The Best French Fries Ever
This weekend I was down in Ft. Lauderdale with my wife for a weekend break from the cold. It also happened to be Super Bowl weekend so there was a lot of excitement at the Marriott Resort we were staying at.
We enjoyed a couple of great lunches at their beach-side restaurant and on one of those occasions, I ordered a burger with fries. The burger was delicious but the fries were incredible, better than usual. Just take one look at those fries in the photo above and you can see why.
I remember Chef David Nelson explaining to me how to make the perfect French fry and writing this post about the technique. I’m sharing his article with you so you too can make French Fries like those above.
How to Prepare Perfect French Fries
by Chef David Nelson
There are a few simple tricks to making the perfect French fry. Pick the proper potatoes, clean and prepare them properly, cook them more than once and season them. That’s it!
The proper potato is the same one you use for making perfect baked potatoes. They must be a High Starch – Low Moisture potato like the Russet or if you can find them, the Burbank Russet.
You do not want a potato that is high in moisture if you are going to fry it in hot oil. We all know what happens when moisture interacts with water.
We want the high starch (Solids) in the potatoes to expand and burst during the cooking process to create that fluffy texture inside the crispy exterior.
Some old timers in the kitchens will tell you that using older potatoes will result in a better product. I believe that to be true.
The potatoes need to “Cure” for a few weeks to allow the natural sugars to convert to starch. Natural sugars burn or brown too quickly under the high heat associated with frying.
The folks at McDonalds Corporation have invested millions of dollars of research on this subject. French fries account for more than 25% of all potatoes sold in the U.S. market today and they (McDonalds) seem to have it right!
Prepping the Potatoes
As with anything you cook in volume, you must have fries of equal size to get a uniformly cooked product. The best thickness for French fries is 3/8 of an inch thick.
Peel your potatoes, one potato per person for a large order. Then slice them lengthwise into 3/8 inch slices. Then slice the slices into 3/8-inch sticks or fries.
Since Russet potatoes are high starch potatoes and we want to run the cut fries under cold running water until the water runs clear. This simply rinses off the surface starch that can cause the potatoes to look or become brown or gray.
Once rinsed, we want to soak them in water under refrigeration for at least three hours and up to two days. If you are pressed for time, even a one-hour soak will benefit the final product.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, we will cook the fries twice. I know it seems excessive but it is the single most important thing we will do to create the perfect fries.
Now, let’s select the best oil for frying. Most chefs will tell you that peanut oil is the best. This is for a number of reasons.
Peanut oil stands up longer to high heat without breaking down or burning. Other oils will work fine, but not for as long. Peanut oil is a neutral oil, allowing the potato flavor to dominate.
Cooking the Fries
Preheat your deep fryer to a low temperature of 325º F. If you don’t have a deep fryer, use a Dutch oven with about 3 inches of oil in it.
Allow a few inches from the surface of the oil to the top of the sides of the Dutch oven to compensate for expansion when the fries are added. Use a deep-frying or candy thermometer to regulate the temperature.
The temperature of each cooking time is very important to the success of your fries.
Remove your fries from the water bath and dry them THOROUGHLY on clean lint free towels of some kind, cloth or paper.
Do NOT put wet fries into hot oil, or you will have scars and a story to tell for the rest of your life.
Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, quickly but carefully add some of the fries into the oil, not overcrowding the fryer. You can do this step in batches.
You want to cook the fries for about 3 minutes, until they are soft, slightly limp and just beginning to turn a very light golden color. Remove the fries from the oil to a pan lined with paper towels or clean brown paper bags to drain.
Repeat the process until you have cooked all of your fries. Let them rest at least 20 minutes. You can do this up to a few hours before you intend to cook and serve the fries.
At this point you have partially cooked the inside of the fries making them very tender and fluffy later. This process is called blanching. The next cooking will crisp them up just perfectly.
When you are ready to finish the fries, reheat your oil. This time heat your oil to 375º F. When the desired temperature has been reached, fry the fries in batches for about 4 minutes per batch.
Look for the correct color and you should notice that the “bubbling” around the individual fries will have subsided; indicating that any retained moisture in the fries has been purged. Remove the batches from the oil to a new set of clean towels or bags to drain.
Season them with salt and pepper and serve at once. Salt…Yes! But why pepper?
Because they are potatoes, right?
Season them accordingly!