If there’s one thing I love to do more than anything, it’s cook well, both for myself and the people I care for. Ideally, I want my food to be somewhere in the range of healthy, filling, tasty and cheap(trying to work more on getting the first thing in with the other stuff), and to do that, one must know about the different methods of cooking and preparation, in order to get the most bang for the least amount of money. It’s because of this I learned how to brine food to both enhance the flavor and increase the time it stays around after the prep work is done, and I followed a similar path with the pursuit of the perfect French Fry. For a long time, I kept trying to get the kind of fries you’d get at a restaurant, only to have them come out soggy as all get out(through either the classic fry method or baking them), so when I first saw this article on how to do it, I was excited to see if it held up to my rather low end methodology.
The first time I tried their method, unfortunately, everything went awry, and not only did they look ugly, a good deal of the cut taters fell apart, causing me to draw deep into despair as I took the final step and actually cooked the things. When I did, though, they were the best batch of fries I ever made, and made all the heartache I went through in my initial failings all worth the while. However, I know most people would rather not deal with that kind of nonsense, so to save everyone several headaches, allow me to show you how I make my best batch of fries.
What You Need on Hand
- Potatoes(this one using the classic russets)
- A cutting board
- A sharp knife
- Oil to fry it in(preferably veggie)
- A pan built to hold at least 2 quarts(8 cups) of the stuff(like one of them Woks)
- A Large pot to boil water in(if you can a strainer to fit inside it while it boils, it’ll make grabbing the cut taters even easier!)
- Salt(preferably Kosher)
- White Distilled Vinegar(Apple Cider, Rice and other varieties will do fine, too, but you’ll to adjust the amount used based on the acidity level, White Distilled being 5% acidic and Rice, 4.3%)
- Baking Sheets/something large and flat to put the cut taters once they’re out of the different phases of the process
- Paper Towels(and lots of of ‘em! Napkins are fine, too, if you have enough)
- (if you plan to save some for later)Something to store the cut taters in
- (if you plan to save some for later)Space in the fridge
- About an hour or 2 of free time to do this stuff
- Helping hands(if you can find any, but this can certainly be done solo)
- A keen sense of timing
Scared off, yet? If you are, I don’t blame you. This is a super involved process that won’t be as simple as just frying taters in oil, and you eat McD quality French Fries by using just going to McDs and plopping down a few bucks. If you’re willing to stick it out, though, I assure you that the results will be just as good, if not better, and you can have them whenever you want and not have to wait around for some dude on the fry station to get it together and get your fries to you(and there’s also the off chance they’ll serve you some limp fries that’ve been sitting there for HOURS). With the incentive laid out, let’s get down to the action
Step 1: Getting all the stuff ready
That means getting the oil in the pan, the baking pan lined with paper towels, the 2 quarts of water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt into the pot(preferably in the order of water, salt and vinegar. If you’re using a lower acidity vinegar, add a dash more of the stuff to make up the difference) and the potatoes washed(normally, this uses about 4-5 normal sized ones, and if you adjust the amount of stuff used for size, you can use as many potatoes as you please)
Step 2: Cutting the taters
The style is totally up to you(I’m more inclined to Steak Fries[about a ¼ inch thick, the McDs variety, about 1/8th], myself), but bear in mind that shorter fries are likely to hold up during the boiling process, longer ones more vulnerable to splitting up, especially when left to boil too long
Step 3: Boiling the water, then the taters
Ideally, you’ll want to start this up when you’re down to the last couple taters, as that’ll give the water time to warm up and be ready by the time you get there. Once it’s up to a boil, dump ‘em in about let the water do its thing for about 10 minutes. At around the 8-9 minute mark, check out how the potatoes are holding up, and if the taters are “tender, but not falling apart” as Kenji Lopez puts it, they’re ready to be extracted then and there
Step 4: Getting the oil heated up
Set it to about 400 degrees, then put the taters on the baking pan, letting it cool for about 5 minutes. By the time the taters cool, the oil should be ready for frying(you can use a single tater to test it, if you’re not sure), and while it heats up, divvy up the taters into cereal bowl-sized portions, then fry each batch for about 50 seconds, placing each on plates/another baking sheet lined with paper towels while you get to work on the next batches(if you just using 4-5 taters worth of fries, you can just split it up into 3rds). Give it about 2-4 minutes between batches to let the oil temp to climb back up to 400. Once they’re done, let them all cool for about half an hour., and if you want some for later, grab the storage containers and pop ‘em in the fridge. If you store ‘em over night, they’ll fry even crisper whenever you get around to cooking them, and they can be kept in there for about 2 months straight, meaning you’ll have the perfect way to attack the french fry craving after all the prep work is done(just be sure not to pack ‘em too tight, or they will freeze together).
Step 5: Cooking the fries
This is the simple part of the whole thing, and you can either fry them again ‘til golden brown and delicious at the same temp or bake them, for a healthier twist. Either way, they will taste awesome.
- The fresher the oil, the faster the fries’ll cook up(and vice versa, so always go for fresh cooking oil)
- Try to use flatter stuff to serve them on (dishes like bowls will make all the oils and such drip downward onto the other fries, making them much soggier over time)
- Be sure to eat them fresh (like McD’s fries, they won’t be anywhere near as tasty or crisp after you grab ‘em from the microwave, so try to fry up what you plan to munch on then and there)
- You can also use the prep process for other things involving boiling things in water to firm them up(like, say, poached eggs or the potatoes used for Papas con Chorizo)