11/04/2011 09:46 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

Tortilla and Pita Chips

I know almost no one who makes tortilla or pita chips at home instead of buying them -- a shame, because homemade chips are dead easy and far better in every way than bagged chips.

How to Make Your Own Chips

To make tortilla or pita chips, you follow the same process as making croutons: Cut into pieces, brush with olive oil, and bake in a hot oven until they're crisp and golden. Once they're out of the oven, sprinkle them with salt and any other seasoning you want-black pepper, spices, minced herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, even cinnamon sugar if you want them a little sweet. That's it.

Baked vs Deep Fried

Purists may tell you that these aren't real chips, because real chips are deep fried. And it's true that that the tortilla chips you buy at the store and eat in Mexican restaurants are deep fried, and indeed deep-fried chips tend to be more evenly crisp than baked chips. And I do make deep-fried chips from time to time, though they require a lot of oil and more attention than oven chips (see my recipe for Tortilla Chips if you'd like to give it a try).

Still: I'm more likely to make oven chips than fried chips since they're healthier and less of an ordeal, and baked chips taste far better than bagged deep-fried chips, because you eat them fresh and hot from the oven, while bagged chips are inevitably weeks or months old and often contain preservatives.

Getting Them Crisp

Besides, it's easy to make oven-baked chips almost as crisp as fried ones. Start with slightly stale tortillas or pitas; fresh, soft tortillas and pitas contain more moisture, which will interfere with their ability to get crisp. (The same is true when you're making croutons, which you can make out of any stale bread. Baguettes are traditional and result in all-purpose croutons, but challah, brioche, whole grain bread, bagels, cornbread, and even fruit-, olive-, or nut-studded bread will work, too.)

Second, wait until the tortillas, pitas, or bread pieces start to get a little golden before you brush them with oil. If you coat them with oil too soon, the pieces will burn before they're evenly crisp. I prefer a brush (you can use a spray can if you like) to distribute oil on chips or croutons evenly, but you can also use the back of a spoon to dribble oil with fairly good results. Third, keep an eye on them and rotate the pans if your oven cooks unevenly; try to remove them from the oven before the edges start to turn dark brown, let alone black.

With a little practice, you'll be turning out homemade chips like a pro, and looking for excuses to make them. Luckily, there are many. Oven-baked chips are great with dip-salsa, guacamole, bean dip, hummus, tapanade, sour cream dip, whatever. They can also be crumbled and served on top of soup or salad or any other dish that could use a little crunch. And though they're best straight from the oven, they'll keep in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week -- and days-old homemade chips will still taste better than the kind from a bag.


Baked Chips or Croutons

Tortilla Chips

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