I’m sure none of us need Michael Ruhlman to tell us that fried food is the single greatest argument against the raw food movement and possibly one of our greatest accomplishments as a species (or at least one of the greatest accomplishments of state fairs throughout the country). If you’re the type of person who likes to know why, why, why do we love food that has been cooked in oil (and I’m not one of them personally but I’m trying to be educational here), Ruhlman has two answers: 1. when you deep-fry food it’s really only the outside that gets fried; the inside is steamed. And this is the best of both worlds: a crunchy outside and a moist, tender inside. Secondly, the density of the oil acts as a barrier to flavors trying to escape from foods, and this is why fried chicken tastes more “chickeny” than roast chicken.
Of course he’s not advocating that you deep fry, or even pan fry, every day. Airplane seats aren’t getting any bigger, after all. But when you do treat yourself there are really only a few things to keep in mind to fry properly. First, use a big pot and don’t over-fill it with oil. Ruhlman and I both use a 7-quart dutch oven and he says don’t fill more than 1/3 full to accommodate the bubbling that happens when you add the food. Second, have a good thermometer so you can bring your oil to the right temperature. To that I would add: know your stove. Oil that’s too hot will result in burnt exteriors with raw interiors. Too cool and the food will sit too long in the oil and absorb way too much of it. So know how hot your burners run and adjust accordingly.
Potato chips are easy and might be the perfect food to perfect your frying skills. Potatoes are cheap and once you get going slicing them it goes very quickly. You can make batches and batches of them until you get a feel for frying. To slice them thinly and uniformly you will either need a mandoline, a food processor with a slicing disc, or some seriously mad knife skillz. (I’d go with one of the first two because I really hate slicing potatoes. They’re slippery and cling stubbornly to your knife and you will lose at least part of a finger.) Bring your oil to 350-degrees and deal the potato slices like cards into it (don’t over crowd). Stir frequently to prevent them from sticking to each other and watch closely because they cook fast. Remove, drain, and sprinkle with salt.
Awesome Potato Chips are on page 305 of Ruhlman’s Twenty and on his site right here.