I stumbled on a picture of sweet potato chips last week and bingo – I became instantly obsessed by the thought of using the sweet potato sitting on my counter to make baked sweet potato chips. My intention was to look up a recipe, cut the potato, and voilà – craving satisfied. But it turned out that there are more ways to bake a sweet potato chip than I could have imagined.
Down the internet rabbit hole I went – cruising through instructions from Food & Wine, a paleo blogger, a blogging couple who are in love with each other and their food in equal measure (judging from their photos) and even one of Paula Deen’s sons. I did look at a few others, but decided after my eyes began to cross, that the three major variables were: 1) how to cut the potato; 2) baking temperature; and 3) methods to promote even cooking.
What began as a quick trick to satisfy my desire for a salty snack ended up as a cooking experiment almost worthy of America’s Test Kitchen or Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats. I say “almost” because I put this obsession aside after trying only two baking temperatures and two methods of baking the chips.
I’m certain to continue experimenting, but not until after Thanksgiving. For the rest of November, all thoughts of sweet potato have to be directed at side dishes or maybe a pie.
Back to the baked sweet potato chips –
- How to cut – I cut my chips with a knife, rather than a mandoline because I was too lazy to pull mine out and I figured that not everyone has that piece of kitchen equipment. The advantage to using a mandoline is that the slices will be even. With patience and care you can cut a large sweet potato into almost transparently thin slices, but some of the slices are bound to be uneven and you’ll probably get some scraps, as I did. I’ve seen suggestions that a food processor thin slicing blade will work, but I’m dubious.
- Temperature – Temperatures in the recipes I consulted varied from 200 degrees F to 450 degrees F. I tried baking chips at 300 and 375 degrees F. The batch at 375 degrees burned after baking for 20 minutes. The batches at 300 degrees did pretty well, cooked for between 40 and 58 minutes depending on whether they were flat on the baking sheet or on a rack. This result makes sense, but it’s the opposite of the temperatures that work best for baking and roasting sweet potatoes.
- Baking Tips – Most recipes call for placing the thin slices on parchment-lined cookie/baking sheets. But one recipe, the Food & Wine version, used a rack on a cookie sheet to help air circulate under the chips while they bake. I found that method superior to laying the slices directly on the parchment-lined cookie/baking sheet.
Verdict – It’s a lot of work for a small number of chips. (One 11-ounce potato requires 3 cookie/baking sheets to lay the slices in a single layer.) But making chips is a simple process once you get the hang of it, they do taste divine and a plate of homemade baked chips is pretty impressive looking.
Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Servings – 2 Cost $2
- 1 large sweet potato (mine was 11 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher or coarse sea salt (¾ – 1 teaspoon)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Fresh or dried herbs or spices (optional –e.g. rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper)
- Cutting board
- Medium-sized bowl
- Measuring spoon
- Cookie/baking sheets (Optional to line with parchment paper, which avoids getting any oily film on the pan.)
- Racks (type used for cooling cookies) that fit into the cookie/baking sheets
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Slice the potato as thinly as possible. Put the slices in the bowl and toss with half the salt, a bit of ground pepper and any optional herbs or spices. (It’s easier to make sure the oil gets well distributed if you use your hands.)
- Arrange the slices in a single layer on the racks that are set inside the pans. Sprinkle with remaining salt and a few more turns of the pepper mill.
- Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, turning the slices midway and rotating the pans, switching their places in the oven and to turn them around so the part facing the back of the oven moves to face the front. Watch carefully after 45 minutes and remove any small pieces that are beginning to darken beyond light brown. The chips will continue to crisp as they cool.
Eat soon after baking. They don’t improve with age and don’t last beyond a few hours, but that shouldn’t be a problem – they’re addictive.