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The scientific way to cook the perfect chips

The Belgians claim to be past masters of pommes frites – or chips if that’s what you prefer to call them. And it’s true that pommes frites eaten in Belgium do seem to taste especially good. But maybe anyone can achieve the same results, especially if they’re armed with knowledge from the workshop "Fats and Oils", held in Hamburg in September by the German Society for Fat Science (DGF). During the workshop, scientists analysed and explained the complex processes that take place in deep fat frying.

What happens during deep fat frying?

Deep fat frying is a cooking process whereby foods that normally contain water are completely submerged in hot fat or oil at temperatures between 140 and 180 °C. Fats and oils have a high heat capacity, so that they can transfer heat to foodstuffs at temperatures well above the boiling point of water. Water in the outer layer of the food being cooked evaporates and water from inner layers is transferred gradually to the outer layers. When you’re deep frying chips, as long as water is escaping from the food the temperature in the evaporation zone will be between 100 and 103 °C. If the chips are precooked, in this first phase a thin crust will form here within just a few seconds. The structure of this crust has a decisive influence on how much fat is absorbed and how crisp the chips get during the rest of the deep frying process.

Tastier pommes frites

If the chips are precooked at a low temperature (about 140 °C) until they are pale yellow, then the crust will be absolutely optimal. After cooling slightly, the second stage of the cooking process can start. This time at around 175 °C. Only when no more water is carried from the inside of the chip to the outer layer does the temperature begin to rise – from the outside inwards – until it reaches over 100 °C. This is when the typical frying aroma begins to form and the chips develop that attractive golden colour and the typical appetising taste. They’re at their very best.

Source: Rüdiger Lobitz, www.aid.de