Recipe: French fries

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.

French Fries

  • 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.

Serve warm.

6 comments posted

  1. Posted by Sarah - 06/16/2011

    Wow. Your fries look amazing! I can see why they are such a treat.

  2. Posted by @modestgrrl - 06/16/2011

    Which mandoline do you have? Mine sucks! I need a better one…

  3. Posted by Erin Doland - 06/16/2011

    @modestgrrl — I have two, and both are Swissmar.

    One is the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Plus

    and the other is the Swissmar Borner V-Wave Waffle Slicer

    The blades on both are amazing, but I wish the unit overall were more sturdy. I always use them directly over a glass bowl or the salad spinner to help stabilize them. As far as I have experienced, they’re the best low-end mandolines. The blades I’ve used on comparable ones are dreadful and dangerous. There are professional grade ones that are perfect all around … but I don’t have a need for one costing a few hundred dollars. These meet my needs.

    And, I insist someone call me out on the fact that I have a special mandoline just to make waffle fries. It cracks me up. But, darn it, a mandoline like this is the only way to perfectly make them! :)

  4. Posted by Tim - 06/16/2011

    When you make fries again you could double your recipe and freeze half of the batch after the first fry. That way the next time you want awesome fries you only have to do the last frying step. I’ve done that and it works great.

  5. Posted by Rae - 06/16/2011

    I grew up in Quebec where we know how to make fries, so I rarely like fries anywhere else. I would like yours. :)

    Quebec fries are made the way you do, with the double frying to turn the starch to sugar, but they are cooked just a bit long. They are very brown, very sweet, and very floppy.

    I like the waffle cut ones because there’s more surface to brown.

    As for McDonald’s fries, YUCK.

  6. Posted by Carson Chittom - 06/17/2011

    I don’t think I would ever fry french fries in olive oil. Not that I dislike olive oil (I’ll just say that we buy the huge bottle of it and never have problems going through it), but I’ve always viewed fries more as something to give texture to condiments (usually spicy mustard or basil aioli, in my case) or provide a base for something like chili cheese fries.

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