store. PUFAs oxidize easily at high heat which promotes the production of free radicals and thus inflammation in the body.
Coconut oil is a more convenient option as you can readily find good sources of coconut oil in stores.
Homemade Potato Chips Key #2
The second key is to cut the potatoes into thin, EVEN slices. Otherwise, some will cook faster than others and will have a tendency to either burn or absorb too much oil and be a bit soggy.
I’d highly recommend a good slicing tool like a kitchen mandoline for this. And don’t get some cheap, piece of crap at Walmart that will fall apart within a year. For a few bucks more you can get a more reliable, quality product. I use this Japanese-made mandoline which came highly recommended from a local chef:
I love the collection tray that neatly catches everything. It also comes with a few different blades for julienning vegetables.
Check out how uniformly and thinly it sliced the potatoes:
Homemade Potato Chips Key #3
And the last key is to make sure you soak the chips in water for at least a half hour and then dry them thoroughly. This remove excess starch and makes them turn nice and crispy.
2 pounds organic potatoes – Russet, Yukon Gold, red, purple, blue – whatever variety you want!
1/4 – 1/2 cup lard or coconut oil
Sea salt (my favorite brand of sea salt)
1. Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible with a mandoline. Confession: I took so many pics of the potato slices from so many angles that I just have to share one more.
OK, I feel better now.
Also, as you can see, I did not peel the potatoes. Peeled or unpeeled, it doesn’t matter either way.
2. Soak the potatoes in filtered water for at least a half hour or even overnight in the fridge.
3. Drain, rinse and dry very well on paper towels or kitchen towels.
4. Heat about a half-inch to an inch of coconut oil or lard in a heavy bottomed pot or skillet over medium-high heat. I use a pot to contain any oil splatters. Heat the oil to about 350 – 375. You can use a candy thermometer to be exact. I like this one because you can clip it right on the side of the pot.
But if you don’t have a thermometer it’s not a big deal. Heat the oil and then just put a small slice in and gauge how it sizzles. If it sizzles gently, that’s a good indication it’s the right temp. If it doesn’t sizzle, the oil is not hot enough. If the oil starts to smoke, then it’s not only too high, it’s also gone bad. You’ll need to start over. Oil should never smoke! So don’t turn the heat up too high to start.
5. Add slices in small batches, not more than a single layer to the oil and fry a few minutes until they start to brown.
I like a very lightly browned chip. Some like a more golden brown but I’ve found it’s really easy to overshoot a golden brown into a dark brown that tastes slightly burnt.
6. Remove chips from oil with tongs and let dry on brown paper bags, paper towels or on a rack in your oven with some foil or a cookie sheet set below to catch the oil drips.
7. Repeat with additional batches.
8. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Now I realize most people are not going to make a regular habit of making their own homemade potato chips (self included). While it’s fun to do on occasion, convenience usually wins out. I admit, there’s nothing quite like opening a bag and voila…it’s snack time.
In that case, here’s my new go-to store-bought potato chip:
I found Jose Andres Potato Chips in a local gourmet food store and all I can say is…
OH. MY. GOD!
Seriously, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I tried these for the first time.
They’re exactly like Lays – thin-cut, the perfect delicate crispiness and the perfect saltiness.
Except instead of genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils, they’re slow-cooked in extra virgin olive oil.
Now olive oil still isn’t perfect either. It’s a monounsaturated fat and though monos are relatively stable at high heat, they’re not as stable as saturated fats.
But as the expression goes, let’s not make perfect the enemy of the good.
When it comes to store-bought chips, this is about as good as it gets.
I’ve also had several people comment on my Facebook page about a company called Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips that uses coconut oil!
However, they’re not available in stores where I live so I haven’t tried them yet.
Finally, I’d love to hear from you.
Have you ever made homemade potato chips? If so, what did you do differently?
And please share if you’re aware of a good quality potato chip company that uses olive oil or coconut oil.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.