Thursday, August 12, 2010

French Fry Diary 136: Deep Fry Secrets

I've presented a lot of recipes and videos and advice on making French fries here on FFD, but one of the questions I get most frequently is – how do I make French fries? Well, here you go, a quick primer in my methods and secrets. Enjoy.

First you have to get some potatoes. Russets are the best potato for making French fries, and not those wimpy things you find at Shop-Rite either – you need those big bad boys you get at Whole Foods or Wegman's. We're talking about Russet potatoes about five to six inches long and about two to three inches wide. Serious potatoes.

Sometimes I'll blanche them very quickly or throw them in the microwave for half a minute. This will make them soft and fluffy inside after the frying, but it's an optional step. Peel 'em or don't, but make sure you wash 'em. If you leave the skins on, rumor says you get more vitamins. It's a fact that the skins have high fiber content and antioxidants, but come on now, we're talking about making French fries – be healthy at your own risk.

Next up is the cut. This is a personal preference. Shoestrings are ¼" thick, regular cuts are ½" thick. You can go thicker or thinner as you wish, just remember, thin cooks faster and thick slower. Sometimes I'll scallop them, or just dice 'em up in chunks. Again, this part is all your choice. Just keep them uniform. Any odd sizes or bits will cook unevenly and at a different pace from the others. The oddballs can be used to test the oil, or be mashed up later for hash browns, mashed potatoes or some other kind of tater treat.

Once you've cut your potatoes, put them in water. And by that, I mean submerge them in ice water or just really cold water. Let 'em sit for a bit. That will help get the starch out of them, and also help them get that golden brown color in the frying process. While the fries are soaking, this is a great time to add a little bit of flavor. Sometimes some sugar in the water can add a sweet kick. Also for that special Boardwalk taste you can add just a bit of squeezed lemon or lemon juice.

Once the fries have soaked in the water for a while – anywhere from five to ten minutes to overnight – dry them really well before firing up the deep fryer. You're almost ready to go. I use a Rival CF156 deep fryer because I'm hardcore into fries. There are other deep fryers, the Fry Baby is good, the Fry Daddy is better, but I'll stick with my Rival. You can even use a wok (electric or otherwise) or just a deep frying pan or pot.

Heat your oil to approximately 325 degrees. Peanut oil is best, with canola and sunflower oil coming in a close second. You can even go with vegetable oil. If you want the kick of Spanish fries, you could even use olive oil. And don't forget to change your oil often. Your deep fryer is just like your car engine – take care of it and it'll take care of you.

When the oil is heated to the proper temperature, put your fries in, in small batches, being very careful of spattering oil. Cook for about five to ten minutes and then bring them out and let them drain. The fries will be darker than before but not yet golden brown. This is called the par-fry, or partial fry. Frozen store fries are already par-fried when you buy them – ready to eat, if you so please, fun fact.

Once the fries are completely drained, you have a choice. You can take the easy way out and put them on a cookie sheet and bake them the rest of the way. No shame in that, great crispy crunch and tender fluffy insides – and for the health-conscious, less oil exposure. The fries are very good like that, but for the pros, you gotta do the shock fry.

Shock frying is a second fry at 375 degrees for just two or three minutes. This is the bad boy that turns the fries that coveted golden brown color and seals in the hot fluffy potato insides. From there you can go darker and crispier as desired. Just don't burn them. If you do that, you'll know, and know better for the next batch.

When the fries come out of the hot oil, drop them on paper towels to dry and drain, or better yet, on a cookie rack over paper towels so the grease doesn't stay next to the fries. Again, a step for the healthy folks, but a smart one too. You want to taste fries, not fried. Hit them with salt and other seasonings as soon as they get out of the oil, so it sticks.

Put the fries on a plate and enjoy. That's the easy step, and the best one. And that's basically how I make fries, and a few of my deep fry secrets. Hope it helps.

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Anonymous said...

Awesome recipe!!! Thanks for the ice water tip!! I've never par-fried in my life, but I will be from now on!!! So happy that I stumbled onto your blog!!!

Deep Fryer said...

I use a Rival CF156 deep fryer because I'm hardcore into fries. There are other deep fryers, the Fry Baby is good, the Fry Daddy is better, but I'll ...