Sweet Potato Chips

May 18, 2012 in Categories: , , , , by

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I wanted to create a salty, crunchy snack for my husband and kids.  Sweet Potato Chips seemed like a reasonable goal.  However, as I began to experiment with versions of baked sweet potato chips, I quickly became discouraged.  I tried every combination of factors I could think of, different thickness of sweet potato slices, salting beforehand, different oven temperatures, baking on a wire rack, baking on crumpled tin foil.  Nothing worked to my satisfaction.  They all ended up with either burnt edges or soggy, chewy middles.  I knew there was only one viable solution, but I was intimidated.  I was going to have to get over my fear of deep frying at home.

It turns out that deep frying at home is pretty easy (those of you who are already comfortable deep frying at home can skip to the recipe).  It didn’t even make that big of a mess (my biggest fears were splattered oil all over my kitchen and lighting my kitchen on fire).  And while counter top deep fryers Deep Fryers would definitely make the job easier, you don’t need one (although if you thought you were going to be deep frying frequently, this might be a good investment).  Here’s what you do need: 

  • a large bottom, fairly deep pot.  I used my smaller stock pot. 
  • an Oil & Candy Thermometer that attaches to the side of the pot and gives you continuous oil temperature readings.  
  •  Some kind of Strainer, Wire Skimmer, large slotted spoon, or Deep Fry Basket to scoop stuff out of the oil (make sure whatever you use has no plastic bits).
  • A cookie sheet coated in several layers of paper towel to drain the chips.
  • Some good deep frying fat. 

Let’s talk more about what fat to use.  You want to choose a fat that is mostly saturated, with a smoking point above 425F.  Animal fats work very well, such as lard or tallow.  These will give a distinctive flavor to whatever you are deep frying, which might be great or not so great depending on your taste and what you are frying.  If you want to use coconut oil, you need to use refined coconut oil which has a higher smoking point than unrefined (450F versus 350F).  The best flavorless fat for deep frying is palm shortening, which is what I recommend for making these sweet potato chips.  I buy palm shortening from Tropical Traditions although Spectrum Organic also makes it.  I have been finding myself using palm shortening more and more as a butter substitute in baking as well, definitely a staple for the paleo baker.

Let’s briefly chat about deep frying methodology before I get to the recipe.  The idea is that you bring some oil up to somewhere between 320F and 400F, for most applications the ideal deep frying temperature is between 370-375F (much colder and your food absorbs oil and is greasy, much hotter and it may scorch).  You add a small amount of food to the oil, which floats on the top and bubbles away for as long as water content from whatever it is is mixing with the oil.  The oil temperature may drop when you add food to it, so you want to bring that temperature back up fairly quickly, without overshooting your mark (this is where countertop Deep Fryersare so handy).  When you drop stuff into the oil, get your hands fairly close before letting go gently into the oil.  If you drop it in from a few inches, oil will splash up and burn you.  Make sure you watch your oil temperature constantly.  Do not multitask while deep frying (unless you’re some kind of professional, in which case, I’m not sure why you are reading this).  Incidentally, if you oil does catch fire, do NOT pour water on it.  Either smother the flames with a box of baking soda (poured over the top, don’t just chuck the box at it) or put the lid on the pot and turn of the element (you could also use a kitchen-grade fire extinguisher).  But don’t worry: burning your house down while deep frying is highly unlikely.

I used long, skinny sweet potatoes that were on the small side. If you can’t find long skinny sweet potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise before slicing thin for chips.  These sweet potato chips stayed crunchy for 10 days in a sealed plastic container at room temperature.  It made quite alot, maybe about 10 cups of chips.  I fried them in small batches because it was easiest to control my oil temperature that way.  It took me about 45 minutes to fry them all.  You can very easily scale up or down depending on how much you want and how much time you want to commit.

Ingredients:

  • 6 long skinny sweet potatoes (mine were about 1½” thick at the most)
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 4-6 cups palm shortening (enough to have 1½”-2” of oil in your pot)

1.    Slice sweet potatoes as thinly as possible (I sliced mine 1/8” thick on my mandolin slicer and left the peel on.  You can peel them first if you prefer.)
2.    Generously sprinkle sweet potato slices with salt, place in a colander in your kitchen sink and let drain for 1-2 hours (or more). 
3.    Rinse excess salt off sweet potato slices and pat dry with clean tea towels or paper towel.  It’s really important that these slices are dry before they are put into the oil.  Any excess water on them will cause the oil to bubble aggressively.
4.    Meanwhile, heat palm shortening in a fairly deep, wide bottomed pot with an oil thermometer attached to the side.  Aim to get the oil to 375F (or slightly hotter since it will cool down when you add the sweet potato).  You need to try and figure out exactly what setting to have your element on to keep the oil at that temperature.  For my stove, it was a touch over the 8. 
5.    Add a generous handful of sweet potato slices to the oil by gently slipping then into the oil with your hand quite close to the surface.  Use your strainer or skimmer to push the slices apart.  Make sure the oil comes back to temperature quite quickly.  Watch them.  When they stop bubbling alot, start to curl slightly, and brown a bit, they are done.  It takes about 2 minutes if your oil comes back to temperature quickly.  It takes a bit longer if there is a lag time in getting your oil back up to 375F.
6.    Use your strainer or skimmer to scoop the sweet potato chips out of the oil and place on your prepared paper towels to cool.  I found that mine had enough residual salt that they didn’t need any more.  Taste yours and see if they are salty enough.  If not, sprinkle some salt over the top while they are still warm. 
7.    Repeat in batches, each time making sure you oil comes back up to 375F. Let the chips cool to room temperature and enjoy!

Comments

Hello, I have never really deep fat fried anything. I had a huge amount of fat phobia instilled in me many years ago and am recovering… been paleo about 3 weeks now. Wondering if I get a deep fat fryer, would it be ok to keep the palm shortening it in and reuse it several times before putting new shortening in it? I feel like this is a stupid question but I really don’t know if this is ok or not. I miss potato chips and would love so much for this to be a good alternative. My kids miss them too! Oh, and the husband. LOL! Thanks in advance… love your recipes!!!!

Paleo Mom you make it look so easy that I can’t wait to start again. It was hard to stay with it because of my family but now that I see what you are doing, I’m ready to stick to it! Plus, I feel it’s the best diet ever!!! This is how we were meant to eat and this is the way kids should be eating all the time. My children eat very well but with your changes we will all be at 100% all the time!!! Thank you, I will come back to your site again and again. Also,
I have a site as well, I would love to interview you for the site, the site is for mom’s.

Really? I’m in MA and can only get yams no sweet potatoes! I even tried ordering from various distributors, I’d love to know more.

Palm Oil? I have read that Palm is mostly GMO and with the large surge in popularity has also drastically affected the habitat of the Orangutans. I loved using Earth Balance Soy Free butter, which led me to learn all of this. What brand of Palm Oil do you use?

I was so sad. They came out great. Let them cool for 2 hours and in the morning all soft:( I had a feeling that might happen. Unless I use a dehydrator that tends to happen. Any thoughts?

It would be AWESOME if this recipe called for perhaps, coconut oil, or something more sustainable that Palm, given the fact that our palm oil use is not only destroying rain forests, but also killing orangutans and elephants in order to expand the ever-growing fields! http://ran.org/problem-palm-oil-factsheet

That’s fantastic! I’m super glad to hear it. So many people aren’t aware of the terrible tragedies suffered by the animals living in the regions where these fields are taking over. Thanks Christina for replying!

I don’t have access to palm shortening, I use duck lard. I would recommend it for everyone, it gives a great taste to the potatoes.
While I preheat the oven, I put a few pieces of lard into a pot. The lard starts to melt as I heat it up, I put a fork into it and apply it all over the bottom of the pot. Then I put in the potatoes and apply the spices.

please dont use palm oil, look up the devastation to the jungles and animal habitat. orangutans are literally being murdered. most people will not go through the trouble of sourcing.

I’m guessing the ones in the picture above are yams, not sweet potatoes, due to their color. In the U.S. yams are identifiable by their peachy/orange internal color whereas sweet potatoes are a pale yellow/white, like regular potatoes, on the inside. It is a common misconception that one is the other and vice-versa, but yams and sweet potatoes are not even in the same food family. Restaurants and food manufacturers perpetuate the confusion by using them interchangeably. Most grocery store carry both varieties and you can test the color to the name listed in the store by using your fingernail to make a small scratch in the skin.

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