Lockdown lunches: how to make perfect chips
French fries or British fat-cut chips? In the latest in our home-cooking series, the FT's Daniel Garrahan is feeling nostalgic about childhood trips to the chippy so food writer Tim Hayward shows him his favourite way to fry and serve the humble potato - a chip shop-style chip butty
Filmed by Lauren Juliff and Liberty Wright. Produced by Daniel Garrahan and Tim Hayward. Edited by Daniel Garrahan
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There's steam coming off it. Chips. I get very, very nostalgic about proper British chips. I mean, I love French fries with all my heart, dipped in mayonnaise, plenty of salt, but there's just something really nostalgic about fat British-styled chips, don't you think?
My great-grandparents ran a chippy. So I've got chip fat in my blood, and my Nan made the best chips in the world, which was good because my mum was of the generation that totally thought chips were poison to children. And my dad, bless his heart, was an insurance investigator, and he used to come home every day having seen another chip-pan fire.
So I'd sneak round to Nan's for chips. Chips are so emotional for me. You got your gear ready?
Yeah, sunflower oil, which was not easy to find.
Any neutral vegetable oil will work, two, three inches of that. We're going to aim to get this off to 165 degrees centigrade. Best potato, if you can get it, is Maris Piper.
I want chip shop chips. Chips are going to be fat, right? It's important that they're uniform though because you don't want them kind of cooking at different...
That's exactly right, yeah. The original way to do it was just to chuck the chips in the fat, and the outside fries and the inside steams, but it doesn't really work that brilliantly. The second way was to double cook, which is what we're going to do here. It was low temperature, first of all, which steams the inside, then you heat the oil back up, you put them back in again, and that crisps the exterior.
The really clever way that a lot of chefs are doing it now is called triple cooking. You steam the potatoes first, or boil them, then you dry them, then you do the double cook process. They'll never admit this when they tell you about how they're cooking it, but you probably lose about a third of your chips because they come out of the steamer and some of them just fall apart.
You have kindly provided me with this cooking thermometer.
So this is how we're going to test the temperature of the oil. What about if you don't have one of these things?
If you don't have a thermometer or you don't have a deep fat fryer where you can set the temperature, then I would suggest you cut the chips quite thin, put them in, let them go until they look good on the outside, then pull one out and try it. And that's all you can really do without a thermometer.
Honestly, you've got to get these things in every home kitchen in the country. It makes everything so much simpler. The dinner ladies at your kid's school use this by law. The kid in a paper hat in Terminal Acme at McDonald's uses one of these by law. You can get one online for 12 quid.
There is no logical reason why every kitchen does not got one. What's your temperature now? Don't touch the bottom of the pan with it.
OK. I did just do that.
It's OK. So I've just cut up one potato to chips about that size. Lay them out on a tray on a piece of kitchen roll. Mate, you are making pretty heavy weather of cooking some chips.
You've all but got your tongue sticking out the corner of your mouth.
Well, is what you were saying about making them uniform. I'm possibly overthinking this.
Well, that's what I mean. After the bread shift I was quite prepared to give you a job. I'm looking at it now and thinking, you really better stick to the day job of making videos. Even on minimum wage, you can't cut chips fast enough.
Sure. I just snorted.
Do them in two batches. Lower them into the fat. Never overfill the pan because that's how you start a chip-pan fire. You just stop them before they go brown really. You're keeping them vaillant blonde.
We're essentially kind of hard boiling them, except in fat.
Yes. It's precisely that process. And do this first stage, which is called blanching, and you just lay them out on trays, with paper underneath them to catch the grease. You have the chip pan going at the second temperature, which is 185.
And how long does the frying it at 185 take?
About three minutes. In they go.
So Tim, if he had to choose, French fries or fat British chips?
No question. Fat English chips.
Fat English chips every time. I mean, I think they both have their place.
For me, it's about it tasting like potatoes. So the inside of a good chip should taste like the inside of a proper baked potato. You can get all kinds of horrible, cheap, commodity chipping chips, and with those, yeah, you want to do them how they would do it in a McDonald's. You plunge them in the fat. It's all about the fat crisp outer coat, and nobody really cares about the inside. That's fine. You could do cotton wool balls the same way if you want to.
For those kind of fries, those American style fries, or continental European style fries, with a cold beer, and a pot of mayonnaise, and lashings of salt. I mean, that is a... that's a beautiful thing.
Don't knock it.
My bread is buttered, and this is very, very important. The main condiment you're thinking about here, the thing that's going to really going to season your chips beautifully, is going to be the amount of melted butter that runs down your chin.
I don't think it needs anything else, frankly, a chip butty, does it? It doesn't need any sauce? My camera operator says that I used too much butter on my bread and too much salt on my chips, but I think something like a chip butty deserves too much of both of those things.
OK, here we go. The steam coming off it.
That's good. Mmm. Just check camera two. Good? Camera two is really happy. I'm really happy. Are you happy?
I'm happy. I didn't put any vinegar on. I think that fat chips like this demand it.
Not on the butty, not necessarily. I think when you have chips in newspaper, which you should, by the way, even though it's not legal anymore, chips on the newspaper taste different. I think they really need vinegar with them and lots of salt. But I think in a chip butty, you don't need the vinegar as much because it's about the butter.
It's funny talking about the newspaper because if you're of a certain age, that's another thing that just evokes memories of childhood. For me, it was a bag of chips wrapped in the newspaper. Not open, wrapped, so you could then unwrap it at home, and eat it.
The vinegar would have kind of evaporated at this point. I used to ask for extra batter bits on top. Do you ever do that, scraps?
Oh, yes. Yeah, you're starting to think like a scientific chef. You imagine how you encapsulate those things and you set them, and then you carry them home, and that's a 10-minute process of steaming and settling, of flavours getting to know each other. And that's got to make it a different product then the one that came out of the pan and was eaten at the shop.
Those things are so emotional for us. They're so coded into our brains emotionally, I think culturally, but I love it. I just I can'... I can talk about chips forever.