Electric skillets are versatile kitchen appliances that can be used to bake, roast, stew -- even make cobblers and cakes. French fries, latkes, wedges or simple fried sliced potatoes turn out golden brown and crispy every time. The secret is in using the right variety of potato and the right oil and temperature.
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Select an oil with a high smoke point so you can heat it to 320 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit -- the optimum temperature for frying potatoes -- without smoking. The temperature you use depends on the thickness of the potato pieces and how crispy you want the potatoes.
Some oils with high smoke points include corn, sesame seed and sunflower, which smoke at about 410 F. Peanut, safflower, soybean and grapeseed oils are smoke-free up to about 450 F.
Scrub and peel firm Idaho russet potatoes. Leave the skins on organic potatoes, if desired. Idaho russet potatoes have a high starch content, so they fry golden brown outside and retain their shape as they cook tender throughout.
Slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick; or shred, dice or cut them into wedges or into bite-size chunks.
Preheat the oil in the electric skillet before adding the potatoes. Monitor the oil carefully as it heats.
Pat dry the potato pieces before placing them in the hot oil to reduce spattering. Ease the potatoes into the hot oil and cover them to prevent splattering as they fry.
Fry the potatoes until the bottoms brown, about 5 minutes, depending on the cut of the pieces and the temperature of the skillet. Turn and stir the potatoes using a metal turner with a stainless skillet and a wooden utensil with a nonstick coated skillet. Some plastic utensils do not withstand higher temperatures.
For shredded hash browns or latkes, use about ¼ inch of oil in the skillet. Turn the potato cakes when they are golden on the bottom, and remove from the skillet when both sides are brown.
Pour about 1 inch of oil into the electric skillet and preheat it to about 375 F.
Ease french fry-cut potatoes into the hot oil in a single layer in the pan so the pieces are submerged in oil.
Fry until the potatoes are golden.
Remove the potatoes from the oil with a slotted skimmer and drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle them with salt or seasonings such as smoky paprika, onion powder or finely crushed dried herbs.
Leftover Mashed Potato Balls
In a large bowl mix together about 2 cups of cold mashed potatoes, 1 egg and about 1 1/2 cups total combined shredded cheddar, finely chopped green onion and crumbled bacon, adjusting the amount of each to taste.
Form the mixture into 1-inch balls and allow them to set on waxed paper.
Preheat 1 inch of oil in an electric skillet to about 375 F.
Roll each potato ball in fine breadcrumbs and place them into the hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry the balls for about 3 minutes until they are golden brown, turning if necessary to brown all sides.
Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
Include your favorite add-ins such as sliced onion, or sweet or hot peppers, adding them when the potatoes are about half done to avoid overcooking the more tender vegetables. Add shredded cheese, fresh peas or chopped kale just before the potatoes are done. For meat add-ins such as bacon, ham or sausage, use precooked meat or cook the meat first and include the drippings with the oil for added flavor.