Strip your kale leaves from the stems, then tear into pieces a little larger than bite-size (say 2-3″), knowing that they’ll shrink as the moisture evaporates. Wash those pieces and dry them thoroughly—excess moisture is not your friend here, as it can cause the kale to steam rather than crisp. A salad spinner is your friend here.
Transfer your kale to a large bowl and add about 1 Tbsp. olive oil and a big pinch or two of salt (I usually go accidentally overboard here—take heed). Now’s also the time to add other ground spices of your choice: dried harissa, ground cumin and coriander, a pinch of cayenne, garlic and onion powder, nutritional yeast, za’atar—anything that tastes great on popcorn will be appropriate. Use your hands to get the leaves well-coated, but no need to really massage them—all that bruising can actually render your kale chips more bitter.
Spread your oiled, seasoned kale out on two unlined baking sheets so that they’re in a single layer, with as little overlapping as possible. If the kale is piled up, it will steam and wilt rather than dry out, so work in batches if you need to.
Now bake your kale until it’s crispy. This language is purposely vague—you can bake the kale at any temperature between 250°, as in this recipe from Dan Barber, and 375°, as in this recipe from Heidi Swanson. I made two sets of kale chips side by side—one at a lower temperature, one a higher—and couldn’t discern any significant difference between the two. It probably goes without saying that kale baked in a cooler oven will take longer to crisp—about 30 minutes at 250° as compared to about 15 minutes at 350°—but might do so in a slower and thereby more even fashion. Whether you go low and slow or hot and fast, check the leaves halfway through and flip any heftier leaves. Any thicker, heftier pieces might have to stay in the oven longer to get brittle and crisp.
Once your kale is hot out of the oven, you have another opportunity to add flavor, this time in the form of ingredients that would have burned in the oven, like lemon zest, grated garlic, or Parmesan. (Keep in mind that all of these ingredients will introduce moisture, which will make it harder for your chips to stay crispy over several days.) Let your leaves cool completely, then store for up to 2–3 days in a partially closed container at room temperature.
To use up your chips, crush them into vinaigrette, toss them with noodles or pasta, pulverize into mayonnaise, mix into a salad for textural intrigue, or simply snack by the handful. However you enjoy them, promise me you’ll play “Happy” by Pharrell at least once as you’re doing it—it is 2014 after all.