Knowing how to look after your potatoes will help you up your chip game
Potatoes, like fish and oil, are creeping up in price and while that shouldn’t be your main reason for keeping tabs on them, it’s certainly going to help your profit margins if you make sure every batch is as good as it can be.
Producing the best chips relies on several variables but always starts at the same point – ensuring you’ve got the best quality potatoes to begin with. How can you do this? Strike up a good relationship with your potato merchant.
David Mitchell of Mitchell Potatoes has been supplying the industry for over 60 years and understands only too well that every frier has a different view on what works for them and this depends on their processes and how they like to fry. His advice is to explain to your merchant what you do and don’t like in a potato so this gives a better understanding of which potato to send. And he warns not to simply go on price as this can sometimes mean getting a potato that will have defects. “There is a reason one potato is dearer than another, this is either peeling yield, fry colour or taste and texture,” he explains. “The most expensive potatoes generally have a good peeling yield, fry well, last in the chip box and both look and taste good.”
If you’re an operator who likes to opt for a fixed price contract this is particularly important, with David reminding you that you are locked in for twelve months and poor quality may have a negative impact on your business.
And finally, while you might be one of those operators obsessed with having the same bag for long periods, this is not always the best way forward. With farms getting bigger, it’s likely that you will not be on the same field for more than two to three weeks, even if the bag is the same.
On delivery to your shop, it’s a good idea to test a batch of potatoes for starch levels using testing strips like those available from Drywite. If the levels of starch are on the high side (0.25% is the maximum to produce good chips), this runs the risk of turning to sugar and caramelisation in the frying medium, turning chips dark, contaminating your oil and leading to issues with acrylamide.
Once inside, potatoes should be stored in a dry place and not too close to any excess water spray from the peeling and chipping process.
In the winter months, if you are storing bags in an outside shed or a very cold room, it’s important to keep the potatoes above 3°C. If they get too cold they will try and keep themselves warm by producing starch so, as a rule of thumb if the temperature is freezing outside you need to cover or heat your potato room. Likewise in summer, you may need to cool your storage area if temperatures rise.
David adds: “I’m yet to visit a fish and chip shop with central heating in the potato area so it is best to use some sort of insulation material to keep the heat in the potato. We would suggest old duvets or blankets. Potato quilts can be bought but are expensive, cumbersome and difficult to store when not in use for most of the year. Alternatively, you could put an electric heater in the room to keep the temperature up.”
If you are using a heater you should check your insurance policy covers you for this.
Once peeled and chipped, it’s vital to rinse chips in water several times to remove any excess starch that has been brought to the surface during this process. In winter, when it’s particularly cold, a good tip is to add some warm water to help draw out more of the starch.
At this point, some friers will add in an extra step and use a potato treatment. Not only does this help draw out any excess starch but it also means you can leave your chips out of water and they will stay fresh for several days without any discolouration. You’ll also benefit from a drier chip going into your pan, which will help prevent the breakdown of your frying medium – remember oil and water don’t mix – and produce a better chip as it will cook quicker and absorb less oil.
It’s a process Burton Road Chippy in Lincoln has been doing ever since owner Lesley Graves can remember, She comments: “In an ideal world, all potatoes would perform brilliantly throughout the season but that’s not how it works. Used correctly, Drywite gets the most from your yield of potatoes as you’re not left with chips going strange colours that can’t be used. At a time when prices are rocketing, we need to look after all our ingredients in the best way we can.”
Lesley does stress that using any potato treatment correctly is key, adding. “You have to make sure you’re using any treatment to the letter on the instructions. You can’t just fill up your barrel with water and pour it over the top, you have to mix it correctly and you shouldn’t leave it too long or for not enough. It’s like a science experiment, if you don’t stick to how it’s meant to be done it won’t work.”
Not all shops will choose to use a potato treatment, in which case the key is to chip and peel little and often, with Andrew Marriott, brand and marketing manager at Frymax, adding: “Don’t prepare large batches of potatoes and leave them in water because they could be absorbing water for a long time before frying. When you fry, it can take longer for the water to be removed, the oil will be colder and the chips will absorb more oil.”
If you choose not to treat your chips be careful not to leave them out of water for too long before frying. If starch levels are low, you may get 30 minutes before they begin to brown, but if high they could discolour much more quickly.
Your chips are now ready to fry. Should you have any treated chips left uncooked at the end of a shift these can be covered and stored in a cool dark place and used the next day. Even better, if you have room, transfer them to an airtight container or bag and refrigerate.
Drywite 01384 569556 www.drywite.co.uk
Mitchell Potatoes 01926 633323 www.mitchells-potatoes.co.uk
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