I am incredibly picky when it comes to French fries. I am so picky, in fact, that the only fries I will eat are ones I make at home. All other fries let me down, even the infamous McDonald’s fries.
Unfortunately, making really good fries at home takes time. You can make mediocre fries in just a matter of minutes (slice fries, put them in hot oil, remove fries from oil, salt, serve), but amazing fries require a 30 minute ice water bath and two rounds of frying. As a result, I don’t eat fries very often, but when I do I greatly enjoy the fact that I took the time to make them right.
- Russet potatoes (any hearty, very starchy potato will work)
- Canola or olive oil
- Kosher salt
My rule of thumb for deciding how many potatoes to use is one per person plus one additional potato. For example, if three of us will be having fries, I use four potatoes. I do this because usually one potato has a bad spot in the middle of it and I end up throwing out at least part of one of the potatoes.
Start by filling a salad spinner half-way full with cold water and a dozen ice cubes.
Then, wash your potatoes and cut out any eyes or visible bad spots.
Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice up your fries and immediately submerge them in the ice water. (I usually use a more traditional fry-producing attachment on my mandoline, but I was feeling like waffle fries today.)
Let the potato slices soak for 30 minutes. This soaking helps to make the finished fry crisper, less gummy, and possibly healthier for you (reducing something called acrylamide).
After 30 minutes have passed, lift the strainer insert out of the salad spinner and pour out the water. Put the strainer back into the bowl, attach the top, and spin the potatoes dry. Once spun, pour the potatoes out onto a couple sheets of paper towels and pat off any remaining water.
Pour an inch of canola or olive oil into the bottom of a cast iron pot and heat the oil to 290ºF-300ºF. In batches, slowly add the potato slices to the oil and fry for only two minutes. (The potatoes will not be a golden brown when you remove them from the oil.)
Let the fries rest on a cooling rack while you fry up the remaining batches.
After all potato slices have been through the oil once, turn up the heat so the oil reaches 340ºF-350ºF. (On my stove, a medium or medium-high will create these temperatures. If you aren’t using a thermometer, do not be tempted to turn the burner up to high, where you can push the oil past its smoke point, and your fries will taste like burned oil.) In batches, slowly add the potato slices again to the oil. This time, you’ll only need to fry the potatoes for 15 to 30 seconds to achieve a beautiful golden brown. Immediately remove the fries from the oil and let them rest on the cooling rack. If you wish to salt the fries, do it now while a bit of oil remains on the exterior of the fry.