Baked vs. Fried: The Great Potato Chip Debate Comes Home

Ridged. Fried. Kettle cut. Baked. What seems like a simple, easy snack -- the classic potato chip -- is now found in supermarkets in a gazillion combinations of flavor, texture and cooking method.

While it'd be easy to grab a few bags and make the taste test comparison, Cooking Virgin went a step further by slicing a few Idaho spuds and putting her stove to the test in a potato chip mash-up.

Potato chips are relatively easy to make at home, provided you have a few simple tools -- and a foam fire extinguisher handy, just in case.

What You'll Need:
3 Idaho Potatoes
2 tsp butter
1 bottle canola oil
Salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Learn how to get baked and fried with minimal effort, after the jump.

The Virgin's DeStructions:

1.  First, scrub the outside of your potatoes and remove any eyes or black spots.

2.  Cut potatoes into thin slices using a mandolin (the chef's tool, not the stringed musical instrument) or very sharp chef's knife. According to the backseat fryer I had visiting, the slices should ideally be so paper-thin and translucent that you can see your hand through them. If you prefer your snack food a little thicker around the middle, or your knife skills are as pitiful as The Virgin's, thin enough to see some vague light through works just fine.

3. Rinse potato slices in a colander and dump into a large mixing bowl filled with cold water. Separate any sticky slices with your fingers and swish around in the bowl for one minute until water gets slightly cloudy.

4. Leave potatoes to soak for at least one hour to remove the starch. If you're hungry in the meantime, don't feel bad about cracking open a bag of Kettle Chips or Ruffles while you're waiting. You can always call it "research."

5. Drain potato slices on a towel until most of the moisture is gone. This is a key step for safety.

6. Pour the bottle of oil into a medium-sized metal stockpot and place over medium heat for about five minutes or until the oil begins to simmer. Wildly toss a couple of potato slices in and watch your friends run for cover as they anticipate second-degree burns. Feel the relief when you realize you drained the potatoes properly and will not need to call 9-1-1.

7. Put the fire extinguisher down until later.

8. Use tongs to place a thin layer of potato slices in the oil and cook over medium heat until edges are slightly brown and slices are crisp.

9. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove the potato slices and set them on paper towels to drain. Flavor with salt, pepper, garlic or other spices to taste.

For baked chips: Follow directions 1-5, while preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease each potato slice with butter and place on nonstick cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, until edges are crisp and brown. Note: If you over-grease the cookie sheet, your oven will set off your smoke alarm and cause everyone in your home to flee outside to avoid the greasy burned potato stench. Just sayin'.

The results: Making your own potato chips on the stove or in the oven is easier then expected -- and if you remember to do each step perfectly, you won't even need to disarm your home's safety features!

The pot-fried chips were crisp and thin, with the greasy coating and salty, starchy taste that the big-name brands have. The baked chips, on the other hand, burned far too easily and were left raw in the middle regardless of how high I turned the oven temperature up. I don't know how the genius originators of Baked! Lay's did it, but for the home cook, fried potato chips are far easier and tastier than their more healthful counterparts.

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