There’s one thing you should never make at home. Something so simple, so nearly perfect when made en masse, that it’s impossible to successfully recreate in your own kitchen. It's potato chips.
We know you have a lot on your plates, so we’re cautious about asking you to make something yourself, especially when there are so many great convenience products on the market. If we do recommend you make something at home, the end result should be worth your time, effort, and money. But it should also be more delicious and/or healthier than the store-bought version of itself. Salad dressing, birthday cake, and whipped cream come to mind.
We make certain items at home so we can control what goes into our food—to avoid the preservatives, stabilizers, and artificial colors that often end up in packaged goods. But let’s be honest. Potato chips a) aren’t health food and b) are usually made with just 3 ingredients—potatoes, oil for frying, and salt. There’s no need to streamline the already short ingredient list of a classic salted chip, and the process is so lengthy and specific that even if you did try to replicate it at home, you’d never get a chip as thin or crispy as the pros.
When I was in second grade, we took a field trip to the Utz factory in Hanover, Pennsylvania. That conveyor belt full of jumping, freshly-fried chips is still burned into my brain. If you ever have the opportunity to tour a chip facility, I strongly encourage you to take it. I’m not saying that trip changed the trajectory of my life, but here I am, getting paid to write about potato chips. Take from that what you will.
The industrial chip-making process starts with peeling. High-speed machines can peel up to 12,000 pounds of potatoes in just one hour—faster, I'm assuming, than your willing kitchen assistant. The potatoes are then washed and sliced to a 0.06-inch thickness, creating roughly 36 slices from your average Idaho. At home, that would require some fancy knife work and buckets of patience that most home cooks (and this professional one) don’t possess.
Then comes a second rinse in fresh water to remove excess starch so the potatoes don’t stick together in the fryer (spoiler alert: yours will), and air-drying to ensure the potatoes are free from any moisture before they hit the hot oil. Maybe you could use a hair dryer?
Then comes the fat. Sure, you could use a home fryer and fancy oil like avocado or olive to fry in, but why? Chip manufacturers use huge fryers that give the sliced taters plenty of room to swim around, so they fry to an irresistible crisp in just a few minutes. Frying also requires consistent temperature. Even if you have a deep-fry thermometer, it’s difficult to keep the hot oil at a chip-friendly 375°F batch after batch. It requires constant attention and tinkering based on the amount of potatoes you add to the oil and the strength of your stove. Not interested.
And, when you’re finished, instead of cracking open a bag of crispy satisfaction, you’ll have to dispose of the oil. Unless you’ve got a biodiesel-equipped Magic Bus in the driveway, I’d recommend saving that fat for fried chicken, which you can and should make at home.
RELATED: How to Make Fried Chicken
Have we convinced you to buy your chips yet? If so, check out our favorite store-bought bags.