An unfinished bowl of hot chips feels like a sin. Seeing those fluffy mouthfuls of golden deliciousness turn cold breaks our hearts every time. This is the main reason we’ve been so invested in finding a failsafe way to reheat those babies for so long. Microwaving? Not good enough. Tossing them in the oven? Nah. For a moment there, we thought waffling cold fries was the best technique around, but oh were we proven wrong.
Back at the beginning of this year — when we were young and the air was sweet — I wrote a little blog claiming that waffling sad, cold chips was a first-rate way to reheat them.
Almost immediately, the comments started rolling in. “You fool, you absolute imbecile,” they said. “An air fryer is the only tool you should use to reheat chips and you are an idiot for suggesting otherwise.” (I am paraphrasing, but this was the feel of the comments, at least as I recall it.)
“Maybe I should get an air fryer,” I thought, before waiting another eight months to get one. (I finally got the Instant Pot Vortex Mini, because it is small and red and about $70.)
The tiny, powerful convection oven — which does not technically fry anything — is quite handy. I’ve already got a whole list of stuff I plan to air fry, but I started with cold chips (and ate them for breakfast), because that’s what brought us to this point in the first place.
My friends, you (and everyone else who yelled at me) were not lying. When it comes to restoring limp, cardboard-like chips to their former crisp, golden glory, the air fryer kicks the waffle maker’s arse (though I maintain waffled leftover chips make excellent breakfast potatoes).
Leftover chips are sad and soggy due to moisture migration, and the air fryer takes care of that nonsense in short order. Once a fry starts to cool, the water inside the fluffy starch granules moves out towards the crust, rendering the insides of the fry grainy and the outsides mushy. An air fryer can’t rehydrate those starch granules, but it certainly revives a fry’s soggy outsides. The hot, circulating air drives off moisture and gets any dormant fry grease movin’ and groovin’, re-crisping the potato’s crust. And while the insides aren’t quite as tender and fluffy as they are when you first take them out of a deep fryer, they are pretty damn close. The ones I ate for breakfast this morning were almost indistinguishable from fresh chips, though it’s worth noting that they seemed to be a “fresh-cut, once cooked” kind of fry, so this may have only been their second (not third) heating.
Beyond re-heating completely cold chips, this is a great way to revive takeout chips that may have sat in a paper bag or plastic container for too long. Just a couple of minutes in a 190 degree Celsius air fryer perks ‘em right back up. Timing will vary from air fryer to air fryer but, unlike the Instant Pot or a sous-vide circulator, it’s very easy to check on your air fried food mid-cook — just slide the little basket out.
It took my air fryer a mere five minutes at 190 degrees C to restore cold, lifeless, fairly thick-cut breakfast chips to their former glory, which is dangerously quick, particularly in a household that is prone to over-ordering chips.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.