My sincere thanks to 10 year old Brenden for inspiring me to try baked kale chips. Brenden made these for his brothers and mom & dad. They devoured the whole batch and dad Scott headed out to buy 2 more bundles of fresh kale. When I heard that, I knew I had to try it. Who knew baked kale is delicious! Although it doesn’t taste like popcorn, it’s similar to popcorn in that it’s light, crunchy, a bit salty…and addictive. It’s very hard to eat just one. We made these for Karen’s 2015 Golden Globes party. Yum!!
I followed Brenden’s suggestion to use the foodnetwork recipe. I’m linking it below. The recipe itself is simple and reliable. However, after doing some testing on my own, I have some sure fire tips to make the perfect kale chip.
Sara’s Tips to make the perfect kale chip.
1. The water. After rinsing the kale, shake off excess water & wrap in a few paper towels. Let rest a minute then begin wiping & dabbing each leaf with the paper towel both top and bottom of the leaf. Not kidding here…search and destroy every little droplet of water. Water is your enemy.
2. The kale. It has a tough woody stem that you don’t want. Hold the end of the stem with one hand, and starting at the base of the leaf, use your other hand to strip away the leaf from the stem. Don’t be shy - you’ll have a much better result if you can strip away the leaf as intact as possible. I disagreed with recipe I’m linking when it says to cut the leaves into pieces. That makes for a lot of little nibbly bits because these shrink in the oven. I prefer keeping the leaves larger sized. They’re easier to bake, as well.
3. The oil. Place the kale leaves in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. For one large bundle of kale, I used 2 tablespoons of oil. Toss with your clean hands and gently coat at much of the kale as possible. It will shine up beautifully. It’s possible not all the leaves are evenly coated, more on that below.
4. The baking sheet. You need a large baking sheet - probably 2 of them. And as much as I favor cooking on parchment or foil to protect the pan and easy clean up - that is a No-No with this kale. You need to bake the kale directly on the pan to ensure the best crispiness. Nonstick spray is not needed. The chips won’t really stick to the pan (unless you burn them…but you won’t do that).
5. Kale placement. Do not overcrowd the pan. Place the kale in one layer - everyone gets their little personal space. And this is the time you inspect each leaf for proper oil distribution. Just use what’s already there and rub it around a little. I have no doubt you’ll see areas that were missed earlier. Again, probably don’t need more oil, try to use what’s already on the leaf.
6. The seasoning. Sprinkle with the kosher salt, or sea salt…but ignore the temptation to over-season. My first batch I put on what I thought seemed OK, but it turned out too salty. You can always add more later once they’re cooked. I’ll be trying other seasonings in the future, sesame seeds come to mind.
7. The oven. Every oven has their own personality and peculiarities. Some bake hotter towards the back, others bake hotter on the bottom. Whatever your oven’s personality is - it will shine through with these kale chips…and in a bad way. If you know your oven bakes hotter on the bottom, then 1/2 way through baking, put it on the top rack…do whatever you need to in order to adjust the position of the baking sheet. With my oven, it bakes hotter in the rear, so I had to turn the baking sheet around 1/2 way through. In the picture below, this is 1/2 way through and I was in the middle of turning them over when the picture was snapped. I put everyone back in their little spot so there was no over-crowding.
8. The baking. Temperature is key. The recipe calls for 250F but that was too low for me. I live at an elevation a mile high, so my oven needs to run hotter. I adjusted to 300F and it worked perfectly. Bake for around 15 minutes, however start peeking in on it at around 10 minutes, pull it out and see where you’re at with crispiness. At first, the chip will be somewhat wilty…that’s OK. Turn them over and put them back in the oven and check on it in another 5 minutes. Need to give each side their fair chance to bake directly on the sheet. Once the chips seem “close” to being done, but not quite there, hang out near the oven. This is where mistakes can happen, even over-baking for 2 minutes will burn your chip. You know those pictures of yucky brown kale chips? Ya, those are burned and bitter. You want a dark forest green chip. Remove from the oven and let sit a moment, plate up and snuggle in for a good movie with your bowl of kale chips.
9. Storage - if you have the rare occasion when some are left over, simply cover loosely with plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag - might not want to seal the bag entirely, leave an airspace open. Oh, and be sure they are totally cooled before covering - you don’t want steam or condensation to build.
I hope that helps!
You rock, Brenden.