I confess a weakness for potato chips, especially when made fresh. I would make them at home IF it weren’t such a mess to do – I am not a big fan of deep frying. The answer to my problem came two years ago when I stopped by the Mastrad booth at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. The people at Mastrad were making chips in a microwave and of course I had to taste a sample. Both my wife and I loved the crispy chips and I swore I would get my hands on the product that produced them and try it for myself. As part of an awards luncheon SWAG bag earlier this year, I finally got my hands on one and have been using it off and on for the last few months.
Mastrad Chip Maker
The chip maker from Mastrad is called Topchips™ and is sold as a stand alone tray, a single tray with a slicer or a set of 2 trays with a slicer. The trays are made of food grade premium silicone. There is a hard plastic piece fitted along the outer rim to provide support and allow trays to be stacked. They are 11″ in diameter and about an inch high so they fit easily in any microwave.
The Mastrad chip maker is very easy to use, but before you buy and use it the first time you will need to ensure you have at least one tool…
If you don’t own one, you will NEED to have a mandoline. Mastrad makes a very good one that is obviously designed to work perfectly with the chip maker. I used 3 slicers in testing the chip maker, the Bron Stainless Steel Professional Mandoline, the Börner V Power Mandoline and the Mastrad Mini Slicer. The first two I already owned and the Mastrad Mini Mandoline came included in the box. The Mastrad Mini is a fixed width slicer that creates slices about 1/16th of an inch or 1-1.5mm. The Bron and the Börner are adjustable but can make slices this thin. There are other slicers that can produce a thin enough cut, but I worked with what I had.
There are many foods you can turn into healthy chips – the potato of course, but you can also use carrots, beets, apples, pears and even mangoes.
The decision to peel or not to peel is up to you, I chose not to peel the food as part of the preparations. If you want no peel in your finished product, then peel them before slicing. Certainly foods like mangoes, beets and maybe sweet potatoes are foods you need to peel before making chips but regular potato, apple and pear are just fine with the peel left on and add a nice visual appeal.
After peeling the food, you may have to trim it to make sure it fits within the bounds of the mandoline track or trough. The Mastrad Mini has an over all width of 3″ but has less in actual slicing area, closer to 2 3/4″. Trimming to fit is important when making ultra thin slices, because you need the food to be flush with the slicer to get an even full length slice. When using the Mastrad Mini, you will likely need to trim apples, pears and sweet potatoes to fit on the slicer as it is narrower in width. The more traditional mandolines, like Bron and Börner, have over 3 1/2″ of track/trough width which should accommodate most fruits and vegetables.
Next, position the fruit or vegetable on the slicer and USING THE HAND GUARD, move the food quickly up and down the slicer. The instructions enclosed with the chip maker indicate you should dab off any excess moisture prior to placing the sliced food on the trays. I found it less necessary with the potatoes but the fruit definitely needed that drying dab.
You are now ready to make delicious chips.
How much you slice depends on how many you are feeding. The standard recommended serving size of potato chips is 1 oz by weight. I found 1 medium Yukon Gold potato yielded 1 oz of finished chips. I would slice 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes when making chips for my wife and I. One medium apple made a satisfying amount of chips for the two of us.
NOTE: this product is only intended for use in the microwave. Do not use it in an oven, toaster oven, cooktop or grill.
Forget what you read in the instruction manual and season your chips BEFORE you put the tray in the microwave. I followed the instructions to the letter and found it very difficult to get any seasoning to stick to the finished chips. Unlike deep frying or baking where you can successfully apply seasonings after the food is finished, the nature of this essentially dry cooking method does not allow for it.
You can use any seasoning you think will benefit the food you are cooking. Although I used Mrs. Dash and Old Bay to season, simple sea salt was my favorite seasoning for the plain potato. With fruits like apple and pear, I liked using a pumpkin pie spice mix I have in the pantry (and can’t seem to use up).
Fill the tray with as many food slices as you can without overlapping. Place the tray, uncovered, in the microwave and set the cooking time using the chart in the instruction manual. Start with the recommended time, then depending on the type and age of your microwave, the thickness of the food and personal preference, you may have to adjust the cooking time. Potatoes should cook in 3 – 3 1/2 minutes while apple or pear may take as long as 5-6 minutes. The chart included by Mastrad has empty blocks for each food type where you can make notes about the cooking time you prefer. You may also have to adjust the seasoning with subsequent batches to suit your taste.
If you bought more than one tray, follow their guidance, add time to the cooking and do not stack more than 3 trays. Stacking multiple trays does help save time especially when you are making a lot of chips for a party or large family.
After the chips finish cooking, I lay them out in a single layer on a cooling rack or bare counter to cool. Take note that some foods may seem somewhat soft or pliable when they first come out, but will crisp up after cooling. The fruit chips may return to a somewhat damp state after sitting for a while. I don’t know why that is, but it didn’t affect the taste or enjoyment at all. While the next batch cooks, I scoop the chips up and put them in a serving bowl, at least with the ones that don’t get sampled. In many ways making chips at home is like baking cookies, it is hard not to eat as you cook.
If you are cooking foods with longer cooking times or after several batches, the silicone tray may become pretty hot to the touch, so make sure you use an oven mitt when handling them. Silicone cools down quickly, so by the time you have removed the chips from the tray, it should have cooled to room temperature.
The finished results were better than I expected actually. The potato chips had a clean potato flavor and seemed less filling than commercial potato chips. They are certainly healthier as there is no added fat of any kind. The apple chips were like apple flavored gossamer, so light. The apple flavor was sweet and intensified and the spice blend added a nice finishing note. We ate the fruit chips up like candy, sooo good.
Clean up is very easy. The cooking trays wash up quickly with a soapy sponge and as they are made from silicone, nothing will permanently stick to the tray surface, not even spice mixes. The Mastrad chip maker trays are top shelf dishwasher safe if you choose not to wash them by hand. As with other food grade silicone tools, do not use abrasive cleaners or you risk damaging it. The mandoline is also easy to clean with little effort especially if you give it a quick rinse under the faucet right after you are done slicing.
I admit I love the chips I made with the Mastrad Chip Maker. Being fat free, they are very healthy and since you get to choose the source of the food and flavorings, you can be confident it is rich in vitamins and nutrients. It can take a bit of time to make a big bowl of chips, but like most made-at-home foods, making healthy alternatives to commercially produced food is a labor of love.
This is also the kind of project where you can involve the kids, who will find it fun to experiment with various foods and flavors.
The Mastrad TopChips chip maker is sold in a variety of forms:
You can even buy the Mini Mandoline by itself. The Mastrad Mini Mandoline is very sharp and effective, able to quickly create ultra thin slices and would be great for any home lacking a hand held slicer.
I am very glad I got a chance to use this product and look forward to many years of making tasty, healthy chips at home.
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