Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."
Best French Fry Recipe: Learn the Secret to Great Fries
When we lived in the United States, we rarely made French fries at home. Many restaurants there are known for crispy fries that are inexpensive and delicious. But after moving to a little town in the Peruvian Andes and eating more than our share of limp fries, we realized the only way to enjoy restaurant-style French fries—crispy, tender, golden—was to make them at home.
Our first challenge was to choose the best type of potato for frying. Living in a country with over 2,300 varieties of potatoes made that a monumental task. See the box below if you'd like more information on choosing the perfect frying potato in the area where you live.
Next came the frying oil. Not all oils are created alike. Oils with low smoke points degrade at high temperatures, with serious consequences. Oils reused in restaurants eventually become a thick, toxic soup. Although fried foods aren't exactly high on the list of healthy foods, at least we can choose to fry with safer, cleaner oil. Read "How to Choose a Healthy & Tasty Cooking Oil" for more on this subject.
After much experimentation in the kitchen and many failed batches of limp, dry, and tough fries, we found the double fry method produces the crispiest, most tender fries. Soaking the potatoes in cold water first and lightly dusting them with cornstarch before frying (a tip from Cooks' Illustrated) considerably ups the crispy factor. Some recommend soaking potatoes in sugar or salt water. If you've tried that method, let us know in the comments section.
Please stick around after the recipe for a discussion of seasoning options. Lastly, take our poll: "How Do You Like Your Fries?"
In This Article
- Deep-Frying Safety Tips
- Crispy Homemade French Fries Recipe
- French Fry Photo Tutorial
- The Best Potato for Fries
- Fry Seasoning
- Serving Suggestions
- Poll: "How Do You Like Your Fries?"
Deep-Frying Safety Tips
- While deep-frying, it's best to wear a heavy apron and a long-sleeved shirt to protect the arms.
- Choose a deep, heavy skillet. If you live at high altitude where frying is a bit of a challenge, choose a black iron skillet for its heat-retaining properties.
- Add oil to the cold pan, allowing at least two inches of headroom in case the oil bubbles over when you drop in the fries.
- Two important tools you need for deep-fat frying: a long-handled slotted spoon and a deep-fat frying thermometer.
- If you make French fries frequently, consider investing in a mandoline. The Swissmar Borner mandoline, sold by Amazon, is the best in its price range and will turn out uniformly-sized fries almost in the blink of an eye!
- Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. If you add too many fries at once, the temperature of the oil will decrease too much to crisp the fries.
- When you are done frying, allow the oil to cool before discarding it. Never reuse frying oil.
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Serves 6 to 8 people
- 2 pounds (1 kilogram) starchy potatoes
- 1 (32-ounce) bottle (approximately 1 litre) cooking oil, see tips for more information
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces or 75 grams) cornstarch, or cornflour (UK)
- Kosher or fine sea salt, for sprinkling
- As seen in the photographs below, slice clean potatoes into matchsticks (also called "julienne").
- Soak potato matchsticks in cold water for at least 30 minutes to remove some of the starch.
- Using a deep oil thermometer, heat vegetable oil to 325°F (165°C).
- Rinse and drain the matchsticks, then dry thoroughly with a cotton towel or paper towels.
- Dust the dried matchsticks with cornstarch.
- Using a long-handled slotted spoon, wire skimmer, or frying spider, transfer matchsticks to hot oil. Be careful not to splash.
- Fry in batches for 3 minutes. Remove fries to paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Increase oil temperature to 375°F (190°C).
- Refry the French fries in batches for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow fries to drain on paper towels or brown paper bags. Sprinkle with fry seasoning or finely ground sea salt. Serve immediately.
French Fry Photo Tutorial
The Best Potato for Fries
Potatoes basically fall into two categories: starchy or waxy. A few potatoes, like Kennebec and Yukon Gold, fall in between (medium-starchy). Starchy potatoes are best for frying; the starchier and drier, the better.
If you live in the United States, the potato of choice for French fries is the Idaho potato, also called the Russet or baking potato. These potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture which translates into tender, crispy fries.
Since 2,300 potato varieties exist in Peru, finding the perfect frying potato was quite a challenge. We finally took a tip from La Lucha, a well-known sandwich joint in Miraflores that boasts "the best French fries in Lima." Their fries are crispy on the outside with a tender, nutty-flavored center. The secret? Huayro, or solanum chaucha. This potato is so starchy that when overcooked, it bursts open like a freshly blossomed flower.
Now your only decision is to peel or not to peel. We love our fries with their jackets but whichever your preference, you'll be pleased with the results.
How do you like your fries? Purists insist on salt: nothing more, nothing less. Which salt is best for fries? We love pink sea salt. In Cusco, where you can buy two pounds for 30 U.S. cents, it's a delicious and budget-friendly choice. Kosher salt is great for extra crunch, although many fry aficionados swear by finely ground salt.
After salting, try a sprinkling of garlic and onion powder for your own homemade fry seasoning. Or mince a few garlic cloves and some parsley and toss with hot fries for a special gourmet touch.
Then there's the matter of dipping. Do you prefer ketchup or mustard? Peruvians drench fries in plenty of Peruvian aji sauce. In Germany, mayonnaise is a popular fry condiment. French fry lovers in some areas of the United States swear by chili cheese fries, others adore salt & vinegar, while their northern neighbors drown fries in gravy.
Please visit our poll to vote for your favorite. If you have an unusual fry flavor preference, please tell us about it in the comments section.
- French fries are a great side for Succulent Oven-Baked BBQ Ribs & Top Five BBQ Sauces.
- Try dipping fries in Authentic Peruvian Aji Sauce and taste why it´s so popular.
- Learn why soaking fries in water makes them crispy: How to Fry Crispy Sweet Potato Fries