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.
- 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!