The Trouble With Homemade Tater Tots
On New Years Day, I decided I needed some fried potatoes to go with the homemade ketchup my friend Mark and I had made the previous week. And not just any fried potatoes. No siree. I wanted the king of fried potato junk food goodness: greasy, crispy Tater Tots. But authentic Tater Tots come in a plastic bag, so I’d have to see if I could make them myself. As always, Google was right there with the answer. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats had reverse engineered the tater tot and provided an easy-to-follow recipe, one that looked like it would win the Napoleon Dynamite stamp of approval.
But making homemade Tater Tots turned out not to be the plastic-free, waste-free process I had hoped for. I’ll explain what I mean further in this post. First, the recipe:
Homemade Tater Tots: Step by Step
- 2 pounds russet potatoes (I actually used 2 large potatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds)
- 2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil (I actually used a lot less oil, buying a 16-ounce glass bottle of Spectrum organic high temperature sunflower oil because it was the only high temperature oil I could find on New Years Day.)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I cut this amount in half, and it was still too much salt. Be sparing! You can always add salt later.)
- 1 tablesoon cornstarch or potato starch (I used cornstarch, since it was what I already had in the house, and cut the amount in half.)
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar (I used 1/4 tsp.)
- Freshly ground black pepper
1) Peel the potatoes and cut into roughly 1-inch chunks. Soak chunks in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes.
2) Pat potato chunks dry with a clean tea towel. (Why waste paper towels?)
3) Heat oil in saucepan or fryer to 350°F, toss in potato chunks, and cook until golden brown.
4) Turn down the burner to low, remove the fried potatoes, and drain. The instructions say to drain them on paper towels, but we actually don’t buy disposable paper towels. So I just drained them through a wire sieve. After all, that’s what they do at McDonald’s, right? (You should start to worry when your cooking standards start to resemble those of McDonald’s — but I digress.)
5) Place fried potatoes in food processor a little at a time and pulse quickly a few times to break up into smaller pieces. Do not overprocess them into mush.
6) Add cornstarch, sugar, and salt to processed fried potatoes.
7) Form into that familiar tubular Tater Tot shape.
8) Heat oil again to 350°F and toss in the shaped Tater Tots. Fry until golden brown.
9) Turn off heat, remove Tots, and drain.
10) Server with homemade tomato ketchup.
11) Give them to someone you love and see if they smile. If they do, you have succeeded.
So What’s the Problem?
Michael liked my homemade tots. I thought they were too salty, but that’s something that could easily be remedied the next time. Except, there isn’t going to be a next time. Why? Because of the oil.
First of all, while the oil came in a glass bottle, the cap, seal, and neck were made of plastic — all this plastic for only one meal. I mean, I do sometimes buy glass bottles of oil or vinegar or other cooking ingredients with plastic tops, but they last for many weeks or months — not one sitting.
Which brings me to the second issue — all this oil for only one meal! This was the first time I ever deep fried anything, and I’m troubled looking at the nearly full bottle of dirty cooking oil I’m left with. Think of how many sunflowers it must have taken to make this bottle of oil.
I didn’t want to waste it, so I checked Google once again to find out where to take it to be recycled. There are several locations in the East Bay and San Francisco for residents to drop off used cooking oil to be converted into bio-diesel. The closest to me was at the Oakland Whole Foods Market, so I hopped on my bike and pedaled my dirty oil over to the recycling station.
So, I recycled it. But here’s the thing: there were 3,840 calories in this bottle. But instead of using those calories as food to power myself, I am basically giving them away to be used to power someone else’s car!
Now, after another quick Google search, I see many foodie articles claiming that it’s okay to re-use vegetable oil a few times as long as you strain in and keep it cold, even freeze it. But honestly, I’m suspicious of that. Cooking causes oil to break down, creating carcinogenic free radicals. Dr. Andrew Weil advises against reusing cooking oil because of “a toxin called 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (HNE) forms when such oils as canola, corn, soybean and sunflower oils are reheated.” Of course, it’s not like Tater Tots are health food in the first place. Still, mitigating the damage is never a bad idea.
I’m thinking that the next time I want fried potatoes, I’ll make potato pancakes in a fry pan with a little oil. Or maybe I could figure out a way to make the actual Tots in a fry pan. What do you think? Ideas? Suggestions? How can I keep all the greasy goodness for myself instead of pouring it away?
I love Guided Products recycled binders & notebooks. Read my review.
If you’re going to revisit this idea, after cutting clean potatoes, soak in ice water is necessary.
Here’s a youtuber to walk you through making crispy baked French fries.
It’s a myth that Extra virgin Olive Oil is not safe for frying, in fact EVOO is one of the safest for frying and cooking. There are several studies about that. One of them:
A study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
tested the effects of continuously heating virgin olive oil for 36 hours
to measure how the oil degraded. The scientists reported:
Two monovarietal extra virgin olive oils
from Arbequina and Picual cultivars were subjected to heating at 180
degrees C (356 degrees F) for 36 h. Oxidation progress was monitored by
measuring oil quality changes (peroxide value and conjugated dienes and
trienes), fatty acid composition, and minor compound content. From
these results, we can conclude that despite the heating conditions, VOO
(virgin olive oil) maintained most of its minor compounds and,
therefore, most of its nutritional properties.
Oxidized fats, which are primarily derived from polyunsaturated oils
such as corn and soybean oils, are linked to inflammation and various
diseases. Studies have been conducted comparing virgin olive oil with
sunflower oil (a polyunsaturated oil) and cooking oils where
antioxidants were added. These antioxidants, which are present naturally
in high quality olive oils, protect against oxidative stress and
inflammation when high heat is applied to the oils.3 In fact,
the antioxidants present in olives are so powerful in resisting
oxidation due to heat, that they are added to other cooking oils to make
them more stable when cooking.4
The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) provides information about
the maximum temperature that can be used when cooking with virgin olive
When heated, olive oil is the most
stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures.
Its high smoke point (410F) 210C is well above the ideal temperature
for frying food (356F) 180C. The digestibility of olive oil is not
affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for
In a nutshell, virgin olive oil can safely be used for cooking and
even deep frying. The oil can be reused more than once, and the oil does
not seriously degrade in normal household cooking. Olive oil is
sensitive to sunlight, however, and is therefore usually packaged in
Some things are just worth saying what the heck. Deep fried tater tots belong in that category. With all the different oils, roasting, baking, broiling. Just take the plunge and throw them on some good old fashioned Crisco vegetable oil and deep fry away. You will be glad you did.
As for making soap. It’s been a long time since caustic soda was sold at a chemist in glass here. It’s all plastic tubs now. Being a drain cleaner it cannot be stored in metal. Does anyone get it without plastic these days?
As for the fried food (I think Australia calls them potato gems). I felt shocked at the disposal of the oil. It seemed far from damaged and you were having a deep-fried food binge weren’t you? I would have at least kept it as a reminder. So the next time you feel like a binge you could see it and know you could use it. After all, deep frying isn’t good so why worry about reused oil?
First of all – sunflower oil is not your best choice for frying and I would recommend against frying if you are using any omega 6 rich oil… I only cook with coconut oil, butter or animal fats – all other fats are not healthy when heated. When we deep fry anything we recycle the oil – I don’t mean recycle to “throw away” but simply strain it through a mesh strainer/cheese cloth when cool then save it in the fridge – you can use it several times!!! Olive oil is good for tossing a salad – but not for cooking.
Wow! You have truly inspired me! One thing I wanted to add to this thread is something I have recently discovered with regard to oils. It’s a documentary titled “The Oiling of America: How the Vegetable Oil Industry Demonized Nutritious Animal Fats and Destroyed the American Food Supply”. The title gives you a good indication of what you will discover by watching. I do believe you can get it from netflix. There are also videos on youtube if you search for it by the v words “oiling of america”. Basically any oil which is not a solid at room temperature (that means ANY vegetable oil) is not molecularly stable enough to cook with. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil you should ever eat for nutrition. However, it should never be heated as this changes the oil on a molecular level and turns into free radicals. Also, you should ensure that the olive oil was ‘cold pressed’. Some olive oil is made using heat along with the machine press. This makes the oil bad before you even buy it from the grocery store. Thanks for the recipe! My 2yr old daughter loves tator tots and I just discovered that canola oil is used in just about ALL packaged french fries. Based on what I have learned, Canola oil is poison to the body, even the organic canola :(. Anyway, I love what you are doing here and si happy to have stumbled upon your blog :).
My fried potato solution:
1 large potato
2-3T rendered fat
I use fat that’s left from sauteing bacon or roasting chicken (one glass bowl each in my fridge), and saute rather than deep fry.
I use a cast iron pan, a metal box grater, my wooden cutting board and one large potato for 2 people as a generous side dish.
Put 2-3T or so of bacon or chicken fat in the pan on medium heat, let it heat for a couple of minutes until it is good and hot. If your pan tends to stick 3T will be best, if your pan is pretty well behaved 2T is likely plenty. You can always add more as cooking progresses.
While heating the pan & oil, wash the potato and grate it (skin on). You can drain the potato if you like, if I do I just squish it in my fingers on the board in a sink. This is optional!
Put the potato in the pan, it need not be perfectly even. cover with a lid (need not be a perfect fit) and cook until browned on the first side, about 4 minutes depending on how wet your potato was and how hot your burner is.
Flip the potato over – sometimes I do this bit by bit, sometimes I get ambitious and gently loosen it & scoot it into my lid (held upside down like a cymbal) and then flip in one piece – and cook the second side uncovered, about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes (faster than side one since the potato is already warmed through and pan is hotter).
I do not use salt when I make this for myself. You may wish to salt to taste, but if you are using a fresh local potato and/or bacon fat I would definitely hold off on the salt until you taste the finished product.
You don’t have to cover at all if you want a super crispy potato – I find covering side one helps cook the potato through and speeds the process slightly.
Ideally the potato will absorb almost all of the oil. No plastic waste, no oil to re-use :)
Full disclosure, I am *not* a low-fat believer (my cholesterol is in the healthy range and my total triglicerides are actually quite low – but that may be genetics as much as diet). I acknowledge that we each are responsible only for our own bodies, so if you avoid all/most fats and/or avoid animal products I understand that you may not be trying this recipe!!
Thanks for breaking out these steps and creating a very interesting discussion.
I second baking them – even if you do it twice like you fried them.
I love tater tots when I can get them. I have never fried them. I bake them first to cook them. And then the last few minutes, I turn on the broiler to get them crispy.
Could you pulse them first or shave them like potato latkes and then bake? then form them and bake again?
I think I might have to try this and see if it works. I miss tater tots now that I have to really watch and try to avoid as many food additives as possible.
In my experience: you can re-use oil for cooking up to four times- just remember to filter it through a coffee filter. I do this when I fry turkeys at thanks giving. THen I simply reefer the used oil.
Oh, my liberal San Franciscan babe, don’t worry about the oil. You either must consider it a calculated loss if you’re determined to deep fry, or else filter it save and reuse it several times; that’s what they do at McDonald’s. You can filter it through a paper coffee filter to get the sediment out . No big deal. I really like your website.
I hear you on the oil waste. But, there is another way. We were craving fries recently. And, we do often have roasted poatoes in the oven, which are low in oil, but oh, so not the same, sometimes only fries will do. Anyway, I cut up the potatoes and boiled them to just tender. Then I filled up my smallest cooking pot (about 5 inches diameter) with 1 inch of oil and then fried the potatoes in small batches. Yeap, it took longer than I wanted, but it saves oil. While the potatoes were frying I prepared the rest of the meal, so we still had dinner sort of on time. I kept the potatoes warm and crispy in a low oven (200F). I made fries for 6 people and used only about 1/3-1/2 cup oil, and had just under 1/4 left. I used sunflower oil. Today I reused some of it to fry up some homemade sausages.
Interesting piece on sunflower oil on NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/01/05/144695733/how-the-russians-saved-americas-sunflower
I’ve never heard of tater tots until today and I think I’m glad never to have been forced to eat one!
More seriously, what about using a wok? You would get some depth without using much oil.
Kate (in Australia)
tater tots are so good… and addictive!
to reuse you cooking oil to make soap:
you need: coconut oil 750 grams
recycled coocking oil 750 g
the sap value for coconut oil is 0.19
and for reused cooking oil i use a sap of 0.130
Cocount oil 750 x 0.19 Sap= 142.5 This is the amount of NaOH you need for this oil
recycled cooking oil 750 x 0.130 sap=97.5 This is the amount of caustic soda you need for this oil.
sum up the two amounts of caustic soda= and you will obtail 241g. this is the amount of Naoh you need for soap making.
Slowly add the Naoh to water and mix. this liquid will reach high temerature so let it cool down tillit reach 40 degrees.
double heat the oils till they reach 40 degrees.
when both oil and Naoh are 40 degrees mix it together for about 40 minutes if you do it manually.
than pour it on the shape you want.
cover it with towels and wait 24 hours.
at this point you can cut it or shape it, but you will need to wait 30 days extra to be able to use your soap.
Please remember that Naoh is dangerous so before starting this, please read online all the safety precautions. you can find them on the SOAP QUEEN channel in you tube fore example,
i wash my clothes and dishes with that. it has no smell but it really does its job!
I hope i am clear. please forgive my english.
if you need more info let me know
Can you bake them instead of frying them? My husband and I indulge in Scotch Eggs once every few years. Instead of deep frying them, I developed a recipe that calls for baking them.
Tater tots and french fries are tricky…to get that great texture and mouth-feel, you have to fry the potatoes twice. The first fry is usually done at 350 degrees F, to cook the potato through. The second fry is usually done at 375 degrees F to crisp the outside of the fry or tot, so when you bite, your teeth first break through a crisp exterior to reach the soft interior. To get the mouth-feel and texture of a tot, chopping up already fried potatoes and binding them with cornstarch to shape them is the key to that mouth-feel. (The salt could have been added after the second deep fry, as they drained their excess fat.)
For fries, you can use much less oil in a skillet, and double-fry potatoes until crisp, as long as you don’t crowd the pan full of potatoes. A much slower process, producing fewer fries, but it’s probably better to eat fewer, plus it uses less oil, heat, and energy.
Fries and tots are also affected significantly by the flavor of the oil in which the potatoes are fried. Oils for frying (sunflower, peanut, canola, grapeseed, etc.) have different flavors, and higher smoke points, which change the way those oils taste when heated. There is a slight difference in the taste of the oven fries from deep-fried or skillet-fried potatoes, and that comes from the use of olive oil. (As others have said, frying oil may be reused–oils with low smoke points may be altered by heating, but an oil with a very high smoke point would be safer to reuse. Reusing oil for frying can also provide additional depth of flavor to fries and tots.)
You can also oven-roast the potatoes, cut in french fry strips or cut into cubes:
Place potatoes on a sheet pan or jelly roll pan in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and fresh-ground pepper. Toss the potatoes gently to coat them all with oil and seasoning. Pop them into an oven that’s been preheated to 400 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes. Cooking time can vary from oven to oven, and due to the shape of your potatoes. They’re done when golden brown and crisp. Olive oil, with a low smoke point and unique flavor, just doesn’t go as well with ketchup to me, so I eat oven fries plain and fried fries with ketchup.
I like to ‘steam fry’ my potatoes using little to no oil. I cook up some sweet onions, garlic and a bit of chopped red bell pepper then potatoes, unskinned. My guys gobble them up and my teenage son smothers them in ketchup.
Be careful using oils like olive oil to cook with as it has a low ‘smoke point’ and is best used cold, not heated.
Can’t wait to try your ketchup recipe when tomato season hits!
May I suggest simply injecting the oil directly into your arteries?
Just joking… I loves me some good fried junk food now and then, but I’ve gotta say, this post sort of gave me flashbacks to my high school job at Jack-in-the-Box, which put a definitive end to my fast food cravings – I’ll spare you the story of their tacos… but let’s just say I almost couldn’t bring myself to serve them after seeing how they were prepared.
I’ve had bad luck with fried potatoes in general, so I usually just boil them… boring I know, but I’m a sucker for a good boiled spud.
I fear I am far too cheap to spend the money for an entire bottle of oil that would only be used once… but I like Irene’s soap making idea. Anybody got instructions?
Beth, the comments people are making about oven-baked being so much healthier are true. But you knew that going into this experiment (hence the McDonald’s comment!). I enjoyed this post very much, because I got to see a little glimpse of the Beth Terry behind the “life without plastic” goals–a woman who sometimes just wants a homemade tater tot, gosh darn it. So, good for you for trying something new, and evaluating the greater ramifications of the whole process for your readers. : )
Happy New Year!
I roast as well with a drizzle of oil and lots of spices. Or we use coconut oil to make latkes.
Contrary to popular thinking nowadays, lard is actually good for you, can be purchased at a farm (co-op) in glass jars, has loads of vitamin D, and does not create the dreaded PUFAs when heated. :) Our grandmothers used lard and were in much better health than we are nowadays…just saying.
i have a great way to reuse oil, I MAKE SOAP OUT OF IT, i make heavy duty soap for my clothes and for the dishes, so once i fry i just filter it and keep it aside till i have enough.
the soap will not smell fried vegetables, it doesnt have any smell. and is really great.
Maybe you can ask around it you have some friends that make soap. they will know what to do with it!
Ummm…am I being evil by suggesting you go to a restaurant and have them there?
Being pragmatic, because they buy everything in bulk, even if the tater tots are bought in plastic you’d probably use less per serve than the plastic used in making them yourself.
bulk oil… went to a coop with an amazing bulk section even for coops, this weekend. maybe an area for nominating grocery stores, coops for awesome breadth in their bulk sections on this site or the forums, with notes on the particularly new, unique bulk items you had not seen before. like the opposite of your plastic wall of shame
Our favorite thing to dip in catsup is oven fries. Potatoes are standard, but we also use sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, onion, leek, or romanesco sometimes. Just cut up the veggies, toss with olive oil, season, and roast at 400F about half an hour.
I have a cast iron frypan, with deep sides – about 3 inches. Doesn’t take much oil to put about a half inch in the bottom for frying. Deep frying is so…….unhealthy. And DOUBLE deep frying……ridiculous. Oven “frying” wedges of potatoes is way healthier and easier, Wash and cut your potatoes into wedges, rinse, and dry the wedges. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with paprika, and a little chili powder, toss to evenly coat. Drizzle a tablespoonful (or so) of olive oil over the seasoned wedges. Toss to evenly coat. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake @350F for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake another 10 minutes or so, until crispy. Time may differ depending on how thick you cut the wedges.
This is MY comfort food. Tater tots are one food I’ve never even tried.
How about using coconut oil? Brendan Brazier’s book, The Thrive Diet, convinced me it’s a good alternative: it doesn’t turn carcinogenic at high temperatures (which is what Dr. Weil was warning about), so you can reuse it — plus, usually it comes in a mason jar with a metal lid, so no plastic!
(It does turn into a solid at room temperature, so the only real downside — apart from the fact that it ain’t cheap — is that you’d have to run it through a sieve or cheesecloth while liquid in order to get rid of the impurities, but that’s not terribly hard.)
It’s not a downside the coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Our bodies are 98 degrees, heat up coconut oil to above 85 degrees and it’s liquid.
Apologies – Tracy mentioned reusing
Yo Jen, I talked about the reasons to not re-use the oil towards the end of the post. I’m concerned about health issues. Dr. Weil says not to reuse cooking oil.
I can’t believe no one has mentioned that that oil can used AGAIN! Quite a few times in fact. You would only use it for frying and such – no cake baking or whatever else you use oil for, but there was no need to throw the oil away. Store in the refrigerator. Use until it seems kinda yucky – basically it will stop getting things crispy. Just ask Mark, of ketchup-making fame.
Another super-high-heat oil is rice bran oil.
And, I second the idea of baking them, instead of frying them a second time. They get crispy at high heat (450, I think) in the oven.
I confess that I did not know what tater tots were.
Yet… I am grieving your disposed-of used oil.
I am obsessively disturbed by food waste personally.
I’ve been reusing oil all my life, maybe clarifying it in cheese cloth (which I wash with the dishes) or allowing the sediment to settle.
And I know that yellow oils turn toxic when heated.
Oils (fats) that are solid are room temperature don’t turn toxic.
May I suggest you use coconut oil in a glass bottle with metal cap to fry with?
Mine’s @$20 a litre, but I reuse it. I hope you can find a source near you in glass!
You could do up your tater tots like I do my egg rolls and spring rolls –
in a cast iron frying pan so you get some depth to the oil
and turn them over. And I do reuse that oil, but there’s not too much left.
Fried food blessings to you!
(We are about to make gluten free chocolate cupcakes with icing sugar bought at a bulk store in our reused bag and fair trade cocoa, and coconut butter and fair trade vanilla. Yum!)
Deep frying uses a lot of oil, lots of energy ( gas, electric, coal…what have you), creates all sorts of carcinogens in your food (yes…the first batch too) and the end product does terrible things to your body. I haven’t deep fried or eaten deep fried in many many years for that reason and “oven fried” is just as good. We chunk up potatoes, dip them wet into seasoning and sometimes salt then throw them in the convection oven for about twenty minutes flipping halfway through. No oil, no waste. little work and much better for you.
I cook with olive oil & I reuse it. From the research I did online it says it’s okay to reuse it 2 or 3 times but no more. I didn’t see olive oil on the list up there, does is have that toxin when reused as well?
I found that star brand olive oil often comes very inexpensively with coupon. Ive gotten them as cheaply as $4 per 25 oz glass bottle. Star has no plastic seal, interior seal or crimping. It comes with a perforated metal cap. Since olive oil does not generate toxins you can cook your taters guilt free and use the remaining oil to make your own tortillas chips by baking them in the oven at 350. I simply use a spoon or my fingers to spread a small amount of olive oil evenly over the tortilla then I cut them in 4 or six depending on the size desired and pop them into the oven – voila! a healthier and plastic free tater! I also use the leftover oil – since its all nice and potatoey to make excellent homemade mayonaise with pasturized eggs for potato salad. no plastic bottle or lid from the mayo and the oil dosent go to waste. Hope that helps. Three uses for leftover olive oil which is much lighter on the environment and also comes in a fully recyclable glass bottle. The great thing about star – even though it is not organic is that they also make an economy sized metal container – it does have a small plastic lid though.
Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Having just prepared latkes for Hannukah, the process of frying potatoes is fresh in my mind. It seems completely unnecessary to do either of the tot-frying processes in so much oil. The latkes only require about 1/4 in of oil, and the huge inconvenience [insert tone of sarcasm] of flipping them. I imagine you could do the same with the tots!
I would think you could pan fry them in just a little oil. Or even bake them in the oven.
Oh, and I buy (local) sunflower oil out of the bulk bins at my co-op, reusing our own mason jars. No plastic there.
In my area, the only oils I can get in bulk are olive, canola, and maybe sesame. I think maybe Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco might have sunflower oil in bulk, but it’s a schlep for me to get there. I wanted to make sure the oil was rated for high heat because I was already afraid of the deep frying to begin with. Ah, well, it was a fun experiment, but yes, labor intensive and probably not worth it.
Yesterday, I made another very labor intensive dish that was totally worth it. I’ll blog about that next…
tater tots are actually a way for the french fry people to use up all the parts of the potato. they are potato waste product. sooooo. an easier way to do it. get your raw potato and cut up into 1 inch pieces. then pulse just like you did before. and add a little bit of salt. and the amount of cornstarch as before shape and toss in a bit of oil. then bake
Hi Tanya. The double frying is important because the french fry scraps used to make tater tots are fried, so tater tots are not just fried on the outside but the inside too. The guy who wrote the Serious Eats recipe discusses that point: https://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/the-food-lab-homemade-tater-tots-sweet-potater-tots.html
I wonder if you could do the same thing, but by roasting instead of frying in oil? Roast the chunks, process, form, then roast the tots? Oven ‘fried’ french fries taste as good as deep fried to me (better, actually, without all the grease), so it seems like it should work. Seems a bit labor intensive anyways – I do like your potato pancake idea.
I stopped deep frying because of all that kind of stuff. Sometimes I still want some deep fried okra from the garden, or fried green tomatoes. So I use just a bit in a fry pan instead of a gallon for deep-frying.
Of course something else you could have done is to make 10 lbs more tator tots, all using that already hot oil, and freeze them so next time you can reheat them in a toaster oven?