Heavenly Fries

by Talley

in Appetizers & Sides,Methods,Quick,Vegetables

French Fries


Until this past year, my homemade French fries had never quite hit the mark. It seems so simple, and it is very simple, but somehow, my fries never approached the divine fries that I’ve gotten at some of my favorite restaurants (the fries at Schultzy’s come to mind, for those in Seattle). They’ve been edible, and even if they haven’t been great, I’ve probably eaten them all. But something’s been lacking. That mysterious component, it turns out, is nothing revolutionary, but it was new to me. And so, if you’re in the same boat as I was, here’s the secret: 1) You have to first soak the potatoes in water, and 2) You have to fry them in two steps –- a low heat fry to cook the potatoes through, and a high fry step to crisp up the outside. That’s it! (or almost anyway: a good mandolin to help you cut consistent shapes would be very helpful too)

French Fries


If you haven’t yet tried this method of making french fries, now’s your time. You don’t need two pots of oil either, just cook them all in batches in the low heat oil, put aside for a moment, heat up your oil, and then finish them in batches. A deep-fry or candy thermometer is almost a must, but once you get a feel for how the potatoes should sound and look as they fry in each step, you could probably learn to do without. I have also read, though have not tried, that rendered beef kidney fat is the most flavorful fat for making french fries. If you can find it near you, I’d love to hear a comparison.

No fries are complete without ketchup. Try making your own! Need some inspiration? Try the recipes at White on Rice Couple, Brooklyn Farmhouse, or Gourmet.

UPDATE: check out the comments for a discussion on the smoking point of olive oil.

French Fries Done Right

2 russet potatoes, peeled
2 quarts pure olive oil, vegetable oil, or rendered beef kidney fat
salt

Cut the potatoes lengthwise into sticks ½ inch wide and thick. Soak the sticks in cold water to cover for 20 minutes.

Drain them in a colander and then spin them, in batches, in a salad spinner, or use kitchen towels to rid them of most of the liquid. Pat them dry with kitchen towels–not paper towels, which will stick and tear.

At this point you can fry the potatoes ahead of time, and then fry them in hot oil just before serving. Pour the oil into a deep, heavy pot large enough so that it comes no more than halfway up its sides, and heat to 320˚F, or until a potato stick dropped into the oil sinks to the bottom of the pot and then rises to the surface. Add a handful of the potatoes and fry for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through but not browned. If the potatoes start to brown, reduce the heat slightly. Using a spider or skimmer, remove the potatoes from the oil and put them on a sheet pan, Continue to fry the remaining potatoes, adding as many at once as you can without the oil boiling over.

Increase the temperature of the oil to 360˚F. Add a handful of the potatoes–they should stay on the surface rather than sink–and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a spider or skimmer, transfer the potatoes to paper towels to drain briefly. Continue to fry the remaining potatoes, adding as many at once as you can without the oil boiling over. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

VARIATION: For thin shoestring french fries, use a mandoline or a knife to cut the potatoes into julienne sticks ⅛ inch wide and the length of potato, and follow the recipe above. Instead of 10 minutes for the first frying, 5 minutes will probably suffice to cook the potatoes through, but do not let the potatoes brown.

Serves 2 to 3

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda September 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

yum! I didn't know about the soaking.. I'll be sure to try that!

But ehmm.. doesn't olive oil burn when you heat it up that high? I was always learned to use beef tallow, because of its high smoking point?

Greetings from the netherlands!

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Thibeault's Table September 25, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I love homemade fries. Soaking and double frying really does make a difference. Your photo is great. It isn't easy to get a good photo of french fries.

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Sara @ Our Best Bites September 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I saw the title of your blog and thought, "they must live in Seattle!" I'm from Seattle, but living in Idaho now. I don't know why I'm talking about this when I really just wanted to say that those fries look PeRfEcT! Fun blog!

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The Little Teochew September 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

WOW! Perfect and golden yellow! I have heard about frying twice and now that you have shown us the proof, this is on my to-do list tomorrow! ;)

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Anonymous September 25, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I personally like to par-boil in water first, and then deep-fry for crispiness, when you pre cook in the oil the potato soaks up the oil, and becomes much fattier. When par-boiled in water and then fried, it makes for a lighter, cleaner fry.

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Jonna September 25, 2009 at 9:16 pm

We make fries at least once a week! It's probably not the healthiest dinner, but when you live in Idaho with all those Idaho potatoes…you just have to! I always soak my french fries in cold water to remove all the starch, then fry until golden. Yours look perfect! I will be back to visit your great blog. You can visit me at:
Get Off Your Butt and BAKE!
http://getoffyourbuttandbake.blogspot.com

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Tokyo Terrace September 25, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Oh wow- these look so delicious! I love using olive oil for frying. Something about the rich fruity flavor sets it apart from other oils. Great post and great photos!

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Talley September 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Hi Linda,
The smoking point of olive oil is definitely something that seems to be hotly debated. Certainly it has a lower smoking point than some other oils like grapeseed oil. But I’ve heard from people like Lynne Rossetto Kasper and others that you can really use olive oil for higher frying than you think, so I just did a little research. I found this helpful site:
http://www.oliveoilsource.com/olive_oil_smoke_point.htm
Apparently it has to do with purity, because small bits of olive, for instance, will smoke long before the fats in the oil will smoke. The International Olive Oil Council claims the smoking point of pure olive oil is 410˚F, which is certainly fine for this recipe. Apparently the macadamia nut people claim that olive oil smokes as low as 190˚F! So clearly there’s a range, and a bit of debate.

What does seem to be true is that the smoking point of olive oil will vary from brand to brand, and with the free fatty acid percentage, but rarely falls below 375˚F. . . which is just fine for deep frying (but use that thermometer to be safe!). Also, you can sometimes find the fatty acid content labeled on the bottle. So look for something below 0.2%

Here’s another good discussion on the topic:
http://drygoodsnotes.blogspot.com/2007/04/frying-with-extra-virgin-olive-oil.html

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Talley September 25, 2009 at 6:16 pm

thanks for the par-boil tip, sounds like a good alternative.

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andai September 28, 2009 at 8:02 am

You have it partially right. I too soak my potatoes in cold water for a few minutes before I fry them. I use the two step process, where I fry them over low heat, then half way through I turn up the heat to crisp them. As I turn up the heat, I will 'stir' them once, some will break because they are soft but what happens is that you'll get lots of really nice crispy ones.

Three things I don't agree with you.

1. I do not use olive oil. Use the high heat canola oil, sunflower oil or corn oil. They fry way better than olive oil.
2. I prefer my fries to be a golden color with the crispy parts slightly brown. Here's what mine look like
http://www.flickr.com/photos/andai/2026938965/
3. I always remove the skins…

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mcc September 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Ah, you've uncovered the secrets of Belgian pommes frites! They are a staple in cyclocross racing, so we're always in pursuit. We used peanut oil last time we made them for a party, but I'll have to give olive oil a try!

I dig the blog, Talley.

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Lauren October 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I've also heard (but have yet to try) that fries rendered in duck/goose fat are heavenly.

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MsGourmet October 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Stunning fries, although I might opt out of the rendered beef kidney fat and just stick to the vegetable & olive oil combo!

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Nicky October 19, 2009 at 7:23 am

OMG, these look to die for! I think we have to change dinner plans…

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Talley October 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Thanks MsGourmet and Nicky! Fries for dinner tonight?

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Meg November 24, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I had a friend who was a manager at Schultzy’s and he wouldn’t disclose the magic behind those fries. Although, I’ve used your method and know now that home-cooked fries can be just as good (steak and frites!).

Just stumbled upon your blog. We own remarkably similar cookbooks — and your collection has given me ideas. Because you can’t have too many. Ever.

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Talley November 25, 2009 at 7:42 am

I think you need to do us all a favor and butter up your friend from Schultzy’s. and report back! but I agree, turns out we can do pretty well for ourselves at home.
Glad you found some ideas in the cookbooks. I agree: you can never have too many.

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Jamie November 25, 2009 at 10:40 am

I’m not picky about the oil itself, but if you want your fries to taste more like fast-food golden arches, just add a tiny squirt of honey into your oil. You’d be surprized how little you need to give it just a hint of sweetness.

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Beryl November 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

Wow, that is about the most interesting tip we’ve gotten so far – we’ll give it a shot, thanks!

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Bill January 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm

The ultimate french fry is fried in beef fat — twice!

1) Choose an Idaho Russet potato. Russet Burbanks if you can get them.

2) Condition the potato by storing in a 70 degree environment for a couple of weeks (potatoes coming out of cold storage need time to convert sugars back to starch).

3) Cut the potatoes into the desired fry size, like the fast food places do.

4) Soak the cut potato strips in room temperature water for at least 8 hours, overnight is good (this soaking plumps up the cells within the potatoes to result in an improved texture). DO NOT USE ICE WATER OR REFRIGERATE!

5) Dry the potato strips and fry in 300 degree oil until just cooked inside and limp, fry time is dependent on the thickness of the fry strip. Let cool.

6) Bring oil to 375 degrees and fry until golden brown and crispy.

7) Of course, use beef fat, properly twice fried fries will not soak up fat.
What’s the point of endeavoring to produce the very best french fry and then compromising the taste with a neutral tasting fry oil.

8) Important, work in controlled sized batches that doesn’t drop the frying temperature significantly.
Maintain the fry temp or the fries will absorb fat.

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Bill January 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Rice Bran Oil is the best alternative to those that have a aversion to beef fat.
In & Out restaurants are noted for excellent fries, they fry in Rice Bran Oil.

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Cindy Lynn January 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I made these today and they were delish!

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