This hand cut potato chips recipe makes perfect crispy fries for your fish and chips or moules frites or whatever else you like to serve with fries. Our mouthwatering potato chips are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. There are a couple of ways to achieve this, but ultimately you need to fry the chips twice. Fortunately, our method doesn’t mean hours in the kitchen.
My hand cut potato chips recipe makes perfect crispy fries for your beer battered fish and chips, moules frites, roast chicken, or whatever you like to pair with your homemade potato fries. Just as the secret to my beer battered fish is twice-frying, the secret to these crunchy chips is twice-cooking. Don’t forget to make the best condiment to go with your chips, my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe.
I’ve been working on this hand cut potato chips recipe as I’ve been experimenting with the beer battered fish in recent months, as we can’t have fish and chips without the chips, can we? If you’re a lover of good and old-fashioned fish and chips done the right way, then you’re going to love this recipe for twice-cooked hand cut potato chips or potato fries.
Hand Cut Potato Chips Recipe for Crispy Fries for Your Fish and Chips
We’ve always loved fish and chips, especially hand cut potato chips. There was a time when Lara and I would go for Sunday drives during glorious Sydney summers along the northern beaches, stopping to check out the waves at my favourite surfing spots along the way. On the way home, tired and a tad sunburnt, we’d often grab some fish and chips for an easy dinner.
But I have to confess that I never really had a fondness for how the average fish and chip shop in Australia used to make their chips. The first sign of how greasy they were was the way they stained the white butcher’s paper they were wrapt in. (Lara reckons that was a good sign!) The battered and deep-fried fish – and sometimes shark; fillets of gummy shark called ‘flake’ – always fared better than the chips.
It really wasn’t until our first trip to Brussels, sitting at a lovely outdoor table at century-old Restaurant François, eating my first bowl of ‘Moules Marinières, Accompagnées De Frites‘ (steamed mussels served with potato fries) that I realised how amazing crispy potato chips could be. As we dug into our seemingly bottomless bowls of mussels to retrieve yet another tasty morsel, the potato chips – which were slightly thicker than McDonald’s string fries – stayed crispy, with a soft interior.
Years later, on another trip to Brussels, we rented an apartment one winter to write up a Lonely Planet travel guidebook to Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent. We took opportunities to take breaks from our laptops to sample the best frites stalls dotted around the Belgian capital, all in the name of research, of course, including the famous Maison Antoine friterie or chip shop, established in 1948.
They were all great, but there was one thing that intrigued me: the potato fries appeared to be already cooked when you placed your order. Rather than realising this was the clever way the Belgians did things, I thought at the time that they were cheating to keep the orders ticking over, like a bad steak restaurant where all the cuts of meat are pre-cooked to medium rare in the afternoon and finished to order.
As I would later discover, I was wrong. All the best Belgian chip shops twice-cooked their fries. I resigned myself to the realisation that only Belgium had great fries. The French fries we tasted were too thin and too salty, at least back then.
A few years ago, I saw a video of English chef Heston Blumenthal’s triple cooked chips and tried his recipe. It worked, but the potato fries required a lot of ‘babysitting’, having to place the chips under running water for five minutes, then watch the chips simmer in water for 20 minutes until they ‘just about’ fell apart.
The reason for that was to get rough edges on each chip that will later give a better crunch when fried, but there were nearly always casualties – fragile potential fries that broke up before hitting the freezer. This is because the chips always end up different sizes due to the irregularity of the potato shape.
After that step, and an hour in the freezer, they are fried twice, with – depending on which Blumenthal recipe you’re following – at least an hour between each fry, taking the total time to make these to around four hours. While you can put off the final fry by freezing the chips for another day, the whole process makes you want to buy those crinkle cut chips in the freezer at the supermarket. And, to be honest, as long as you have your heat really high, around 200-220°C, they turn out okay as a side for a burger or battered fish.
A few months ago, I spotted a fish and chips recipe by Australian chef Josh Niland, who has become world-famous for his fish butchery. Josh, coincidentally, did a stint at Heston Blumenthal’s research kitchen. Unsurprisingly, his potato chips recipe was similar to Heston’s, just simpler, with smaller chips, and he gives them an overnight bath in water.
This method doesn’t get rid of as much starch that Blumenthal’s method does, however, Niland’s method also involves leaving the skin on the potatoes, an idea that I like. But it does make a bowl of hand cut potato chips look like they’re unevenly cooked, in case that matters to the perfectionist in you.
So, by combining the two methods, I’ve saved you some time and still created a hand cut potato chips recipe that makes perfect crispy fries that you won’t buy in your average fish and chip shop.
Tips for making hand-cut crispy fries
The type of potato you use for our hand cut potato chips recipe is very important. Being in Cambodia, we don’t get much choice in potatoes unfortunately. We generally just have either waxy (best for salads) or starchy (prefect for mash or fries).
For this hand cut potato chips recipe you’re looking for a starchy potato. In the USA that would generally be a Russet Burbank or Idaho potato. In the UK, look for an Arran victory or Maris Piper. In Australia, there’s an enviable array of potato types, however Josh Niland recommends Sebago potatoes. I used to use Desiree for fries. Other countries will have similar types, such as Royal Blue, Pontiac, Coliban, Bintje, and King Edward, for starters.
Any type of vegetable oil will serve you well for this hand cut potato chips recipe. Niland recommends cottonseed oil, which has a smoke point of around 216°C, so if you’re following some recipes that go above 220°C you might set off a smoke alarm. Groundnut oil, which is essentially peanut oil, has a higher smoke point of around 232°C, making it good for just about any deep-frying recipe.
I don’t believe in the ‘drop a piece of bread and watch for bubbles’ method of checking oil temperature, because this does not help you keep watch of the temperature through the cooking process. To make this hand cut potato chips recipe accurately, you need what’s commonly known as a candy thermometer. This is a thermometer that attaches to the side of the pan and actually sits in the pan. Buy one that at least goes to 200°C. They usually have a ‘deep-frying’ indicator at around the 190°C mark.
Deep fryers are great as well and more convenient if you do a lot of deep frying. Just watch that the temperature does not drop too much once you’ve placed your chips in the basket. Note to not overcrowd the basket, making this worse. It’s actually better to set the deep-fryer to around 10˚C higher and reduce the heat as the chips start to cook. The more expensive professional deep fryers do not suffer from this problem like domestic models.
Also, I keep a separate jar of used oil for potato fries from the one that I use for battered fish. The oil from the battered fish will inevitably have little beads of batter in it and will go much darker than the ‘cleaner’ oil of the fries. My general rule is that the oil used for fries can last up to eight times, while oil for the battered fish or fried chicken only gets 3-4 uses before being recycled.
Hand Cut Potato Chips Recipe
- 1 kg potatoes peeled and cut into 1.5 cm thick chips
- 3 cups peanut oil or other vegetable oil with a high smoke point.
- 1 tbsp rock salt thickly ground
- Place the potato chips in a large bowl and wash with running water, swirling the chips around in the bowl. Drain and add to a large plastic container and fill with water. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Preheat a deep-fryer or large saucepan with the oil to 135°C. Drain and dry the chips on paper towels – this step is very important to stop moisture from the chips splattering oil.
- Prepare an oven tray with a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Deep fry the chips in manageable batches until they start to blister but don’t take on much colour, this should take 5-7 minutes.
- Drain and place on the paper towels until cool enough to handle. Transfer the chips to the cooling rack over the oven tray without the paper towels so that the chips can get full circulation. Leave in the freezer for 1 hour.
- Preheat the deep-fryer or large saucepan with the same oil to 180°C. Deep fry the chips in batches again until they are golden brown in colour. Drain on paper towels, transfer to a metal bowl and grind over salt, tossing the chips in the bowl to get an even coating of salt. Serve immediately, or transfer to a warm oven (around 120°C) while you deep-fry fish or finish making a burger.
Do let us know in the comments below if you make our hand cut potato chips recipe for crispy fries as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.