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Corned Beef Hash Recipe

Corned beef, potatoes, onions, and peppers, done well.

Plated Corned Beef Hash with chimicurri
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

I love corned beef hash. Specifically, I love Libby's corned beef hash, the melange of pink mush and unnaturally sturdy cubes of potatoes that you can buy in a can at most grocery stores and highway rest stops. As a kid growing up in India, there were few things that evoked the distant wonders of "American life" as magnificently as the cans of Libby's my father would smuggle into the country from his trips abroad. Coca-Cola, sugary cereal, a Twix—all spoke to me of the United States in the soft tones you use with invalids and children, but a can of Libby's seemed to yell, "This! This is what you're missing!"

And what was it, after all? It was beef, for one thing, which we could not buy and consequently did not eat very often. But it was also those odd cubes of potatoes, along with a range of spices and seasonings that translated in the mouth to "a heck of a lot of salt." With a little good cooking technique, the beef and potatoes and salt could be transformed from pink mush to a dun textured mush. The most widely used technique, in homes and respectable diners alike, was and is to spread the mush out in a hot pan (doesn't even need to be greased; the mush takes care of that) and let it sit until the pink goes brown in spots and the mush gets a little crispy. However, my father used a bit of canned food cooking wizardry and would inch the mush out of the can, slice it into hockey pucks, and then brown the flat sides of each puck as if he were some proto-Grant Achatz. Regardless of whether it was a pool of textured mush or pucks of textured mush, topped with an egg of any kind with a runny yolk, the stuff tasted like heaven, or at least it seemed to me to be the meaning made pink mush of the American expression, "This tastes like heaven!"

Of course, corned beef hash in a can is not the only form of corned beef hash, even if it is its apotheosis. Corned beef hash is just one entry in the long list of dishes that fall under the umbrella of "hash," which includes just about every preparation consisting of potatoes, onions, and some kind of meat tossed together in a hot frying pan. When I was a child, I did not know this, and my first introduction to a non-canned hash was a corned beef hash I ordered for breakfast at. a Howard Johnson's somewhere in Massachusetts, when I and my father were touring colleges along the East Coast. "You're not going to like that," my father warned, and he was, of course, correct, since he had brainwashed me into liking—no, loving...ecstatically—Libby's weird and mushy facsimile. What I received was, in retrospect, a fine corned beef hash, made with beef that had been proudly cured in-house, but I couldn't get past the spicing of the meat, which was heavy on what I now know were juniper berries, or its shredded, rather than mushy, texture.

The recipe below is for that kind of hash, a hash you make with leftover corned beef. I say leftover corned beef because unless you're working in a Howard Johnson's in Massachusetts at the dawn of the millennium, it isn't likely that you'd make corned beef specifically for this dish. If you read that and are shaking your head, well, good for you! But for most people, corned beef hash is either a can of Libby's or what you eat for three to four days after St. Patrick's Day.

The Best Kind of Corned Beef Is Best for Corned Beef Hash

But what if you wanted non-Libby's corned beef hash in April, or in May, or, as it happens, right now, in the middle of July? What if you want a corned beef hash that isn't a delicious pink and brown mush, and you don't want to go through the bother of curing a piece of brisket for 10 days and subsequently cooking it for three hours? To answer those questions, I tested this recipe using several types of corned beef from the grocery store: the vac-sealed packs of raw corned beef (which I then cooked myself); sliced corned beef from a deli counter; and the hot corned beef you can buy at the hot food station at a couple different grocery stores.

Needless to say, brisket you've corned and cooked yourself is the best corned beef to use in this recipe. But if you are compelled to use store-bought corned beef, it's best to buy the cured but raw corned beef in vac-sealed bags and boil it yourself. The next best option is to use the hot corned beef from the hot food station. The sliced stuff from the deli counter? Just use that for sandwiches.

Hands ripping corned beef into piles on a cutting board
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In terms of the form of the cooked corned beef, I found that my preference was for large, 1-inch shreds of meat, which were more interesting texturally than cubes of meat, no matter how large or small. So I shred the meat using my fingers, tearing off any large gobs of fat off the top and setting them aside. Once all the meat's shredded, I dice up the gobs of fat and cook them before adding in the potatoes to the pan, so all that beef fat renders out and can help crisp up the potatoes.

Choosing and Cooking Potatoes for Corned Beef Hash

While cubes of meat may not be texturally interesting, cubes of potato were a requirement, if only as a nod to the ne plus ultra corned beef hash Libby's produces. We've done a fair amount of spud science around these parts, so producing cubes of potato that retain their shape even after being cooked thoroughly and tossed around in a pan was simple enough: Par-cooking them in acidulated water helps firm up the pectin in the cell walls, which means they remain firm even when tender. The choice of potato ended up simply being one that came down to preference: You can produce those hardy cubes using russets or Yukon Golds, although russets need to par-cook a little longer, about a couple minutes. I chose Yukon Golds for this recipe, as they're creamier and sweeter, and sweetness seemed like a good quality to throw into a mix that contains bunch of shredded salted meat.

Potatoes frying in a cast iron skillet
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

After they're par-cooked, I fry the cubed potatoes in rendered corned beef fat, patting them into a single layer so there's full contact with one side of each cube with the bottom of the pan, and let them sit, untouched, for a couple minutes. I then toss them around, flatten them down again, and repeat the process a couple times to try to get more than half of each cube's flat sides browned and crisp.

Vegetables? In Corned Beef Hash?

A good hash has vegetables...they're part of the hash! Libby's? It does not. There aren't even any dehydrated vegetables nodded to in the ingredient list. But a good hash has to have some vegetables, and onion and green bell pepper seemed like good choices to me, just to give it some flavor, but also some more sweetness.

One of the most appealing parts of a hash made at a diner is the little burnt bits of onion and peppers, the product of spreading the huge pile of hash out on a flattop and letting it cook. Some parts get burnt, while others are a little undercooked, with every stage of doneness in between, and this creates a kind of full spectrum of cooked onion flavor, from bitter and caramel-like to softly sweet. Recreating that in a cast iron pan was simple enough—just let some of it burn—but to do so in a way that was controlled and yielded a relatively consistent ratio of burnt bits to nicely cooked to undercooked bits was a little trickier.

I settled on some unconventional onion slicing as a solution. Instead of producing a fine dice or a large dice, I cut through a halved onion at an angle on either side, separating it into thirds. Then I slice it crosswise to yield a jumble of different sized onion cuts. Cooked in an ample quantity of butter, by the time the little bits get very brown and almost burnt, the larger bits will be a little undercooked. I remove the onions from the pan, fry the corned beef fat and the potatoes, then add the onions back to the pan along with the corned beef to cook further.

Half an onion cut in thirds being sliced.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

While I was committed to adding peppers, I didn't want lengths of slimy peppers in the mix; a nice dice of peppers seemed a better option. Once they're that small, though, they take only a couple of minutes to cook, and a minute more to char a bit, so I just throw them in after the potatoes are browned, but before the rest of the ingredients, and they steam and char a bit quite nicely.

Some Crispy Eggs and Some Zippy Condiment, To Serve

While I like to eat Libby's corned beef hash with poached eggs, the better to create an almost completely homogenous mixture of mush, I like eating this hash with crispy fried eggs. There's still a nice and gooey yolk to mix into the potatoes and meat, and the crispy whites play nicely with the crispy bits of potatoes, onions, and corned beef. While hot sauce is a perfectly acceptable condiment to pass alongside, I also like eating it with a basic chimichurri, which gives you the acidity of a hot sauce, and some heat (I like to spike mine with a few sliced hot green chiles), along with the uplifting notes of fresh herbs.

Combine potatoes, water, 1 tablespoon (9g) salt, and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 4 minutes; potatoes will still be quite firm. Drain potatoes and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Four image collage. Top left: a pot with water on the stove . Top Right: potatoes added to pot with water. Bottom left: Vinegar being added to pot of potatoes. Bottom right: salt being added to pot
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once butter stops foaming, add onions along with 1/4 teaspoon (1g) of salt and stir to thoroughly coat onions in fat. Cook, stirring frequently, until larger pieces of onion soft and translucent and smallest pieces of onion are browning and threatening to char, about 4 minutes. Using tongs or slotted spoon, transfer onions to small bowl, leaving as much butter as possible in the pan.

Four Image Collage. Top Left: Butter melting in a cast iron skillet. Top Right: Onions being added to cast iron skillet. Bottom left: Onions browning in cast iron skillet. Bottom right: onions in a metal bowl
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Add diced corned beef fat to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until it renders all of its liquid fat and bits and pieces are very crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Using tongs or slotted spoon, transfer crispy bits to bowl with onions, leaving as much fat as possible in the pan.

Corned beef fat crisped in cast iron skillet
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Add the now-cool potatoes to the pan and, using a wooden spoon, pack the cubes down into a single layer. Cook without stirring for 3-4 minutes. Toss potatoes, using wooden spoon to assist you, then pack them down again and cook, without stirring , 2-3 minutes. Toss potatoes again, pack down again, and cook, without stirring, 2-3 minutes. The potatoes should be relatively evenly browned and crisp.

Four Image Collage. Top Left: Cooked Potatoes being added to cast iron skillet. Top Right: Potatoes cooking in cast iron skillet. Bottom Left: flipping potatoes like you'd flip a pancake. Bottom Right: Browned potatoes in cast iron skillet.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Add diced green bell pepper to pan, toss with potatoes to distribute. Using the wooden spoon, pack mixture down in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until some pepper pieces begin to char, 2 minutes.

Peppers added to potatoes in skillet.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Add cooked onions, corned beef fat, and shredded corned beef, and toss to combine. Using wooden spoon, pack mixture down into the pan, being careful not to break up potatoes. Cook, without stirring, until shreds of parts of mixture in contact with the bottom of the pan become crisp and slightly charred, 2 minutes. Toss mixture before serving to distribute crispy bits more seamlessly into the mix. Serve immediately with crispy fried eggs and chimicchuri on the side.

Four Image Collage. Top Left: Close up of cooked onions added to a pan. Top Right: Corned beef added to potatoes. Bottom Left: Corned Beef cooking down in cast iron skillet. Bottom Right: Plated corned beef hash with a fried egg and chimichurri
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

10-inch cast iron pan, 3-quart saucier, wooden spoon, tongs

Notes

You can use a russet potato, if you like, cut into the same dice. Adjust the parcooking time for the potatoes in Step 1 to 6 minutes.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Surprisingly enough, corned beef hash keeps quite well in the refrigerator, and cold corned beef hash is delicious when eaten straight out of a tupperware while standing in front of your refrigerator. In a sealed container, corned beef hash will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.

The (Garlic) Pasta

A pantry pasta recipe with seven ingredients that takes just 20 minutes to cook.

Overhead view of a plate of garlic pasta with grated cheese and lime wedges alongside
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

This is a very simple pasta recipe. It's made with a literal handful of ingredients, comes together in about the time it takes to bring a pot of water to boil and boil pasta in it, and it requires a bare minimum of knife work, all of which can be done with a paring knife.

Call it a pantry pasta.

Of course, as we've been taking great pains to emphasize in recent years, not everyone's pantry is the same. A cook who makes a lot of Korean and Japanese food will probably have a very different roster of pantry staples than one who makes a bunch of Italian or Thai food. However, given the popularity of pasta, and the ubiquity of real Parmigiano-Reggiano in American grocery stores, I think most readers of this site are likely to have the ingredients called for in this recipe on hand; if not, they can very easily buy them. 

All you need is spaghetti, a head of garlic, some (good) extra-virgin olive oil, salt, a smidge of honey, a small amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a lime (a lemon is [Ina Garten voice] fine).

Overhead view of pasta, grated cheese, cut lime, garlic cloves, and honey on a cutting board
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

Before we go further, I want to note, too, that this isn't some traditional Italian pasta recipe. I did not spend a semester abroad in Florence, living with a charming Italian family with a charming Italian foster mother; I was not inducted into a small circle of Sicilian secrecy when some nonna whispered in my ear the magic song for making pasta. This recipe is the product of two years and change working from home and making lunch for me and my wife every day. Some days it was leftovers, others it was a fuller, better meal, like a bowl of ramen, and on still others it was something I made with whatever we had on hand, which almost always included garlic, olive oil, parm, and pasta. And while this may initially seem to be simply a variation on aglio e olio—it is, after all, a garlic and olive oil pasta—it isn't. Nevertheless, I welcome the fury of the Italians mad online.

The idea for this pasta started with a relatively empty pantry, but it was also inspired by the little garlic nubbins in this recipe for beef donburi. My reasoning was simple: garlic nubbins are delicious; garlic and pasta is delicious, so why not combine them? The idea became even more attractive to me when I realized that you could make golden nuggets of garlic with a meltingly soft consistency by tossing them in oil and cooking them quite gently for about the same amount of time it takes for you to bring a pot of water to boil, add pasta, and cook the pasta to al dente.

Whole or almost whole garlic cloves slowly cooking in oil in a pan
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

The only possible issue I could see was that this idea ran the risk of being unutterably bland. Yes, golden garlic nubs are delicious, but they're exceptionally delicious in that beef rice bowl because they are accompanied by seared ribeye, its delicious fat, and a savory sauce of sake, mirin, and soy sauce (and butter), and lots of beautiful white rice, the best starch. My pasta idea had none of those delicious things in it.

And yet, it's still quite good, solely because of the little bit of Italian pasta alchemy known as mantecatura; basically, it's good because you can infuse a whole lot of garlic flavor into some extra-virgin olive oil, and then disperse that oil evenly and easily through water, with the help of some of the starch released by the pasta as it cooks and some vigorous tossing and stirring, creating an emulsion. That emulsion gets a little assistance from melted Parmigiano right at the end; it becomes creamy and salty and a little tangy, and it clings to each strand of spaghetti quite persistently, without being heavy or cloying. A little honey offsets the savoriness of the preparation, and a little lime juice brightens it up a bit. Twirl it on a plate, grab the garlic nubbins and lay them on top, as you would a few pieces of crisped guanciale or pancetta on some other, superior pasta, and then top the mound off with a little more grated cheese.

It can be a little tricky to get a proper emulsion if you use too small a pan or try to load up a nicely sized—perfect, some might say—pan with more pasta than it can handle. As a result, I tested and developed this recipe using a half pound of pasta at a time, which, if you use that perfect pasta pan, gives you a lot of room to maneuver and flip and toss and stir the spaghetti strands. It can be doubled easily, but tossing the pasta and getting the sauce right will be a little more physically taxing; just toss and stir vigorously and it should come together, although it may take a little bit more time.

Is it better than the understated perfection that is aglio e olio? No. Is it sufficiently different from aglio e olio that you could eat aglio e olio today and eat this pantry pasta tomorrow and not feel like you're eating the same thing? Yes. When you're stuck making yourself lunch every day, that's all you really need, although it helps that it's also pretty tasty.

Fill a 3-quart saucier with 3 quarts cold water, add salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

3-quart saucier filled with wate
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

While the water heats, combine olive oil and garlic cloves in a pasta pan or wok and place over low heat. Cook, stirring ocasionally, until garlic takes on a light golden color and cloves become meltingly soft, about 15 minutes.

Whole or near-whole garlic cloves slowly cooking in olive oil in a pan
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

Add spaghetti to now-boiling water and cook until just al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes less than package instructions.

Spaghetti being dropped into boiling water
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

While pasta cooks, when garlic just starts to take on golden coloring, add honey to pan and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic cloves just start to lightly brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.

honey being added to garlic in oil
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

Add cooked pasta to pan with garlic sauce. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until sauce becomes creamy and emulsified, about 2-3 minutes. If the pan looks like it is becoming oily and the pasta is starting to fry at any time, add pasta water from the pasta pot a 1/4 cup at a time and cook, tossing and stirring the pasta consantly, until sauce becomes emulsified.

Pasta water being added to pasta and garlic in pan
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

Turn off heat and add grated cheese. Toss and stir pasta until cheese melts seamlessly into the sauce. Add lime juice and toss to distribute. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately with halved limes and more grated cheese alongside.

Cheese being added to pasta pan
Amanda Suarez / Serious Eats

Special Equipment

3-quart saucier, perfect pasta pot or wok, box grater.

Make-Ahead and Storage

This dish is best served immediately.

Starch Madness 2022

Sixty-four spud-tastic potato dishes. There can be only one!

Starch Madness 2022
Serious Eats

Friends, Idahoans, my fellow carb-loving Americans, it is March. The interminable winter is almost gone, the cruelest month is but a couple fortnights away, and while spring and all the beautiful produce it brings is still distressingly distant, many of us can find solace in talking smack to each other about our favored competitors in the most exciting tournament of the year that doesn't involve professional athletes.

Yes, that's right. Starch Madness is back!

Full bracket for Starch Madness 2022, Potato Edition
Chloe Jeong

After two years of back-to-back tournaments focused on pasta shapes and their sauces, respectively, we decided to switch it up this year and focus on the apple of the earth—a.k.a. the tribune of starch, a.k.a. the nightshade number runner, a.k.a. the potahto—instead. We've constructed a bracket of 64 iconic potato-centric dishes to battle it out to see which spud grub reigns supreme.

I know what you're thinking, because I think it, too: French fries are gonna win. But that doesn't mean there aren't going to be highs and lows and upsets along the way, and a whole lot of pretty pics of potato prepared in a plethora of ways, along with their accompanying recipes, some of which, miraculously, don't contain cheese. Nevertheless, you may want to stock up on some Tums.

In order to put up a bracket with the requisite 64 different slots (a March Madness-inspired bracket with any less would...not be a March Madness-inspired bracket!), with each slot consisting of a dish that was sufficiently different from the 63 others to ensure an entertaining competition, we have been hard at work developing recipes to fill gaps in our recipe archive. That meant developing 18 new potato recipes to fill out the field, as well as re-testing (hello, fluffy mashed potatoes!) and re-shooting a bunch of our existing potato stuff.

The process will be the same as the last two years, and we can't wait for the whole dang thing to start. Need a refresher on the whole tournament? We've got you covered: Here's everything you need to know before the opening round of Starch Madness 2022.

How the Bracket and Voting Will Work

Plate of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.
Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

Like the NCAA tournament, the Starch Madness bracket is made up of 64 contestants, divided between four regions. Unlike the NCAA tournament, each contestant represents something you can eat, as each region has 16 established potato dishes, seeded 1 through 16. That means there are four number-one seeds, four number-two seeds, and so on and so forth. We've spent hours vetting the field, selecting the 64 potato stunners, and then determining the seeding for each one (more on the criteria and logic for the seeding process down below).

If you've never watched March Madness or filled out a bracket before, here's the drill:

It's a single-elimination tournament, win-or-go-home, kicking off with the "strongest" teams (or, in this cases, potato preparations) facing the "weakest" opposition. The field is cut in half at every round of competition, leading to the "Elite Ate" and "Final Forks." Survive and advance is the name of the game, and the format allows for high drama, with the possibility for shocking upsets and unlikely Cinderella stories at every turn. Download a bracket, fill it out, and try not to get too upset when your picks lose.

The kicker for Starch Madness is that you decide which dishes advance in the tournament! The winner of each matchup will be determined by popular vote on Instagram, playing out as a running vote in the "Stories" on our Serious Eats (@seriouseats) account. For those unfamiliar with Instagram, you can access our account's "Stories" by tapping the Serious Eats icon in the top left corner of the Serious Eats account page or, if you follow the account, your "Stories" feed. So make sure you follow us on Instagram if you'd like to vote!

Since there has been some confusion about this in the past two tournaments, I'm going to say that again, in bold: All of the voting for Starch Madness 2022 will take place on Instagram! You will need to have an Instagram account to participate; you cannot vote on our website, on third-party websites, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter, via email, phone, text message, fax, or telegraph. Yes, we realize not everyone uses Instagram. No, Instagram did not create this tournament. No, I am not employed by Instagram. Instagram happens to have an easy voting feature built into the application, and we are simply using it to facilitate this competition.

Voting opens for Round One tomorrow—Tuesday, March 15th—and we're kicking off with the Couch Potatoes region. The remaining three regions will have their Round One matchups over the next three days. Then we'll give the potatoes the weekend to rest up before moving into Round Two next week, on March 21st. Voting for Round 3 will take place on March 22nd, voting for Round 4 will take place on March 23rd, and the Spud Championship will take place on March 24th. Mark your calendars!

After each round, we will post updates here about notable match-ups, upsets, and the overall results, so if you're making bets with your friends or you really need to know which spud's up and which one's down, bookmark this page.

Not familiar with all of the dishes in the bracket and don't want to make the wrong picks? Fear not! There will be accompanying photos and short descriptions for each contestant in our Instagram voting match-ups.

Are you incensed by the fact that your favorite potato dish that isn't French fries has gotten a subpar seed? Allow me to explain.

How the Seedings Were Determined

A spoonful of pommes aligot (cheesy mashed potatoes) being lifted from a small handled pot

We knew going into Spud Starch Madness that the selection of dishes and their seeding would be contentious. The only thing we were sure of is that French fries undoubtedly deserved a top seed, and that French fries will win, because everyone, everywhere, loves freaking French fries!

We gave ourselves a few guiding principles. We wanted every dish in the bracket to be a potato dish, not just a dish that contains potatoes. We wanted the tournament to be fun, and, consequently, we wanted the matchups to provide maximum competitive frisson. We wanted to try to have the bracket reflect our average reader's familiarity with these dishes; relatively less well known dishes would be like, say, Davidson College, seeded lower than a regular top-tier contender, no matter how repulsive, like Duke.

We also had some limitations. There were only so many new recipes we could develop for the competition, and so we were mostly left with the potato-centric dishes that exist in our recipe library. Since this is a North American publication, geared primarily toward readers in the United States, that means potato dishes that are widely popular in the United States are heavily over-represented. This is also why a potato-loving cuisine from a country like Peru, which could field a Spud Madness bracket entirely made up of potato varieties, is heavily under-represented. The number of potato-loving cuisines that are under-represented in this bracket is higher than the number of slots; potatoes, after all, know no natural or political boundaries; they are loved by all.

If you're looking at the bracket and saying, "My goodness, they don't even have my fourth favorite potato dish, let alone my favorite," then let us know! We want to hear all about potato recipes you think everyone should know how to make; we want to hear what kind of splendid spud stuff we've been missing out on. We appreciate the feedback, and we will take it to heart, and (eventually) seek out people to develop those recipes.

Now, if you're upset by the seeding of one or all of your favorite potato dishes, that's another matter entirely.

First of all, please do not consider the seedings as value judgements. We do not believe that French fries are better than, say, causa. We just think that a vast majority of our readers, when given a choice in a competition between French fries and causa, will pick the one they're more likely to be familiar with, which is French fries. Causa, after all, is not offered at every single fast food joint in the world. That doesn't mean we think causa is bad, just that it, like every other dish unfortunate enough to enter a popularity contest with French fries, will lose.

The seeding was determine by a crack team of potato data scientists consisting of myself and my colleague Sasha Marx. We have absolutely zero qualifications for this kind of work; we are simply potato eaters like any one of you. So we did our best to produce a bracket that reflected the popularity of these potato dishes (as measured by our website's traffic), our suppositions about how well known each of these potato dishes are among the population that is our readership (based mostly on vague feelings), as well as our own personal preferences (we only fought a little). We also tried to arrange the seedings so that the matchups made sense in the first round. For example, we fiddled with the seedings so hash browns and home fries would face off immediately, pitting the two breakfast favorites against one another straight out of the gate.

If none of that alleviates your anger at seeing brandade being so low on the list (I agree), I ask you to think of this tournament as the last stop in a series of tournaments that have taken place all year. Regional tournaments, local tournaments, hyper-local tournaments... all of those results have led to the seeding of these "teams." While I believe my beloved brandade has more character than a pile of French fries, more savor than gnocchi, more substance than a tot, there's no arguing with the fact that brandade simply failed to show up in the previous tournaments; that its three-point average was decidedly middling; that its center seemed to take a vacation every time a rebound came off the board; that its forwards have failed to post up and sink shots. These seedings aren't so much a product of mine and Sasha's spud-addled minds as they are a grade of each dish's performance in an entirely imaginary previous series of competitions. If brandade is going to make it to the Final Forks, it'll have to win the hearts and minds of a justifiably skeptical audience; it's going to have to step up; it's going to have to give all its cod.

Go Vote!

With all that in mind, head over to Instagram, starting tomorrow, and vote for your favorite spud webbs to make sure they make it through to the next round in the Big Hot Potato! Print and fill out a bracket and, if you like, post a snap of it on Instagram and tag us in it! Debate the seedings, enlist your friends to make futile attempts to skew the results, make your case for salchipapa in the comments. Starch Madness is here. Let's dance.

Round 1 Recap: Crispy Is the Quality to Beat

Starch Madness Potato Bracket Round 2 Standings
Serious Eats / Chloe Jeong

Round 1 of Spud Starch Madness is over. The winners have had the weekend to rest up and prepare for their upcoming matches; the losers are are sitting in a the land of too many leftover potato plenty known as the trash.

The results, as they say, speak for themselves, and as Clint Eastwood sorta has it, deserves clearly got nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, let's take a look at the ups and downs of last week, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the first round of this tatertastic tournament.

Couch Potatoes

Serving plate of pan-fried pierogi with ramekins of sour cream and cooked onion on the side.
Vicky Wasik

In the Couch Potatoes region, French fries (of course) prevailed over wedges easily, racking up 82% of the vote. The most astonishing stat in that region was in fact that French fries did not have the best performance in the group, despite its bloodless competition; that honor went instead to pierogi. The plush little cheesy dumplings trounced Colombian salt potatoes without breaking a sweat, pulling in 83% of the vote total. Veteran potato eaters have suggested that perhaps French fries is having a slow start—really, their performance was subpar–because they're so heavily favored. I say this as objectively as I can, but I agree. Look for the fries to step up their game in their matchup against papas criollas later today.

Speaking of, criollas had the most riveting performance in the group this week. Pit against gamja bokkeum, they had their work cut out for them. After all, how could a bunch of tiny potatoes simply fried in oil compete against the flashy flavor of a bunch of tiny halved potatoes (more surface area!), fried and coated in a sweet-savory garlic and sesame glaze? And yet compete they did, edging out gamja bokkeum with 58% of the vote. Just goes to show, you never know!

The other matchups were a little less exhilirating: aloo gobi (73%) showed the world that the combination of potatoes and cauliflower will always trump a soup, no matter how delicious ajiaco is; masala dosa (68%) similarly showed that soup can't shoot; latkes (63%) took the lesser fries known as shoestrings to school; and disco…excuse me, poutine (59%) showed the power inherent in decent French fry variations, flashing its gravy and cheese curds while dunking all over rosti.

Which leaves us with the grand upset of the bunch: Darphin (58%) prevailed over aloo paratha! No one saw this coming, least of all our potato and starch experts. Aloo paratha, perhaps the ideal Spud Starch Madness contender, with its layers of starchy dough, spiced potato, and more starchy dough, its comfortable seed of No. 3, its sheer deliciousness, just…whiffed. We will never know what truly happened during that game, but the only phrase that comes to mind is "for shame."

Hot Potatoes

An angled side shot of the crispy roast potatoes in a bowl on a blue background.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

We can't say any of us are surprised by the fact that crispy roasted potatoes crushed little French-fancified potatoes cooked in brown butter by taking home 90% of the vote, but what was surprising was the merciless nature of that victory. Crispy roasted benched their starters after the first quarter and even the second string potatoes were sinking threes and forcing turnovers–more people voted yay for crispy roasted potatoes than any other potato dish on the order of hundreds of votes. It's the most popular Serious Eats recipe in history, yes, but that's still ridiculous; it appears that some people voted only for crispy roasteds and NOTHING ELSE. That's dedication.

Crispy smashed potatoes surprised many commentators with their commanding performance over German potato salad (66%), which is either an indication that "crispiness" is the style of play to beat in this tournament, or that people really, really want mayo in their potato salad. A data point in favor of the latter interpretation: the classic potato salad, mayo and all, coasted to an easy victory (58%) over its similarly mayo-less Austrian cousin.

A few other unsurprising results: Baked potatoes beat causa handily (85%), underlining the strength of strong fundamentals and the basics, although there were some grumblings from causa fans about the refs. Hash browns (76%) trounced home fries, which seems in retrospect to have been inevitable, although the home fries didn't do themselves any favors, as they seemed a little underdone and lacked the seasoning we'd expect from a stalwart of the diner leagues. Fondant potatoes (79%) mauled Sichuan stir-fried potatoes with their meaty little potato-y fists; however, Sichuan stir-fried potatoes did impress everyone with the elegance and novelty of their formations and plays, despite the fact that they just couldn't seem to sink any buckets. Potato and chorizo tacos rallied after a slow start, finishing out the fourth quarter against potatoes anna with a decisive series of plays to rack up 60% of the vote; anna returns home as the king of potato tournament turnovers, but not much else.

The one true nail-biter in this region was the matchup between Greek lemon potatoes and potato hash. Hash gave it all it had, using its storied versatility to try to overcome the Greeks this-is-Sparta defense. But in the end, with seconds to spare and all the time outs used up, the Greeks had the zing that took them over the top with 51%; hash will have to figure out how to add a little acidity to its lineup for next season.

Small Potatoes

golden brown tater tots
Vicky Wasik

Going into the tournament, it was widely believed that potato chips would be this region's team to beat. Crispy, crunchy, widely beloved, as essential as air, potato chips seemed destined for front-runner status, but the chips faced some stiff competition from salchipapas, otherwise known as the the best potato-meat combination that isn't choripapa, and only managed to win 79% of the vote. Tater tots emerged as the highest-scoring team in the first round (84%) after a truly shocking performance by papri chaat, which seemed thrown off by tots' home team advantage.

In the dough-encased potato mashup, knish discovered the benefits of having a little spice on your side, as aloo samosas (66%) walked away with an easy victory. Potato skins experienced a similar revelation with patatas bravas (70%), and croquettes (68%) once again demonstrated the no-lose strategy of pairing potatoes with fry oil as it dunked all over potato pizza, whose play can only be described as bland.

In what has to be the weirdest matchup of the entire tournament, doughnuts (77%) beat potato mochi easily, but both teams seemed a little lost on the court. But I have to say that matchup was at least entertaining, which is more than anyone can say about the travesty of extra crispy duck fat fried fingerlings prevailing (55%) over aloo tikki. I say this purely objectively, of course [Editor's note: He lies.]; but the question of whether duck fat fried fingerlings even belongs in the tournament is far from settled–they're just wedges cut differently, fries but round and bad–and in the future it seems to me and other potato dish experts that "duck fat" and other performance enhancing substances should be banned. Aloo tikki never stood a chance.

The most exciting match in the region was, of course, the grand battle between pommes dauphine and tortilla Española. While the double overtime was in part marred by crude nationalistic chants from some of the fans, tortilla managed to sink an eggcelent buzzer beater, winning with a handful of votes to put it at 50.1%; we hope dauphine has learned not to try to milk its advantage on the dwindling clock.

Potaytoes Potahtos

20150316-gnocchi-vicky-wasik-37.jpg
Vicky Wasik


Ah, the mashed potato region…going into the tournament, we knew this was always going to be the bland, predictable, and texture-less group of games, and the results from the first round bear that out. Mashed potatoes (85%) beat brandade, despite the fact that brandade came out the gate with a strong flavors and fishy complexity; gnocchi crushed skordalia (85%) as only a pile of plump little potato pillows can; potato-leek soup flooded the zone (76%) against fully loaded vegan baked potato soup with a little help from buttermilk and cream; and shepherds pie seemed to prevail over crispy mashed potato casserole solely on the strength of its beefy (or lamby, if that's what you like) team. 

The winning performances of hasselback gratin (64%), pommes aligot (63%), and tartiflette (62%) over potato gratin, pommes purée, and hotdish, respectively, seemed to be more a function of the amount of cheese the teams contained more than anything else. And potatoes Lyonnaise, one of the few dishes in the region in which the potatoes maintained their dignity and structural integrity throughout the match, easily triumphed (65%) over duchess potatoes, which just couldn't compete with the double whammy of a strong clarified butter offense and a minefield of caramelized onions on d.

Ready for Round 2? Go Vote!

And that's that for the recap of Round 1 of Spud Starch Madness. Round 2 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Sweet Sixteen!

Round 2 Recap: The Rise of Meat And...

Spud Starch Madness Bracket, Round 3
Serious Eats / Chloe Jeong

Phew, that was quick! Round 2 of Spud Starch Madness is over, and we've winnowed the field to our Sweet Sixteen. I have to admit that the name of the tournament is a little on the potato eye this year, since I am now very, very mad—my bracket is potato toast.

Couch Potatoes

Speaking of names, a few members of this region seem to have taken its name to heart, since each match was a rout. French fries triumphed over papa criollas with ease, taking home 90% of the vote; the little fried whole potatoes that could are now the little fried whole potatoes that couldn't, and their run in this tournament is kaput.

That result is probably unsurprising to everyone, but the next two matchups left all of us here at SE HQ agog: Pierogi (73%) crushed aloo gobi into a fine paste of starchy mush, and darphin did a similar number (60%) on masala dosa. We potato pros were left scratching our heads at these lopsided results. While having a strong cheese offense has proven itself to be a kind of ringer in the games to date, the degree to which each team could field crispy plays has also been a good indicator of success, but no longer: No one (except fries!), it seems, is safe.

The closest match in the group was the one between latkes (53%) and poutine, which flips the script entirely: the latke crispy-with-onion flavor power play trumped the gloriously messy play of poutine. However there was a brief moment after the game when we all wondered at how formidable the two teams would be if they played together.

Hot Potatoes

While not exactly an upset, the first match in this group nevertheless yielded a surprising result. Crispy roasted potatoes–again, the number 1 most popular Serious Eats recipe of all time!—seemed to struggle against their crispy smashed brethren, even if they scored a decisived victory with 69% (nice) of the vote.

Hash browns, on the other hand, rose to the occasion, posting a high score of 75% of the vote against classic potato salad, which seemed to suffer from gloppy, sloppy play, as if they'd been left to sit a little too long out in the sun on the picnic table.

The humble baked potato crew again overperfomed (57%) in the game against Greek lemon potatoes. While there have been some unseemly complaint from overly loud detractors about the baked potato's boring strategy of hitting easy jumpers, and while we, too, were impressed by the Greek side's zing and aromatic intensity, all's fair in love, basketball, and the potato wars, and it doesn't matter how you win so long as you get that W.

This group, unlike the last, had one matchup that went down to the wire; in fact, the quadruple overtime ended just moments ago, with potato and chorizo tacos edging out fondant potatoes with a full-court buzzer beater to bring its score to (51%). It was a game for the history books, although if there's a lesson here, it's that if there's a choice between meat and potatoes and meat juice and potatoes, meat and potatoes is probably going to win.

Small Potatoes

pile of potato doughnuts
Debbie Wee

Potato chips (75%) continued on its seemingly inexorable path to the finals. It took the lead early in its matchup against potato doughnuts and never let go, even when the coach started subbing in people on the bench to rest the starting squad for the next round. The doughnuts for their part took the loss well enough; happy to have made it into the tournament at all, they were all smiles as they knew they'd made it farther than many other more established teams.

In a little bit of Iberian rivalry, patatas bravas coasted to victory (63%) over their fried compatriots, croquetas, though some longtime potato watchers noted that a croquette with a little salsa brava in their lineup would make for a formidable potato foe indeed.

The final two matchups in the region had identical scores, which is odd enough, but they also produced an identical wave of recriminations from disappointed fans. How is it, these fans said, that duck fat potatoes (58%) played so well against the clearly superior tortilla Española? The accusations of doping related to duck fat are being seriously considered by the tournament organizers, but for now, these complaints can only be treated as, at best, attempts to work the refs and, at worst, sour potatoes.

Aloo samosa's defeat at the hands of tater tots (58%) is another matter entirely. Aloo samosa's fans have written in to debate not the result but the quality of play; clearly aloo samosa had more flair, more style, more textural complexity, a clear distinction between the types of starch on display, the burnished and buttery pastry crust a thing of starchy beauty in its own right, the spiced mashed potato filling a testament to the strength of finely calibrated recipe development. Tater tots, these aloo samosa partisans say, is just a mishmash of starches, deep fried. However, the tots did not come to play around with definitions and descriptions; tots apparently came to win, and win they did.

Potaytoes Potahtos

Like the Couch Potatoes, the teams in the Potaytoes Potahtos region performed as expected. Mashed potatoes (77%) rolled over pommes aligot, with only a slight hint of stickiness in their passage as they negotiated all that cheese. Hasselback gratin (74%) triumphed over tartiflette solely on the strength of its large surface area. And gnocchi (78%) barely seemed to want to win over potato-leek soup, the last remaining soupy potato preparation in the tournament. (Hey! We retested the mashed potatoes recipe, okay?)

The final matchup in the group proved to be just as riveting as the one between fondant potatoes and choripapa tacos, and revealed a similar lesson. Shepherd's pie, despite simply being mashed potatoes layered over mince, eked out a buzzer-beating victory (51%) over potatoes in the style of Lyon. The only advantage we can see that the pie enjoyed was that it, like choripapa, contained discrete bits of meat.

Ready for Round 3? Go Vote!

And that's that for the recap of Round 2 of Spud Starch Madness. Round 3 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Elite Ate!

Round 3: The Greasy Sixteen

Updated Starch Madness Bracket through 3rd round
Serious Eats / Chloe Jeong

We're getting down to the wire here, with the last few games before we crown our regional champs. While this round had a fair number of blowouts, with the perenially strong contenders appearing to hit their strides, their potato eyes on the Tater Trophy on the horizon, we've had a few close games and one that's still being fought. It looks like that one squeaker is going to end just as the next round begins, which…is when this update is published!

Couch Potatoes

If a potato goes up, it must come down; what spud rises must, inevitably, fall. These truths, universally acknowledged, will offer little solace to the losers in this round. French fries (73%) continued its Death Star approach toward the finals, crispiness once again triumphing over any other qualities a potato dish might possess, putting the plush little pierogi to rout. While longtime Starch Madness watchers noted fries could have performed better, given their formidbale reputation, I want to note that pierogis have had an excellent run! They crushed aloo gobi, which was no mean feat; they demolished Colombian salt-crusted potatoes, which goes to show they're formidable against many potato dish varieties. And they did it all with a very mild form of cheese…really, pierogi deserved the standing ovation they received from the fans, the French fries freaks included.

Latkes, too, continued to display their dominant form of play, running up the score (73%) against pommes darphin. It certainly seemed that latkes have something to prove, and not just to the odd hecklers in the stands shouting, "What's the difference between latkes and darphin?!" (The difference? Latkes haven't been creamed. Metaphorically, that is!) Seems like latkes know they've got their work cut out for them, and even the most cynical observers of the tournament so far have had their unshakeable conviction that French fries will ultimately win…shaken. After all, a latke has everything a French fry has, but also onions, the best vegetable!

20141203-latke-vicky-wasik-34b-1.jpg
Photographs: Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats

Hot Potatoes

Another strong contender continuing with its strong contending trend, crispy roasteds (74%) handled the starch all-star chorizo potato tacos with ease. I have to say it seemed like choripapa was a little tired out–the proportions were off, there was a little too much meat, if that's possible–and you could see that the tortilla was a little wan and damp. Although on the other hand that could've been due to the fact that crispy roasted brought their crispiest game, had fluffed up their spirits, had managed to have those fried aromatics called for in that recipe actually stick to their surfaces; maybe they, like us, had seen the regional finals matchup shaping up in the Couch Potato region and are preparing accordingly. 

Hash browns did not perform as well as it has in the past, although its result (62%) against the—I gotta say it!—humble baked potato is once again a testament to the humble baked potato's surprising strength in this tournament. The people, they love the humble baked potato! While the focus as we wrap this tournament up lies essentially where we began, with crispy potato preparations having an edge, I urge you all to stand up and cheer for the bland rorschach test of potato possibility that is the simply baked spud.

Small Potatoes

For a moment there, it seemed like potato chips might actually falter, but the crispy snacks that are way better out of the bag if only because they're more convenient managed to shape up in the final quarter (58%) and crush the tournament dreams of duck fat fried fingerlings. I do hope that this result puts to rest all the truly irresponsible talk about the use of duck fat as a kind of doping. Are onions drugs? Is a crispy exterior performance enhancement? I guess you could argue in the affirmative for both questions, but you know, at some point words do have to mean something.

Patatas bravas squeaked out a victory (51%) over tater tots, and the margin was so close—mere hundreds of votes—that we have to assume that it was the sauce and the aioli that facilitated that squeaking. Tots shouldn't feel bad, however; they've played one heck of a tournament, racking up the highest score in the first round and upending many of our experts' predictions when faced off against a series of strong contenders.

Potaytoes Potahtos

Mashed potatoes continued its inexorable, if plodding, march toward the finals, using its fluid court movement to put away (56%) gnocchi's more structured play. I want to congratulate gnocchi for performing well this tournament, but if we're being honest, they got a lucky draw! They barely had to lift a finger to get this far, facing off against a dip and a soup, and then, now, a soupy dip-like dish. Add to that that they've also had far more experience in the world of Starch Madness brackets; last year, after all, gnocchi field not one, but three teams, one of which managed to make it to the Wheat 16. Fans of potato pasta are understandably chagrined by the inability of gnocchi to go further this year, since who knows what next year may bring? Will gnocchi ever appear in Starch Madness again?

Finally, hasselback gratin (60%) beat shepherd's pie handily, turning the conventional wisdom of Round 2 on its head: the meat couldn't compete with all those crispy, cheesy ridges. While this wasn't the most exciting match in the tournament so far, at least we've all been spared the matchup of mashed potatoes against mashed potatoes over meat.

Ready for Round 4? Go Vote!

And that's that for the recap of Round 3 of Spud Starch Madness. Round 4 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Final Forks!

Round 4: The Elite Ate!

Hello, my potato friends, Round 4 of Spud Starch Madness is done. The Elite Ate have squared off, and from the potato peelings and fry oil dregs the regional champions have emerged. Behold, the 2022 Final Forks:

Starch Madness updated bracket: Final Forks

Couch Potatoes

Oh, latkes! They almost made it! While a relatively easy first game against the lesser fries known as shoestrings seemed to set the stage for a Cinderella run like no other, actually good French fries crushed the potato-and-onion fritters' dreams. But no one can deny that latkes played their crispy hearts out, going bucket for bucket against some truly formidable opponents, and let it be forever recorded that they had to go up against kinds of fries three dang times. (Many people are saying there are entirely too many fries in this tournament.)

The Couch Potatoes regional champ French fries (76%) enters the Final Forks as a seemingly unbeatable team, with an average winning percentage that hovers around 80%. However, fries have yet to face off against other stalwarts of the spud competition world, so we shall see how they fare against other out-and-out crowd favorites. We shall see!

Hot Potatoes

Sorry to say, but hash browns crumpled in the face of crispy roasteds' (60%) high-heat offense. Listen, some spud's gotta lose, no matter what, and keen observers knew the starchy script was on the wall for hash browns. They had struggled against each of their opponents, rallying solely, it seems, on the strengh of readers' antipathy toward boiled potatoes mixed with mayo. And how can you expect to compete against the crispy crowd favorite, the most popular Serious Eats recipe of all the time, the most basic and beloved side, crispy roast potatoes? Hash browns barely beat the humble baked potato. Please!

While crispy roasteds rising to become the Hot Potatoes regional champ was essentially pre-ordained, we reject claims that it was actually preordained. We don't fix matches! You all just really, really, really love boiling your little chunks of potatoes in baking soda-spiked water, tossing them with fat, and roasting them in a hot oven! Although their true test of popularity will be when they face off against French fries, which, it should be said, no one likes to make, but everyone likes to eat.

Small Potatoes

Patatas bravas really looked like they were going to do it. Going into the Elite Ate, bravas had demonstrated their mettle, facing off against some of the most iconic and beloved potato preparations in these United States: potato skins (!), croquettes (!!), tots (!!!!!). If we spent decades in our test kitchen basement, we couldn't engineer a better, more battle-tested potato David to take down the potato Goliath known as potato chips.

Unfortunately, despite a fourth quarter rally that brought bravas tantalizingly close to triumphing over chips–at moments it looked like the chips were swimming in salsa brava and aioli—the snack you typically buy in a bag took the Small Potatoes region championship (53%).

Potaytoes Potahtos

If there's been an overriding theme to this competition, it's that you all prefer the pairing of potatoes and grease over the combination of potatoes, grease, and cheese. Mashed potatoes' decisive victory (60%) over the extra cheesy, extra craggy, extra ridgy hasselback gratin is a perfect example. 

The Potaytoes Potahtos regional champ enters the Final Forks with the distinction of being the only non-crispy combination of potatoes and grease. Will its soft mounds of mush be enough to triumph over the crackly crisp of the potato chip? Only time will tell, my friends.

Ready for Round 5? Go Vote!

And that's that for the recap of Round 4 of Spud Starch Madness. Round 5 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Spud Starch Madness Chamionship!

Round 5: The Crossing of the Final Forks

Starch Madness 22 bracket up until Final Forks

The Final Forks! Four potato dishes enter, and only two pass on to the Starch Madness 2022 Spud Championship. I think it's safe to say that each one of these potato preparations has its die-hard fans, and anyone and everyone who eats potatoes (which is…nearly everyone!) would love to have any one of these served alongside a burger, a mess of fried chicken, a celebratory roast, or even all by themselves.

And yet, even legends must lose in a winner-take-all knock-out tournament, and Hot Potatoes regional champ crispy roast potatoes discovered that it wasn't the only crispy potato thing that had some serious momentum going into the Final Forks. French fries, the Couch Potatoes champion and the odds-on favorite, crushed the crispiness out of those roasted potatoes (67%), leaving nothing but mush in their wake as they head into the championship. You've heard it said many times, but the popularity of the most used recipe in Serious Eats history couldn't compete against the Platonic ideal of potato preparations, the French fry. 

In the matchup between Small Potatoes champ potato chips and Potaytoes Potahtos champ mashed, our expert potato competition watchers had predicted an easy victory for the snack you like to buy in a bag. After all, they're crispy, and crispy's done well this tournament, but somehow mashed potatoes managed to pull of a soft upset, edging out the bagged delicacy by a mere 10 points (55%). The potato chips coach must be kicking himself for vowing to win the tournament on the strength of just a light sprinkling of salt; look out for flavored potato chip varieties in future tournaments.

With that, we have the finals set: French Fries versus Mashed Potatoes! Vote now over at the Serious Eats Instagram page to decide which one will be the one in the competition where there can only be one top potato!

Round 6: And We Have a Winner!

Final Starch Madness 22 bracket results

Starch Madness 2022: Spuds wrapped up over the weekend with a result that belongs in the hall of fame of sports tournament finals. French fries squared off against a mound of mashed spuds, and French fries won with 76% of the vote!

Who could've predicted this incredible turn of events? Not me! That the French fried potato, so long a dish that has lived in obscurity, rarely enjoyed outside of the political borders that mark the region of France known as France, could rise so high in so short a time to triumph in this the first tournament of its kind, pitting potato dishes both well-known and beloved against dishes, like French fries, less well-known and yet still beloved…well, it beggars description. I lack the the words to express how unprecedented, how out of left field, if you like sports metaphors, how unexpected this result is. After all, have French fries been immortalized in 1977 Steven Spielberg film starring Richard Dreyfuss about aliens coming to Earth? No! Have French fries been served at every Thanksgiving meal in the history of time? No! Can you order French fries at Popeye's? Well, yes, but they also have mashed potatoes!

Needless to say, we all know now that underdogs can triumph and Cinderella stories can indeed come true. Please join me in congratulating French fries, the champions of Spud Starch Madness 2022!

Aloo Gobi

Creamy potatoes and tender cauliflower in a spiced tomato-based sauce.

Overhead view of aloo gobi in a serving bowl
Vicky Wasik

Aloo gobi, literally "potato cauliflower" in Hindi, is a dish that's enjoyed throughout the Indian subcontinent, and it has seemingly infinite variations. It can take the form of a curry, with the potato and cauliflower bits swimming in a spiced gravy; it can also be served as a sabzi (a seasoned vegetable) that's relatively dry, with the potato and cauliflower just barely coated with a sauce made with spices, aromatics and tomato, or completely dry, with the potatoes and cauliflower simply stir-fried in a mixture of oil and spices. The seasoning of the dish varies according to regional preferences, or according to the whims of the cook who's doing the preparing; it can contain spices like whole mustard seeds, asafoetida, and anardana, it might have cardamom, black cardamom, and cloves, it may have fresh fenugreek leaves and chaat masala, or it may be seasoned very simply with a tomato-based sauce with some turmeric and dried fenugreek leaves, as I do here.

The kind of aloo gobi you prefer likely depends on the version or versions you grew up eating, or you may, like me, be ecumenical about your aloo gobi and like it pretty much any and every way. Like a tuna salad, or butter chicken, I find I can happily eat aloo gobi no matter how it's prepared, so long as it's salty enough.

However, when making aloo gobi myself, I have a few preferences. Growing up in New Delhi, my family ate a fair amount of aloo gobi at home, but I invariably preferred the aloo gobi I could get elsewhere, particularly the drier kinds in which the the cauliflower was deep fried instead of stewed, which makes the cauliflower taste nuttier and gives it a firmer texture. Deep frying the cauliflower and potatoes is standard procedure in many aloo gobi recipes, but my parents, like most home cooks, avoided deep frying whenever possible. I, on the other hand, don't mind it, so long as I'm not expected to stand around frying batch after batch of too-thin French fries.

Deep frying the cauliflower and potato for aloo gobi isn't as onerous as deep frying other things, though. Unlike cutlets, or battered items, or dredged things, the oil used to fry the cauliflower and potatoes stays relatively "clean": There aren't all that many small bits dispersed in the oil, and since the fry times in this recipe are relatively short and the fry temperature is relatively low, the bits that do remain aren't burned in any way, so the oil's flavor doesn't become acrid. Once strained, the oil can be cooled and reused several times, for more aloo gobi or for whatever else you'd like to fry, which both reduces the cost and, for me, makes the prospect of preparing this dish more appealing.

For the aloo portion of aloo gobi, I like using the trick of adding vinegar to the salted water I use for boiling the potatoes, which helps firm up the pectin in the potatoes, making them less likely to fall apart once stirred into the sauce along with the fried cauliflower. Since I'll have a wok full of hot oil out anyway, I also fry the potatoes after they've been boiled, to brown them lightly and to slightly crisp up their exteriors.

From there, all you have to do is make a quick masala with some whole cumin seed (bloomed in hot oil first), minced onions, ginger, garlic, green chile, dried fenugreek leaves, ground turmeric, diced plum tomatoes, and water. You'll want to take your time with the onions; you want them brown, which should happen fairly quickly given the relatively small amount of onions and the relatively large amount of oil used to brown them. I've had issues with burning dried fenugreek leaves in the past when (carelessly) adding them to very hot pans, so just in case, I suggest you mound the contents in the pan in the center and add the fenugreek leaves on top of that mound, after which you can stir everything together so the leaves' flavor and aroma bloom in the hot fat.

During testing, I made the same recipe but without the frying step, just to see whether I thought the deep frying was definitely worth doing, and I can report that it works quite well, but it isn't as good, as the cauliflower is a little less dry and makes the final dish a little watery. If you have an aversion to deep frying at home, you can follow the recipe as written, but instead of frying the cauliflower and the potatoes, you can roast them in a hot oven on a rimmed baking sheet; the quantities listed in the recipe should fit on a single rimmed baking sheet easily. (There are also many, many recipes for aloo gobi that don't call for deep frying.)

To make it with roasted vegetables, prepare a rimmed baking sheet in the same way as you would for roasted potato wedges: Spray it with nonstick cooking spray and then add a quarter cup of neutral oil to the pan, tilting it so the oil coats it evenly. Preheat your oven with a rack set in the middle position to 400°F (205°C), and while the oven heats parboil the potatoes exactly as directed in this recipes. When the potatoes are cool, place the cauliflower florets in a medium mixing bowl with a tablespoon of neutral oil, season it lightly with salt, and then toss it with your hands to distribute the oil evenly. Add the cauliflower and potatoes to the roasting pan, placing the flat, cut surfaces of the vegetables in contact with the pan, and roast for about 40 to 50 minutes, turning the potatoes once, until the cut sides of the cauliflower are browned and their tops are charring in spots and the potatoes are slightly crisped on their exteriors. You can then follow the rest of this recipe exactly and fold in the roasted vegetables at the end.

Aloo gobi can be served as part of a larger meal, or as the primary component of a meal, along with rice or flatbreads like chapati. Personally, I tend to enjoy leftover aloo gobi, straight out of a deli container pulled from my fridge.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine potatoes, 2 tablespoons salt, vinegar, and 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender and offer little resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 11 minutes. Drain potatoes, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

Overhead view of Yukon Gold potato pieces in a pot with acidulated and salted water
Vicky Wasik

Line a separate rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a large Dutch oven or wok, heat oil over high heat to 375°F (190°C). Add half of the cauliflower florets and cook, stirring gently with a spider or tongs, until florets are lightly browned and fully tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer florets to prepared baking sheet and season lightly with salt. Return oil to return to 375°F and repeat with remaining florets.

Collage showing frying of cauliflower florets
Vicky Wasik

Return oil to 375°F. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp on the outside, about 2 minutes. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet with cauliflower and set aside. Carefully transfer oil to a large heatproof bowl.

Yukon gold pieces being lifted out of hot oil with a spider skimmer
Vicky Wasik

Return 3 tablespoons oil to now-empty Dutch oven or wok and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add cumin seeds and cook until seeds start to spit, about 10 seconds. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions just start to brown, about 8 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and chiles and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Mound vegetables in center of pan, add turmeric and dried fenugreek leaves on top, and stir to combine. Stir in chopped tomatoes and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until tomatoes break down slightly and release their liquid, about 2 minutes.

Collage showing steps for creating sauce for aloo gobi
Vicky Wasik

Stir in 1 cup water, increase heat to high heat, and cook until liquid reduces slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reserved cauliflower and potatoes and fold gently to evenly coat vegetables with sauce. Off-heat, stir in cilantro. Serve immediately.

Collage showing finishing steps for aloo gobi
Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Wok or Dutch oven

Notes

It helps to crush the dried fenugreek leaves lightly before cooking with them to release their aroma; you can do this by cupping the leaves in your palm and crushing them with your thumb.

If you cannot find or do not have dried fenugreek leaves, you can substitute with 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, finely ground in a spice grinder.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Aloo gobi can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Aloo Tikki Recipe

Salty, spiced potato patties inspired by the iconic Punjabi Deli in the East Village of New York City.

Aloo tikki on a plate with a dipper of tamarind chutney alongside
Vicky Wasik

Despite the fact that I grew up in New Delhi, India, and lived there for over a decade, when I think of the ideal form of aloo tikki, I think of the one sold by Punjabi Grocery & Deli, a small, 24-hour take-out spot in the East Village of Manhattan. There were many, many occasions during my twenties when I'd both start and end a night of drinking in the area with an order of aloo tikki, warmed briefly in their bank of microwave ovens and served with a whole green chile and a few slices of red onion sprinkled with masala and lime alongside.

Aloo tikki, which translates roughly to "potato patties," are typically eaten as a snack and are often sold by street vendors. There are many variations: the potato mixture used to make the patties can be spiced in a number of different ways; the patties can be stuffed with different things, like mashed up chickpeas or peas; the patties themselves can be served as is, with some chutney or, as at Punjabi Grocery & Deli, with a little onion and chile, although they can also be used as the base ingredient for chaat.

Over the years, I've made spiced potato patties different ways, often as a way to use up leftover mashed or riced potatoes, but when developing this recipe I tried to steer my final tikki toward the flavor profile and texture of the ones I like so much from Punjabi Grocery & Deli. Theirs are rather large and dense, boasting a substantial fried crust and a heavily salted, mildly spiced interior that's relatively spicy, in terms of capsaicin heat. These aren't as good as the ones at Punjabi Deli, but they're close enough to satisfy the craving, and they're quite tasty. These are spiced according to my tastes, but you can add different whole or ground spices—coriander, cumin, fennel seed, and amchur (green mango powder) to name a few—depending on what sounds most delicious to you. But you'll want to keep the basic technique the same, including the proportions of starch and breadcrumbs to potato, as they produce a firm, evenly seasoned patty that fries up very crispy on the outside without falling apart.

I focused a fair amount of time during testing on potato varieties, namely the three most commonly found in American supermarkets: russets, Yukon Golds, and red potatoes. In addition to testing out different potato varieties, I tried different cooking methods for the potatoes. I also tried adding different starches in varying proportions at different times during the process, and adjusting the amount of breadcrumbs in the mix. For the spicing, I tried blooming the various spice mixtures in oil before adding them to the potatoes, adding them in raw, or some combination of the two, as well as adding some spices in whole rather than ground, to add textural complexity.

In the end, I settled on using russets boiled in acidulated and heavily seasoned water, a relatively simple spice mixture, potato starch and panko breadcrumbs as binders, and some chopped fresh cilantro and green chile for freshness and heat. I ditched the idea of using the oven to cook the potatoes as that reduced the overall yield, took more time, and didn't produce superior results. I skipped the whole spices, even though I sometimes liked the texture and flavor (cumin and fennel seed) they provided. Lastly, I let go of the idea of blooming the spices in oil as I found the addition of oil to the potato mixture made it softer and more reminiscent of mashed potato than the stiffer texture of the aloo tikki from Punjabi Grocery & Deli.

However, while this recipe doesn't include any of those techniques/ideas, that doesn't mean you can't use them at home. Blooming the spices in a tablespoon of oil does make their flavors more pronounced and distributes them more evenly, and the tikki I made that had a more mashed potato-like texture on their interior were undoubtedly delicious and held up fairly well when fried. The same goes for using whole spices.

Aloo tikki on a plate broken apart to revel interior texture
Vicky Wasik

The most important element of this recipe is the boiling of the potatoes. To mimic the excellent seasoning of the tikki from Punjabi Grocery & Deli, I found it necessary to boil the cubed potatoes in quite salty water—a solution of around 14 grams of salt per liter of water. (I also add salt directly to the potato mixture to compensate for the other additions—mostly the potato starch and breadcrumbs, but also the cilantro and chile). Further, I found that adding a tablespoon of white vinegar per liter of boiling water helped with the final texture of the tikki. The vinegar helps to firm up the pectin in the potato, which means that the bits of potato, despite being mashed, will have a firmer texture.

As to the starch, I chose to use potato starch not only because I like the idea of using a potato-derived product in a potato dish, but also because I wanted to have more control over the gelatinization of the starch in the mixture. I found during testing that if I added raw potato starch to the cooled mashed potatoes, the mixture would bind well and fry up nicely only up until the internal temperature of the tikki hit the gelatinization temperature of the starch; as the temperature inside the patties rose above 140°F (60°C), the patty would become quite soft and squishy, which made it quite delicate. Resting the cooked patties on a rack would produce indents in the patty, and, once cooled, those indents would remain, messing with the patties' crusts.

One solution to this problem was to add in a different starch with a higher gelatinization temperature, like cornstarch, and cook the patties quickly so they browned on the exterior without hitting a high enough temperature to gelatinize the starch on the interior. But that meant the starch in the interior would be ungelatinized and could taste "starchy" or chalky. Instead, I chose to gelatinize the potato starch before the patties went into the hot oil by sprinkling the starch (along with the rest of the seasoning ingredients) to the still-hot boiled potatoes and then mashing everything together. This has the added benefit of helping to disperse the seasoning and mix-ins more thoroughly.

Instant read thermometer inserted into spiced potato mixture after mixing to illustrate it is above 140°F
Vicky Wasik

Once everything is mashed together, I immediately form the mixture into patties, by forming small balls and then flattening them into compact little pucks of seasoned potato mixture. To ensure that the patties fry up nicely and don't fall apart, it's important to let the patties cool completely to room temperature before frying; by the time you've formed the mixture into patties, this takes just about 15 minutes of waiting, so it isn't all that onerous, but it's nevertheless important both for the structural integrity of the patties and for creating a crispy crust on the outside.

When it's time to eat, you can serve them alongside Sohla's mint chutney and tamarind chutney from her papri chaat recipe (you can also use the aloo tikki as the basis for an aloo tikki chaat, since you're about fifty percent of the way there anyway). However, you can also just serve the tikki with some sliced red onion, dusted with garam masala and spritzed with lime, as well as a couple of whole green chiles, for a very Punjabi Grocery & Deli-inspired platter of aloo tikki at home.

In a large pot, combine potatoes, 3 tablespoons salt, vinegar, and 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until potatoes are completely tender and offer little resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 15 minutes. Strain potatoes and let drain, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Cut up potatoes submerged in salted and acidulated water before boiling
Vicky Wasik

Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs, potato starch, chaat masala, garam masala, Kashmiri chile powder, turmeric, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a small mixing bowl. Using a fork or small whisk, stir until thoroughly combined.

Spice, starch, and breadcrumb mixture shown in two photos: with ingredients separate, and after they've been mixed
Vicky Wasik

Sprinkle spiced breadcrumb mixture and ginger evenly over still-hot drained potatoes in bowl. Using a potato masher or fork, mash potatoes roughly, breaking up any large pieces; do not overmash, as you want some smaller unmashed potato bits in the final mix. Add cilantro and chile and, using a spoon, stir potato mixture gently to distribute seasoning evenly; the mixture should be above 140°F (60°C) after mixing.

Collage showing steps of mashing and mixing potato mixture for aloo tikki.
Vicky Wasik

Using clean hands, roll 3 tablespoons potato mixture into a ball between your palms, packing the mixture together much as you would a snowball. Flatten ball between the palms of your hands to form a puck, making sure that there are no cracks around the edges (if cracks are present, smooth edges with your fingers). Repeat with remaining potato mixture; you should have 15 potato patties. Let patties cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. (Patties can be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours; refrigerating can cause the texture to become mealy).

Formed aloo tikki before frying on a rimmed baking sheet
Vicky Wasik

Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and line with paper towels. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat 1 cup oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add 8 potato patties and cook, swirling occasionally, until golden brown on bottom, about 2 minutes. Using an offset or thin metal spatula, flip patties and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until golden brown on second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer patties to prepared wire rack.

Side by side collage of photos of aloo tikki frying in oil before and after flipping
Vicky Wasik

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and repeat frying with remaining potato patties. Allow patties to cool slightly before serving, about 5 minutes.

Transfer potatoes patties to a serving platter and serve with mint and tamarind chutney alongside.

Overhead view of aloo tikki on a plate with dippers of mint and tamarind chutneys alongside
Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Potato masher, 10-inch cast iron skillet, rimmed baking sheet, wire rack, slotted spatula

Make-Ahead and Storage

Aloo tikki are best enjoyed immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week; rewarm in a microwave or skillet before serving.

Shoestring Fries

Like good French fries, just thinner.

Overhead view of shoestring fries on wax paper on a platter with a ramekin of ketchup and a glass of beer alongside
Vicky Wasik

You're going to need a lot of paper towels.

That's the first thing you need to know about making shoestring fries at home. Not just one square, or two, but many, many more; depending on how many batches of fries you plan on making, you might need a whole roll, since the process of turning spuds into threads of potato that fry up crispy on the outside and yet retain more than a wan suggestion of fluffiness within requires blotting: blotting of water, blotting of oil, blotting of oil (again), each bit of blotting requiring a fresh sheaf or two of paper towel product in order to ensure that what you have blotted does not unblot itself and adhere to the potato threads again.

Yes, it's a lot of paper towels.

(You can, of course, use clean, cotton, lint-free kitchen towels, but I did not. In the blot war between paper and cloth, the convenience of tossing all that paper forced the hypothetical cleaning of cloth into a rout.)

Why emphasize this blotting, this waste of paper? Well, frying up French fries at home is a pain, because it's almost necessarily a batched process—that "almost" is there only to acknowledge that there must be someone, somewhere out there who has commercial deep fryer in their home kitchen. But the rest of us don't, which means if we want to make enough fries to barely satisfy four people, we'll need to fry them (twice) as quickly and efficiently as we can, using a pot with about two quarts of oil, which means cooking them in batches so the oil temperature remains high enough to crisp them up and cook them through without getting greasy.

And, as with any extensive, batched deep-frying process involving ingredients that contain relatively large proportions of water, the fine odor of fry oil will perfume your house, in part because every exposed surface in your kitchen and any adjacent rooms will be misted with oil. You will have to clean not just pots, not just utensils, but your counters, your walls, your ceiling, too, if you can manage it. Are you sure you're up for this? Really? You don't want to just go to literally any restaurant or takeout spot, order some fries—they may not be great, but they're still gonna be fries—and call it a day? No?

Okay. I get it. You want to fry fries at home, but not just any fries: You want great fries, so good that, were you served them at a restaurant, you'd order more. That's great, because we already have you covered! Kenji López-Alt's recipe makes some of the greatest fries you'll ever eat, at home or anywhere else. "But wait," someone calls from the back of the room, "I like really thin fries!" That person—you, maybe—doesn't want just fries, they want fries the the thinness approximately of a julienne, or a thick matchstick, like the kind you use to light a fireplace fire; they want those potato pieces as close as possible to the dividing line between fries (amazing, the platonic ideal of potato preparation) and potato "stix" (perfectly fine, really, but just buy them in a bag at the bodega). They want what people call "shoestring" fries. Okay, we can do that, too.

"Shoestring" Fries?

Shoestring fries on a wax paper on a platter with a ramekin of ketchup alongside
Vicky Wasik

Before we go any further, I must confess to some confusion about nomenclature. What is a shoestring fry? I asked around, and no one could agree. "Matchsticks," said one person; "julienned fried potatoes," said another; "like potato 'stix'," said a third. Arguably, these all could mean the same thing, but taken literally, they are not the same.

If you search online, a brief scan of images results shows some frankly burnt-looking sticks of potato mixed among pictures of...French fries. None of them look much like shoe strings, to my eye. Thus, I realized that I had to take to heart that absurd injunction made popular in recent years in the political sphere: I had to take the phrase "shoestring fries" seriously, not literally, which means I could project whatever qualities I want onto it. And so, my definition of shoestring fries is this: good French fries, just thinner, thin enough to distinguish them from normal good French fries. Other than thickness, the qualities should be identical to a good French fry: fried to a nice potatoey blonde, fluffy insides, well-seasoned (in and out), crispy on the outside, magically able to stay crispy for longer than an hour.

Now if you disagree, I'm sorry. If you like your shoestrings to be potato sticks that shatter into a million arid bits in your mouth and become irretrievably stuck in your molars, then this recipe, as written, will not satisfy you. If you like your shoestrings brown, not attractively golden, then this recipe is your enemy. However, I will offer some suggestions below for how to tweak this method, which in itself is a tweak of Kenji's French fry method, to produce those results.

What Is a Shoestring's Thickness?

Cutting planks of potato into shoestring fries on a cutting board
Vicky Wasik

Since there isn't a consensus out there about the thickness of a shoestring fry, I started by cutting russet potatoes into a variety of fry-like thicknesses using a mandoline slicer and a sharp knife. Regardless of the kind of fry you're making, you will probably want to use a mandoline slicer, since they're quite convenient and produce consistently sized slabs (or twigs) of potato; for shoestrings, you will definitely want a mandoline, unless you are a professional cook with a prep cook's knife skills, who, in any case, would tell you to use a mandoline. So in addition to reams of paper towels, be sure to have a mandoline on hand. And, if you're using a mandoline, you should absolutely pick up a cut-proof glove (or two) so that you can use the mandoline without risking a trip to the emergency room.

Hands holding pair of digital calipers, which are being used to measure thickness of a shoestring fry
Vicky Wasik

I didn't really have a method, I just made a bunch of French fry cuts with different dimensions (I used a pair of digital calipers to figure out those dimensions after the fact), and then I fried them all according to Kenji's French fry technique, altering it on the fly depending on the dimensions in question—thinner fries got shorter blanches and fry times, etc. I ended up settling on ~3mm by ~3mm (1/8" x 1/8") as being thin enough to be distinguishable from a good fry, but not so thin as to make it impossible to produce anything but potato "stix."

Adapting French Fry Technique for Shoestrings

Cooking these ~3 mm by ~3 mm potato matchsticks according to the French fry recipe left a little to be desired. Even with sensible modifications, the shoestrings I was making were both a little too dark and had interiors that were too blown out; there wasn't much of that pillowy softness that you like in a proper French fry, although they were plenty crispy. In fact, they stayed crispy for hours. I guess I could've just made potato "stix" and called it a day, since a lot of people apparently think potato "stix" are shoestrings, and we could have all just gone to war in the comment section. But my entire apartment already smelled like potato and fry oil, so I kept going.

The main issue seemed to me to be that the fries were overcooking—too dark, blown out—but I didn't have the best luck with shortening the fry times, since that just left me with limp fries. I started getting very fiddly with the initial blanch, but then, while rereading Kenji's account of his previous experiments, I latched onto the idea he tried (and then subsequently dismissed as being...too fiddly) involving a low temperature "blanch." Kenji notes that McDonald's is said to use this step, and...well here's what he says:

Pre-cooking the fries in a water bath the way McDonald's does accomplishes two goals. First, it rinses off excess simple sugars, helping the fries attain a light gold color, instead of a deep dark brown. Secondly, it activates an enzyme called pectin methylesterase (PME). According to an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, PME induces calcium and magnesium to act as a sort of buttress for pectin. They strengthen the pectin's hold on the potato cell's walls, which helps the potatoes stay firmer and more intact when cooked to a higher temperature.

(Note that calcium and magnesium strengthening pectin is one of the reasons beans can become very hard to cook, as explained by Nik Sharma in his bean-brining investigation.)

Kenji ultimately abandons the low-temp "blanch" in favor of using vinegared water to strengthen pectin in his fries. But as I went about blanching very thin French fries, I found the big vat of boiling water, the temperature of which would drop far below boiling once a mass of thin fries was added in, to not be very convenient. The precipitous drop in temperature also made timing of the blanch a little subjective, and therefore tricky, and I found that, more often than not, my shoestrings were getting overcooked at this initial stage, even when blanched for just under two minutes (as opposed to the 10 minutes called for for French fries.)

Instant read thermometer taking the temperature of a pot of salted, vinegared water with temperature reading indicating 165°Fahrenheit
Vicky Wasik

Instead, I started using the low-temperature "blanch": I'd bring four liters of water, seasoned with salt and vinegar (more on that in a second) up to about 170°F over high heat, dump in the thinly cut potatoes, then monitor the temperature until it went back up to about 165°F, which takes just a minute or so. Then I would turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit for about 15 minutes, after which I'd drain the potatoes and put them on (yup, it begins) a bunch of paper towel-lined baking sheets. The result was almost "cooked" potato threads (they're still a tad crunchy) that are perfectly seasoned and very well set up, from a pectin perspective. In addition to being less subjective (if you use the called-for quantity of water and you have and use an instant-read thermometer), it's also a little more relaxed; you can take those 13 extra minutes of doing absolutely nothing to either clean up or start lining baking sheets with paper towels.

But wait, why the vinegar? Well, I kept using it as a hedge against the possibility that I might look away as the potatoes and water are heating together; if the water went over 170°F, it might spell disaster for the enzymatic reaction, but it needn't spell disaster for the fries. After many trials, I've found it is very easy to not exceed 170°F, so the vinegar isn't altogether necessary, unless you would like to live dangerously and go with a blanch with boiling water. However, even with the low-temp "blanch," I include the vinegar because, as a placebo, it is very effective at relieving my anxiety about making bad fries, and it doesn't impart any flavor at all, so why not?

From there, it's very straightforward: you double-fry the parcooked potatoes, first to drive off water, then to crisp them up. There are two things to keep in mind for frying, the first has to do with kitchen safety, the second with crispiness: Do not try to rush through the process by adding more cut, blanched potatoes to the hot oil than indicated, and do wait until the oil-blanched fries have fully cooled down before giving them the second fry. The first point is for your safety: the low-temp "blanched" fries are very wet, even after sitting on a mound of paper towel product, and wet stuff added to hot oil will froth and sputter and... if your oil boils over the edge of your frying vessel, you may start a fire. If you don't wait until the fries cool down at least to room temperature-ish, the starches on the exterior of the fries will not retrograde fully, which means when you fry the fries for a second time, they will not get as crispy. The whole point of the "blanch" and the double-fry—the whole point of this entire process!—is to produce crispy fries, so don't forget that last bit.

Of course, given that the fries have to be done in batches anyway, both for maximum crispiness and maximum safety, if you make the recipe as written, there will be ample time for the first batch of oil-blanched fries to cool down before the last batch is blanched the first time in oil. But if you make less? Just don't cook the fries a second time until they've cooled down (also, don't make less; if anything, you'll want to make more). If you're worried that your already fried fries will go limp and soggy while you're doing the second fry on the remaining batches, relax: These fries will stay crispy for a long time.

However, they will not stay hot. If you want to serve your fries hot, you will need to serve them right out of the fryer. You can compromise on fry hotness by waiting until all the fries are ready to go, which will leave you with some hot, some warm, and some lukewarm, and yet all of them still crispy. Alternatively, you can stash the fried and seasoned fries in a low oven on a baking sheet, but depending on how long it takes for you to complete the entire process, you run the risk of drying them out. My suggestion is to just serve them immediately as they come out of the fryer.

The result is perfectly blonde, perfectly crispy, perfectly fluffy-on-as-much-as-a-matchstick-has-insides, perfectly seasoned fries. This last bit I mean; these fries, straight out of the fryer, barely need a sprinkling of salt. In fact, after eating many, many, many shoestring fries, I found I preferred them sprinkled with chaat masala (which has just a bit of salt in it). They are frighteningly good that way.

"Wait! I Want Bad Shoestring Fries!"

Ah, almost forgot. Some of you would like your shoestrings to be crunchy, not crispy; some of you would like your fries brown. Well, the funny thing about starches and their gelatinization is that all you have to do is alter the blanching step to get the results you crave; everything else, including the fry times, stays the same.

For browner, crunchier shoestrings, 50% of which have blown out insides (thus making them even crunchier), all you have to do is blanch the potato matchsticks in vinegared, salted, boiling water for just under two minutes, then drain them on an excess of paper towel products. The explanation for it is, I think, that the higher temp fully gelatinizes the starches on the exterior, which leads to more efficient browning and crisping. However, if you do this, you will want to watch the potato threads during the initial water blanch like a hawk; overcooking them slightly will lead to many broken pieces. Better to err on the side of undercooking than overcooking.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. In a large, tall-sided pot, combine water, salt, and vinegar and bring to 170°F (76°C) over high heat. Drain potatoes, add them to pot, stir, and let water come back up to around 165°F (74°C) (try not to exceed 170°), about 1 minute. Cover pot, turn off heat, and let potatoes sit for 15 minutes. Using spider strainer, transfer potatoes to prepared baking sheet and let cool, about 15 minutes; discard water.

Instant read thermometer taking the temperature of a pot of salted, vinegared water with temperature reading indicating 165°Fahrenheit
Vicky Wasik

Set a wire rack in a second rimmed baking sheet, and line with paper towels. In a large Dutch oven or carbon steel wok, bring oil to 400°F (200°C) over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and carefully add 1/8 of potatoes to hot oil (oil temperature should drop to about 360°F) and cook until vigorous bubbling subsides and potatoes just begin to color, about 30 seconds. Using spider strainer, transfer potatoes to prepared baking sheet, and let cool at least 30 minutes before proceeding to second fry.

Shoestring fries in a spider strainer after first fry
Vicky Wasik

Repeat step 2 process with remaining potatoes.

Line a large bowl with paper towels. Bring oil back up to 400°F over high heat. Add 1/4 of cooled, oil-blanched potatoes to oil and cook just until potatoes are crisp and just slightly blonder than you'd like, about 40 seconds. Transfer fries to prepared bowl, taste, and season with more salt or seasoning mix, to taste. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Serve immediately.

Shoestring fries in a spider strainer after second fry
Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Large Dutch oven or carbon steel wok; spider strainer; baking sheets; wire rack; a lot of paper towels.

Notes

For safety reasons, this recipe calls for adding a relatively small amount of shoestrings in each fry step. However, if, after fry-blanching the first batch of shoestring fries, it seems to you that you can safely add more shoestrings to the hot oil without causing an overflow, by all means do so, but do it carefully, by which I mean incrementally.

For darker, crunchier shoestring fries, bring the salted, vinegared blanching water in step 1 to a rolling boil, add the potatoes, bring the water back up to a boil, cook for about 1 minute and 30 seconds, and then drain. You can then proceed with the recipe as written.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once fried for the second time, shoestring fries are best served and enjoyed immediately. If you want to prep in advance and break up the cooking process, you can follow the recipe through step 3, cover and refrigerate (or freeze) the cooled oil-blanched potatoes, and complete the second fry at a later time. This approach is convenient for professional kitchens outfitted with deep fryers, but is more of a hassle for home cooks who have to make room on their stovetop or somewhere in their kitchen for a pot of oil between rounds of frying.

How to Make Butaniku no Shogayaki (Japanese Ginger Pork)

A quick and easy Japanese pork stir-fry.

pork ginger over rice garnished with kizami shoga in a blue patterned bowl
Vicky Wasik

Pork ginger, also called "Japanese ginger pork," according to Google, is one of those dishes that's so simple you'd never think to write down the recipe.

If you grew up eating pork ginger (which is what we called it in my house) or butaniku no shogayaki (which is, the internet assures me, the Japanese name for what we grew up eating in my house), you probably know how to make it the way it was made in your house; if you didn't grow up eating it it, it's likely, although by no means certain, you have no idea it exists. However, the appeal of thinly sliced pork, marinated briefly in soy sauce, mirin, sake, and ginger, then quickly stir-fried with more ginger than seems necessary, should be obvious to most everyone who eats pork: it's salty, savory, and a little sweet, both from the sugars in the mirin and sake and because of pork's innate sweetness. Eaten hot with a pile of hot white rice, it's a satisfying, if spare, dinner; eaten cold over a bowl of hot white rice, it's an even better lunch.

Although I've known for a while that our recipe library didn't have pork ginger, writing up a recipe seemed unwise because the dish sort of depends on having access to very thinly sliced pork, the kind that's sold in Japanese supermarkets for yakiniku, Japan's version of Korean barbecue, or for shabu shabu and sukiyaki. When we were tossing around ideas for quick and easy recipe ideas, I noted this lack of availability being an obstacle for our readers, but my colleague Sasha responded by noting that H-Mart is now a nation-wide chain and it offers thinly sliced pork, and others noted that it's also easy to find it at other large Asian grocery stores that sell items for hot pot. And here we are.

Pork ginger doesn't have to be made with thinly sliced meat. It just happens to be superior when made with tougher cuts of pork, like shoulder and belly, both of which have a nice mix of fat, muscle, and tough connective tissue that can give shoulder and belly the illusion of juiciness and tenderness even when thoroughly cooked. But that connective tissue can also make them tough—unless you buy the cuts in very thin slices, which breaks up the connective tissue and ensures it'll become delicious and easy to eat after only a brief stint in a hot pan.

I've made pork ginger at least a couple of times a month for my entire cooking life, even when thinly sliced shoulder or belly are unavailable. At those times, I've used leaner pork tenderloin or loin, cut into slivers. The result is still very tasty, but it lacks the sort of textural complexity inherent in a cross section of shoulder or belly, with a nice band of fat that's alternately chewy and meltingly ephemeral, a fair amount of tender meat, and a bit of tougher, collagen-rich connective tissue that can run the gamut from toothsome to gelatinously soft.

Since this recipe is so simple, there wasn't all that much I could see to test. The proportions of ingredients in the marinade are dictated primarily by taste, the taste in question in this instance being what I remember of my mother's. I haven't changed the proportions all that much over the years, but I have decided that adding grated garlic to the marinade is unnecessary (even if it is quite tasty), and I've found I prefer to have julienned bits of ginger, softened slightly by a little heat, in the final mix; scallions I've added as a completely unnecessary yet welcome bit of greenery (and onion-y flavor).

Some recipes for pork ginger call for marinating the meat, cooking it, and then constructing a sauce after the fact; I think this is a wonderful idea, but part of the reason I like making pork ginger the way my mother made it is it's a quick two-step process, even if the alternative is an almost equally quick three-step process. My preference is more a demonstration of culinary inertia than anything else. When it comes to pork ginger, I am a stone, at rest.

Thin slices of raw pork shoulder fanned out on a rimmed baking sheet
Thinly sliced raw pork shoulder.Vicky Wasik

And yet, even the simplest recipe must be tested around these parts. I chose to focus on the pork, frying up identical batches of the recipe with thinly sliced pork shoulder, thinly sliced pork loin, and thinly sliced pork belly, comparing them against one another but also against versions made with slivered pork tenderloin and one batch of pork ginger made with thick-cut tabs of pork belly. The result wasn't all that surprising: They're all good! While different cuts might require slightly different cooking times—lean tenderloin cooks very quickly and is a little more uninteresting unless you brown it deeply, whereas the tougher, thicker belly needs to fry for longer to cook through and become reasonably tender—they all produce eminently edible sweet-salty meat dishes perfect for eating with rice. The fattier cuts produce more "sauce" (really just the exuded juices mixed with the marinade and any rendered fat), whereas the leaner cuts produced a dryer stir-fry.

Even in the world of thinly sliced meats, there are differences. Cuts intended for yakiniku are usually around 1/8-inch (3mm) thick, whereas shabu shabu cuts are even thiner at about 1mm; sukiyaki often falls somewhere in the middle. In my tests, the more thinly sliced meats (about 1mm thick), produced more scraggly bits of cooked meat than thicker slices of the same meats. The version I preferred was made with roughly 1/8-inch-thick (3mm) sliced pork shoulder, solely because of the tougher bands of chewy and salty fat, whereas the tasters of some of these trials appeared to prefer a similar thickness of pork loin slices. All of which is to say, while I recommend seeking out and using thinly sliced pork shoulder, you can really use any of the cuts above. (You can, yes, prepare beef or chicken in a similar way; it won't be the same, but it'll work out all right.)

As with any stir-fry, the main technique consideration is avoiding overcrowding your pan, whether you're using a wok or a skillet. You aren't going for wok hei (or torch hei) here; you aren't even going for a substantial sear. You just want to get a little browning on the pork and a little caramelization of the sugars in the marinade. You don't want the pork to just steam. However, having made this countless times, if the pan isn't hot enough, or the pork unaccountably seems to dump a ton of water in the pan upon contact and you get very little browning and very little caramelization, it's still tasty. The same can be said about using very high-quality pork or commodity pork; it will taste good either way, although one will be noticeably superior.

I tend to eat pork ginger with just white rice and pickles, but you can use it as an element of a more composed rice bowl, swapping out, say, the chicken or beef in simple recipes for donburi. However, I want to make a brief case for definitely serving it with kizami shoga, the pickled, julienned ginger that's colored an unnaturally bright red. The best part of kizami shoga, aside from its inherent gingery-ness and acidity, is that it's quite salty, and while it may seem odd to highly recommend a very salty condiment/pickle type thing to put atop an already quite salty meat-type thing, when you eat the combination with a ton of white rice it'll all make delicious sense.

Cooked pork ginger in a serving bowl flanked by a bowl of white rice and ramekin of kizami shoga
Vicky Wasik

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together grated ginger, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and white pepper. Add thinly sliced pork and toss to coat each piece. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes.

Thinly sliced pork marinating in a bowl with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and grated garlic
Vicky Wasik

In a wok or 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half the marinated pork, spreading it out in a single, even layer, and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Stir pork with a wok spatula or tongs, then continue to cook, tossing and stirring, until pork is just cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer pork to plate, then repeat with remaining oil and pork. Return first batch of pork and any juices to the pan.

Thinly sliced, marinated pork cooking in a hot wok
Vicky Wasik

Add julienned ginger and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until ginger is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, add scallions, tossing and stirring to combine. Serve immediately with rice and kizami shoga.

Cooked pork ginger steaming in the bottom of a wok
Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Wok or 12-inch cast iron skillet.

Notes

Thinly sliced pork butt (and loin and belly) can be purchased at Japanese specialty markets or large Asian groceries, such as H-Mart. If thinly sliced pork isn't readily available, you can substitute pork tenderloin, loin, or pork cutlets cut into thin slivers.

Kizami shoga is julienned pickled ginger, which is typically artificially tinted an unnatural red color. It can be purchased at specialty markets and some grocery stores.

The sake can be substituted with Shaoxing wine or, in a pinch, a dry white wine.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once cooked, pork ginger can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, but it's best eaten within several days. It's excellent when served cold over hot rice, as a light leftovers lunch.

How to Make Microwave-Rendered Chicken Fat

If you want to render some chicken fat, turn to your microwave.

A small glass bowl of golden chicken fat
Yup, it's chicken fat.Sho Spaeth

The microwave oven is a wonder. It can warm up leftovers in minutes; it can make packaged ramen in about the same time; it can turn your vegetable scraps into powder; it can toast nuts; it can fry shallots, garlic; it can boil water; it can defrost things unevenly; it can even warm up your cup of tepid coffee. It is, as someone, somewhere, must say about amazing kitchen gadgets, peak culinary technology.

You might look at that list and think, "What can't a microwave oven do?" Can it make a soufflé? Yes. Can it cook foie gras? Yes! (There's a recipe in a cookbook by the Joe Beef chefs, if you'd like to give it a try.) But there's another application for the microwave oven that's seldom talked about, often ignored, and/or grievously mocked by people like my colleague Sasha, who has for months been saying to me, "Why do you want to do this? Who is it for? Please stop getting the microwave dirty."

Yes, readers, the microwave oven can render the fat from the skins of chickens. And it renders the fat from the skins of chickens very, very well. "What?" I hear you gasp. "Who says?" I hear a few of you mutter. To which I say, "Yes!" and "Real scientists!"

A 2002 study by K.S. Sheu and T.C. Chen, published in The Journal of Food Engineering, compared different methods of rendering chicken fat from chicken skin—boiling, griddling, deep-frying, using an oven, and using a microwave oven—and found that the microwave produced the lightest colored fat, indicative of a lack of oxidization and browning, and the highest yield. In 2013, Liyan Zhang, Bi Yin, and Hanming Rui expanded upon the findings of the 2002 study when they published a study of their own in The Journal of Food Science and Technology, in which they assessed the efficacy of various microwave power levels in rendering fat from chicken skin, and they agreed with the previous study's findings that a microwave is a very efficient rendering-fat-from-chicken-skin device, indeed.

Who Is Microwaving Chicken Skins? (Me.)

Chicken skin on a rimmed baking sheet
From this?Sho Spaeth

I first came across this second study because it was being passed around in the homemade ramen community. Mike Satinover, a homemade ramen enthusiast/quondam ramen chef, posted something about the study on his Instagram, although apparently the research was surfaced by members of a now-defunct Discord server that was run by Ryan Esaki, the man behind the popular The Way of Ramen Youtube channel. (Got all that? Good.) An aromatic liquid fat is an integral component of any bowl of ramen, so it figures that this specific subject would merit investigation for the community.

The method Satinover posted called for nuking chicken skins on high for about eight minutes, which basically tracks with the findings in the second study. The day after I saw it, as I butchered my weekly chicken, I set aside the breast skin and some of the fat from the cavity, cut it all up into rough, one-inch strips, stuck those in a little microwave-safe bowl, and let the machine rip. Eight minutes later and I had a little microwave-safe bowl's worth of chicken fat, with a mini gribenes iceberg floating in the middle of it. Success!

Well, in a sense. Some of the chicken skin cooked (microwaved?) a little faster than the rest and burned, which imparted a small burnt note to the aroma and flavor of the fat, and the interior of my microwave was also a steamy, greasy mess. But the fat was otherwise golden, if a little dark, and seemingly water-free, and it didn't require straining as the process didn't create any errant debris, so I decided to play around with the method, microwaving the breast skins from the chickens I take apart every week, along with any skin and fat I usually would save for the stock pot. Each time, I altered the process a bit, cutting up the chicken skins in different ways, using different quantities of chicken skin, using containers of different sizes and materials and shapes.

And then, about nine weeks in, the chicken skins broke my microwave.

A Flickering Light, an Ominous Sound

Minced chicken skin and chicken skin cut into strips on a rimmed baking sheet
Sho Spaeth

Now, I don't know that it was actually the chicken skins that broke my microwave, or whether my microwave just broke on its own, but it was definitely while microwaving a small amount of chicken skins that my microwave broke. About three minutes into rendering the fat from the breast skin of my chicken, my microwave started buzzing and the interior lights started flashing, and it was clear something was wrong. Not one to be cowed by a bit of dumb machinery, I didn't shut it off; I just watched it warily from the other side of my kitchen, which, in New York City, means two feet away. After enduring its constant buzzing and interior-light-flashing for an eternal four seconds more, I admitted to myself I am one to be cowed by a bit of dumb machinery freaking out two feet in front of me, and I shut it off.

But the microwave wasn't really broken, at least not yet. I still used it to warm up coffee and I could use it to steam frozen peas; it just really didn't like it when I tried to use it for chicken fat rendering. So, over the next several weeks, I continued to try microwaving chicken skins in containers of different sizes and materials, cutting up the chicken skin in various ways, from roughly hacked strips to a very fine mince, before sticking it into the microwave. I also tried iterations of each trial with a little ramekin filled with water placed alongside the chicken skin receptacle. In the water-less trials, my microwave would eventually begin bleating and blinking no matter what, although the finer the chicken skin was cut, the longer the machine would go before the bleating and blinking began. The trials with the ramekin filled with water produced none of the bleating and blinking, but I ended up having to extend them for twice as long (or longer, depending on the volume of water) in order to render all the fat from the chicken skin.

After all these trials, one morning my wife tried to warm up some leftovers, and when it started bleating and blinking she told me the chicken-skin thing had to stop. And we needed a new microwave.

Troubleshooting Microwaved Chicken Fat Troubles

Three different chicken skin chips, produced by cutting the skin up in different ways and microwaving it.
No matter the quantity, no matter how it's prepared, you can make chicken skin chips.Sho Spaeth

While I waited for my new microwave to arrive in the mail, I considered what could have possibly gone wrong. Scientists had completed whole studies showing the microwave renders fat from chicken skins quite well; they made no mention of bleating, blinking, or any other adverse effects to their microwave devices. I polled my followers on Instagram to see if they had tried this method and if anything had gone awry, and no one reported anything out of the ordinary (although a few complained about the greasy splatter the process makes). In order to receive some affirmation that I'm not incompetent, I did what everyone else does and searched Google for similar experiences, and found a couple of comments on recipes for rendering schmaltz in the microwave that reported that the container in which the skins were being microwaved became very hot, which tracked with my trials. (Granted, there's one report of a fire.) At a loss, I decided to contact someone who knows something about microwaves.

About a year ago, Chris Young, the chef, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, co-founder of ChefSteps, and now founder of Combustion, Inc., wrote an edifying Twitter thread on microwaves and bacon. I reached out to Young and described my dilemma, and he quickly pinpointed the small quantity of chicken skin, as well as the way in which I'd been cutting it up, as a potential issue. "The basic issue is your food is an antenna in a microwave," Young wrote, "and for smaller amounts, it’s acting as a bad antenna. Your microwave senses how much energy is being reflected or absorbed, and if the quantity of skin is too small, it doesn’t absorb microwave energy, and instead that energy is reflected around the cavity of the microwave and eventually shuts the magnetron off."

The bleating and the flashing of lights, then, was just my microwave telling me, its hapless owner, that he has, once again, turned on the microwave without putting anything inside. I hopped on the phone with Young and after a few pointed questions, he noted that while the study used 250g of chicken skin that was frozen, run through a grinder, and then microwaved, I was microwaving about 35g of fresh chicken skin that had been haphazardly hacked up. Young noted that both the freezing and grinding of the chicken skin would release a fair amount of water by ripping open the cells in the skin, and consequently "the extra wetness helps [the ground up chicken skin] absorb the microwave energy, making it a better antenna."

Young had a straightforward suggestion: Save up chicken skin in the freezer until I had about 250g worth, and then run it through a meat grinder before putting it in a microwave. Which was all well and good, and sounded perfectly reasonable to me, but I didn't think my betters here at Serious Eats would think it reasonable for our readers. I had had hopes of producing a foolproof method for any quantity of chicken skin you might have on hand, whether it's skin scraps from cutting up a single chicken or a wad of frozen skin scraps collected from many, many chickens.

When I said this to Young, he suggested an even more reasonable solution: Just lower the power setting on my microwave. He noted that the power setting on most microwaves, rather than literally adjusting their power output, simply cycles the machine's magnetron on and off. For the chicken skin, which apparently was absorbing some but not all of the energy emitted by my microwave, turning down the power setting would allow more time for absorbed energy to diffuse and evenly heat the chicken skin to render out the fat.

Patience Is a Virtue

When my new microwave arrived, I once again began microwaving the chicken skin scraps from my weekly chicken, but this time using a power setting of "3," which roughly translates to about 30% of full power. And I found, no matter what I did with the chicken skin, whether I cut it up quite finely, or ground it up, or cut it into one-inch-long strips, the lower power setting rendered fat quite efficiently. And while it it took about 25 minutes to fully render the fat from the skin, I found I didn't have to watch the process at all and I have yet to once experience anything like the burning that sometimes occurred during the full-power trials. (The time of about 25 minutes held true, too, for the microwave in our test kitchen, which is more powerful than the 700W one in my home.)

There was another unexpected benefit: Using a lower power setting made far less of a mess, no matter what Sasha had to say about the negligible amount of condensation the process produced in the work microwave oven; there's far less sputtering, which means you don't have to use a cover for the bowl you're microwaving the skin in. For cleanup, all you need to do is give the interior of your microwave a wipe-down to get rid of a little condensation. (And, of course, you need to clean up the bowl.)

However, for the absolute best results, and most efficient fat rendering, and if you'd like to really enjoy snacking on the crispy float of gribenes this method can produce, I highly recommend grinding or mincing the chicken skin as finely as you can. It is much easier to do this when the skin is cold, and, since freezing ruptures cell walls, it doesn't hurt to freeze your chicken skin first. But given that that's a lot of preparation for rendering chicken fat, I can also assure you that if you do a haphazard job of cutting up a little bit of chicken skin and throw it in a microwave-safe container, set the power setting to 30%, and microwave it for 20-25 minutes, you produce a small quantity of beautifully golden chicken fat.

If you are absolutely intent on eating that float of crackling but don't want to go through the effort of mincing or freezing or grinding, just stop the process about halfway through and flip the little gribenes iceberg over in the pooled fat, otherwise the top will be soft and leathery instead of crisp. (You also may need to zap it for a little longer.) Needless to say, this is essentially a deep-fried edible thing, so it must be salted immediately after you remove it from the fat, if you plan on eating it. (Eat it with pickles, and/or kimchi: it's a really good combination.)

Little chicken skin chips on a plate with a pile of naga negi kimchi
Name a more iconic duo.Sho Spaeth

So now that you have a bunch of liquid chicken fat, what do you do with it? (Or, as Sasha puts it so poetically, "Who wants this?") Well, you can use it for ramen, of course, which is where this all started. But chicken fat, like any other oil, can be used where most any other oil can. Use it for making fried rice, brown potatoes in it, warm it up and use it in a vinaigrette, or, I don't know, fry some chicken cutlets in it—it's not quite as good as cutlets fried in clarified butter, but it's quite good. If you amass enough (it keeps quite well in the fridge, but keeps indefinitely in the freezer), you could even make a confit.

Like a microwave, there isn't much you can't do with it.

Place chicken skin in high-sided microwave-safe container, such as a bowl, spreading it out as evenly as possible in the bottom of the container. Set microwave power setting to 30% of full power and cook for 25 minutes, flipping mass of cooked chicken skin once halfway through cooking (optional, see note).

Minced chicken skin and chicken skin cut into strips on a rimmed baking sheet
Sho Spaeth

Using oven mitts, carefully remove vessel from microwave and pour rendered fat into a clean heatproof container (discard crispy chicken crackling, or reserve for another use; see note). Rendered fat can be used immediately or can be set aside to cool to room temperature, then covered and stored in the refrigerator.

A small glass bowl of golden chicken fat
Yup, it's chicken fat.Sho Spaeth

Special Equipment

Microwave oven.

Notes

A whole chicken breast can have anywhere from 0.5 ounces to 1.5 ounces (25g-50g) of chicken skin, depending on the weight of the bird and the way it processed. This recipe was tested with a range of chicken skin weights, and the method should be applicable to larger amounts of chicken skin with slight variations in cook time, but that has not been tested thoroughly.

The more finely cut up the chicken skin is, the more efficient the fat rendering will be. However, the real benefit to finely cutting up the chicken skin is that the chicken skin chip that results from renderings finely cut up skin is more enjoyable to eat.

The same goes for flipping the puck that the chicken skin becomes after the initial rendering. For a more fully crispy chicken skin chip, flip the puck of chicken skin over about halfway through the rendering process. And, as with anything cooked/dehydrated in hot liquid fat, if you plan on eating the chicken skin chip, salt it immediately after removing it from the fat.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Rendered chicken fat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, and up to 6 months in the freezer.

Nimbu Soda (Indian-Style Lime Soda)

There may be no better drink for beating the heat than a nimbu soda, a lime-and-soda drink that’s ubiquitous in India.


There may be no better drink for beating the heat than a nimbu soda, a lime-and-soda drink that's ubiquitous in India. Read More