Technique Thursday: How to make awesome French Fries

The fries in Belgium, plucked fresh from noisy street vendors, are something special. Each bite begins with the satisfying crunch of a crackling, golden “skin”, followed immediately by soft, steamy insides that melt, almost immediately, on the tongue. With just enough oil to help it all slide down, the fries – amazingly – are never greasy.

You’ll be happy to know that you can experience Belgian-quality fries in you own home. The key is twice-frying the potatoes.

Basic Recipe
(full recipe with step-by-step photos will be posted on Monday)

2 extra-large Idaho or Russet potatoes, cut into fries (about 2.5lbs)
vegetable oil, for frying
salt

Soak potatoes in ice water until needed, for at least 30 minutes (or, alternatively, rinse in cold water until the water runs clear). This step removes loose starches and helps assure crisp fries.

Heat oil to 320F. Cook fries in small batches until soft, but not golden, about 4-8 minutes (depending on thickness). Let sit for at least a half hour to drain over paper towels.

Heat oil to 375F. Cook fries in small batches until golden brown, about 2-6 minutes (depending on thickness). Drain and season with salt.

Let’s talk about what you are up against in the home kitchen, and how to work with what you do have.

1. You don’t have a giant restaurant fryolator

Instead of a giant vat of bubbling oil, you probably have an average-size pot or (if you’re lucky) a home deep-fryer. In both cases the small dimension makes the oil temperature drops fast. You really, really, really have to be patient. If you aren’t patient you’ll get soggy, greasy fries. I’ve done it and I don’t recommend it.

Ways to combat this:

Check and recheck your oil temperature between each batch. Make sure it reaches the desired temperature before you drop the fries. I use an instant read thermometer, but if you have a deep-fryer it will be built in.

Only add a handful of fries at a time. If you crowd the oil, the temperature will drop dramatically and the fries will wick up oil like little grease sticks. It’s better to add too few than too many.

2. You don’t have a machine to cut perfect batons (sticks)

Very few people have specialty equipment in their homes for cutting French fries. If you are lucky, you just might have a mandoline. I prefer to cut fries by hand because it gives me more control. The less perfect your fries are, the more uneven they’ll cook, potentially leaving you with some dark, burnt fries and other soggy, undercooked fries.

Ways to combat this:

Cut your fries slowly and carefully with a sharp knife, you’ll be less likely to slip and cut yourself and/or uneven slices.

Take the time to make your fries the same size. It makes no difference if you peel your potato or not, that’s personal preference.

TIPS:

  • You can cut your fries ahead and soak them in cold water until they are needed. Some people say this makes them crisper. Just be sure to dry them off thoroughly before frying or you’ll get an extremely painful oil shower when you immerse them in the oil.
  • You can make seasoned salts for fries. Try making a blend of paprika, salt, and garlic powder.
  • Reuse the oil a few times, it is perfectly good. First, let the oil cool completely. Then strain back into original container, making sure to get all the bits and pieces out.

What else would you add to this list?

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Comments

  1. Do you need to refrigerate the used oil so it does not get rancid?

  2. I would like to add that these would be a great side dish to lunch and dinner everyday. EVERYDAY! Serious. They’re great!

  3. You just made me hungry. One hazard that goes with reading you!

    • Thanks Tina! I hope you get to try them. I bet your family will be big fans. You can keep them hot in the oven for a few min while they all get fried up.

  4. Something I used to do at the Health Food Store deli when we made “fries”, was we baked them..after laying them out ona cookie sheet, spray with your oil…take out of oven, and while still very hot sprinkle with organo and any other seasonings we were in teh mood for and Veg Sal (instead of salt) Its just a non-salt version and relly good. Another idea is too…sprinkle with freah parsely/or chives (or any other fresh herb for that matter) while the fries are still hot itis soo delicious. Like eating fries in thepotato field. You sure hit a tasty nerve with fries talk! yay!

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