Chef Roberto Santibañez Explains Why Tortilla Chips Taste Better At Restaurants Than At Home

tortilla chips surrounding slasa verde on a white table
tortilla chips surrounding slasa verde on a white table - Rudisill/Getty Images

Everyone looks forward to a Mexican food feast, especially when it's accompanied by bottomless baskets of tortilla chips. While store-bought tortilla chips may be labeled "restaurant style," there's just something about chips at Mexican food restaurants that makes them so freakishly addictive. Tasting Table staff recently spoke to Roberto Santibañez, chef and owner of New York's Fonda restaurants, about why tortilla chips taste better at restaurants than at home.

According to chef Santibañez, the superiority of tortilla chips served at restaurants lies in both the ingredients and the technique. He goes on to explain that the Fonda restaurants "get these high-quality tortillas from a vendor in Chicago, who has honed the recipe over generations." These high-quality tortillas are thinner than the average tortillas you'll find at the grocery store or even a local tortilleria. Therefore, the thinner tortilla results in light, thin, ultra-crispy tortilla chips.

Chef Santibañez also points out that restaurants have high-tech equipment and experienced staff that can crank out chips at a faster rate. Therefore, he asserts that restaurant chips are so delicious because the kitchen staff has "the possibility of frying them fresh for every shift."

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

How To Spruce Up Homemade Tortilla Chips

homemade triangle tortilla chips in a bowl
homemade triangle tortilla chips in a bowl - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

While Chef Santibañez asserts that restaurant chips are better than those made at home, he has plenty of tips for how to make the most of homemade tortilla chips. Simplicity and precision are key. Just as with the chips you get at a restaurant, Santibañez says, "Corn tortillas should always be used to make homemade tortilla chips." If you attempt to fry flour tortillas, they will "end up being too greasy," Santibañez explains.

Furthermore, a neutral oil with a higher smoke point is optimal for deep frying tortillas without masking or affecting their earthy, savory corn flavor. Canola, safflower, and avocado oil would all be good choices. Simplicity also applies to tortilla chip seasonings — Santibañez recommends using only fine salt and sprinkling it over "the chips while they are hot so that the salt attaches." While you can use tajin or chili powder, it's best to keep tortilla chips simple so as not to upstage the zesty, spicy, and more complex dipping salsas, queso, or guacamole.

Lastly, for even cooking and the crispiest, most restaurant-style results, Santibañez recommends using a deep pan to fully submerge the chips in oil as they fry. Most importantly, he stresses that the frying oil temperature shouldn't go above 350 degrees Fahrenheit. A thermometer is an important tool to maintain and control the temperature of your frying oil at all times.

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