French fries might be one of the world’s few perfect foods, existing on a higher plane of deliciousness with its friends pizza and bacon. Crispy, salty, starchy, they’re a perfect vehicle for any number of dastardly unhealthy condiments, from simple ketchup to fancy gravy and cheese curds.
At their best, they’re crispy like a potato chip on the outside and light and fluffy like mashed potato on the inside. They should be hot enough to burn your finger tips and they have to be salty–yes, salty. Potatoes love salt. At their worst they are limp, greasy, and bland. Unfortunately we see more of the latter example than the former.
I’ll start with some tips on how not to screw them up.
- This is a two-step frying process. The first is a low temperature ‘fry blanche’ to cook the potato through and the second is a higher temperature fry to crispen the fries.
- The fry blanching may be done up to a day ahead of time but the final frying must be done right before serving them. They’re only good when they’re fresh.
- You have a 15-second window to season the fries after the final fry and season well. Don’t pussyfoot around with the salt (and don’t even think about getting your truffle oil out).
- Allow your oil to preheat to the right temperature or they won’t fry well. Use the thermometer.
Let’s get started.
For this project you will need:
- The largest russet potatoes you can find. They should be firm and fresh.
- Oil for frying. Peanut oil is best, but any neutral oil with a high smoke point will work, such as canola or palm oil.
- A large sauce pot
- A fryer thermometer
- A peeler
- Two large mixing bowls
- A sheet pan (cookie sheet)
- A wire mesh skimmer
- Paper towels
Here’s how you do it:
- Peel the potatoes (don’t be lazy) and submerge them in water to prevent discoloring.
- Square off the potatoes with a knife, creating a flat surface on every side.
- Cut the potatoes to the desired thickness, trying to create a more or less uniform size and shape.
- Wash the raw fries under water to remove some of the starch on the surface.
- Strain the fries, trying to remove as much water as possible (water will cause your oil to bubble up).
- Fill the sauce pot just past the half way point with oil.
- Preheat the oil to about 275-300F(135-150C).
- Submerge the fries in the oil, without overcrowding, and allow them to fry for about 6-8 minutes while maintaining the temperature.
- The fries should be cooked to an al dente state so they are mostly cooked but not falling apart.
- Using the wire mesh skimmer, remove from the oil and spread them out on the sheet pan to cool.
- Allow to cool for up to two hours at room temperature. If you’re going to use them within that time they may be left out, otherwise place the cooled fries in a sealable container and place it in the fridge.
- Just before serving, preheat the same oil to 350-375F (175-190C).
- Line a mixing bowl with paper towels. Be sure to have your salt close at hand.
- Fry for about 4 minutes, or until the desired color is achieved.
- Remove from oil, draining excess oil and place them in your lined mixing bowl.
- Season immediately and liberally.
- Serve fresh and hot.