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11/02/2011 04:10 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Tortilla Chips

Iliana de la Vega of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates that making tortilla chips at home can be fun and easy. To make the chips -- called totopos in Mexico -- she heats up canola oil in a pan to 275 degrees F. Making a short stack of corn tortillas, she cuts them in half with a chef's knife, then cuts each half in four triangular sections, creating 8 chips per tortilla. After adding the chips to the oil, she demonstrates how to cut strips for soup or decoration: Simply make thin cuts perpendicular to the center cut, trimming off the rounded edges.

When the chips are golden (they don't need much cooking time; less than 5 minutes), she removes them with a spatula and transfers them to paper towels to drain. When frying the strips, be sure to stir them gently to break them apart from each other and ensure even cooking. The thinner the strip, the more quickly they will cook. Once the chips come out of the hot oil, sprinkle them with salt or simply leave them as-is.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Iliana de la Vega from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make tortilla chips.

In Mexico, we call tortilla chips totopos, so I'm going to show you how to make totopos. Your oil should be at about 275 fahrenheit. You can use canola oil, you can use lard if you like, or any unflavored oil. I have two different types of tortillas. Both are corn: they have to be corn, not flour. I have regular white corn tortillas, and I have blue corn tortillas.

For this cut we are making the traditional cut for totopos, or tortilla chips, so we cut them in half here. You can make three large ones or four out of each half - we'll make it four, so they are not too big. We'll put all these chips down here in the pan. Be careful! Remember, you're working with oil, so put them slowly and carefully to prevent splattering, and getting burned on your hands. Over here, I have a baking pan, and I put a rack and then some paper towels on top. When you fry, you don't want any excess of fat to be remaining in your food, so this way it will drain.

That is one kind of cut, and while these are getting fried I will take another stack of tortillas and I will make now a cut for for tortilla soup. We cut the tortillas In half again; stack one half on top of the other, to make less work. Now, get rid of the edges; we don't want those, because we want beautiful cuts for tortilla soup, you know, to make it pretty, like this. [Cutting small rectangles] Anything that goes into your mouth, when you are putting it in a spoon, you want it to fit into the spoon so it won't be complicated when you're eating it - so watch that always.

Let's make another one that we can use for decorations. We'll use the blue tortillas now. Cut in half again, again take off the ends - and now we'll make really thin cuts. So for decorations, if you're making tomato soup or a chilled avocado soup, or something like that, you just put a little bit of this for decoration on top of your soup and it will be pretty.

Let's check on our totopos here. I'll use two spatulas to turn them a little bit so they get nice and brown in color. As you can see, it is frying without any smoke coming out; that is important. We want them a golden color, a little bit dark. And remember, once you remove them from the oil, they are still warm and the oil is hot. Even when they're here on the rack, they will be still cooking a little bit and getting more color. Perhaps they take five minutes or less in the frying process. I'm going to take this out from the oil now. Again, you have to be careful, always, with the oil.

Now for tortilla soup let's fry these - again, don't be afraid of the oil. Separate them a little bit so they fry faster. Don't fill your pan with the tortillas; otherwise it will take longer to cook. We can see our chips are getting color here, and they begin to kind of float on top. That also tells you they are ready. Check for their color outside the oil.

Now let's do the decoration ones, with the blue corn tortillas. There we go. A little stir, and this will be faster, because what we are frying has less mass. Here we have them: they have a little bit of color. They look a little bit brownish, not as purple as they were before. so I think I am ready to remove them. Work fast; otherwise they will get more color. You can sprinkie salt if you like, or leave them the Mexican way, just like this. So this is how you make tortilla chips.