What is a Chip Pan?
A chip pan is a deep pan with a lid that is used for frying food such as french fries. In the United Kingdom, french fries are called chips, giving the pan its name. The chip pan is deep enough to hold four or five cups (about 1 liter) of cooking oil. A wire mesh basket that has been filled with food is then lowered into the pan for frying. Both the pan and the basket have long handles to help prevent burns during cooking.
Traditionally made from cast iron, a chip pan comes with a lid that is created by a stamping process in a heavy press. The malleable iron goes through a spinning process to create the pan. Newer pans typically are made from stainless steel or aluminum, have matching metal or glass tops and have handles and knobs that stay cool to the touch during cooking. The chip baskets used with the pans usually are made out of aluminum, which has a high melting temperature, making it an ideal material to use for cooking in hot oil.
A large chip pan full of hot oil can be a fire hazard and is believed to be the largest cause of fire-related injuries in the United Kingdom. These fires are caused when hot oil or fat spills onto the cooker, the oil is overheated and catches fire or the food placed into the chip pan has water on it, causing the hot oil to bubble up and overflow. Frequent warnings about the dangers of frying with a chip pan are issued year after year, and safer ways to cook chips are recommended. The chip pan has become less popular as safer electrical deep fryers have become more prevalent.
To make chips in a chip pan, the cook fills the pan at least half full of cooking oil, such as vegetable oil. The oil is heated for several minutes. Then, the uncooked chips are added to an aluminum basket and lowered into the chip pan. After the chips have been fried thoroughly in the oil, the basket is raised up out of the pan as the oil drips off, then the chips are dumped from the basket onto paper towels or something similar. The excess oil drains from the chips, and they cool off until the chips reach a suitable temperature for eating.
I have a friend in the United Kingdom who comes for a visit every year. Last year he brought me a chip pan as a gift. Though I was use to making fried potato chips in a deep fat fryer, I quickly adapted to this new cookware.
I think that the chip pan makes potato chips turn out crunchier and much better than a traditional deep fat fryer does, and I use it all the time now.
I have used a chip pan to make French fries, and I think that the best type of oil to use is canola oil. It's better for your health that more fattening oils, and gives the French fries a light flavor and crispy crunch.
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