This recipe is part of Crispianity: a column devoted to all foods crispy and crunchy, two of the most underappreciated attributes of a great dish. Author Adeena Sussman is a food writer and recipe developer, pairing here with her photographer friend Evan Sung. Sussman’s most recent cookbook, coauthored with Lee Brian Schrager, is America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes From Coast to Coast.
My benchmark onion ring belongs to chef Josh Capon; he very generously gifted it to Chrissy Teigen for use in Cravings, the cookbook I coauthored with Chrissy this year. While there are many secrets to a perfect onion ring, let’s start with the onion itself: I’ve found that firm, oversized Vidalias, or other sweet varieties, stand up best to the thick batter, yet still cook to melting perfection within their crispy casing.
In his version, chef Capon pulls out all the stops: cornstarch for powdery crunch, a little leavening agent and not one, but two types of alcohol for a fizzy, flavorful finish. I took that recipe and tweaked it, swapping in potato starch for cornstarch, upping the amount of fizzy beer in lieu of some wine and amping up the spices. The result is onion rings so good you’ll like them as much at room temperature as you will right out of the fryer. The usual rules of Crispianity apply: Make sure your oil is clean, let it return to temperature between batches, and don’t move your product around in the fryer; let it tread oil and do its thing!
- 2 jumbo sweet onions (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
- 1 gallon vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 cups potato starch
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup beer, plus more if necessary
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the onion rings
Trim off the top and bottom of the onions, carefully peel, and slice the onions into ½-inch discs. (If you’re an obsessive-compulsive type, you can only use the bigger rings, then use the smaller ones for sautéing or something else). Separate the discs into rings and reserve.
Fill a 6-quart pot just under halfway with oil (yes, it’s a lot of oil. Frying does not do you any favors, especially deep-frying.) Heat the oil to 350°F. Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer, and if you don’t have one, drop a torn-off piece of white bread into the oil; it should sizzle and begin to brown and crisp immediately, but not too fast – if it sort of self-incinerates in the oil, your oil’s too hot (again that thermometer…)
In a large bowl whisk together the potato starch, flour, baking soda, paprika, smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne, beer and water.
Using tongs or your hands, dip the rings into the batter and add them to the pot a few at a time. Don’t crowd/overfill the pot! These babies need some swimming room so they a.) don't stick together and b.) don’t take that oil temperature down too far. Fry them, flipping halfway through when the underside, 2-3 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and more smoked paprika, if desired.