The best potato for French fries?
I work as the Director of Culinary Development for a large well know company. We use Russet potatoes and cut them 3/8" square skin on. The key points that we found which make the best product for us are the following.
1- Cut and soak a minimum of 1 hour in cold water
2- Dry completely on towel lined racks
3- Fry in vegetable oil at 300 Deg. F. for 4 minutes.
4- Drain, lay on racks again with towels to drain, place in refrigerator to chill completely
5- Fry to order at 365 Deg. F. golden brown
This is a full proof method that has been tested by us
For those concerned with deep frying in fat (me personally I go for the soak in ice cold water for 30 minutes, pat thoroughly dry and use the 2 fry method in pure lard):
Crispy Oven Fries
We wanted a crisp exterior, fluffy interior, and fresh taste that approached that of real French fries—minus the deep-fryer. Here’s what we discovered:
Test Kitchen Discoveries
Finding the right shape for the potatoes was key. Shoestrings were fragile and tended to overcook, while extra-thick fries never lost the heavy texture of a baked potato. The best shape resembled a two-by-two board of lumber, with the fries about a half-inch wide and a half-inch tall.
Steaming peeled, cut potatoes in the microwave before putting them into the oven gave us the fluffy interior of fried fries. This is because as the water in the microwaved potato turns to steam and escapes, the potato’s starch granules absorb some of the moisture, causing them to swell and force the potato cells apart, resulting in a fluffy texture. Be sure to dry the potatoes thoroughly once they come out of the microwave.
Figuring the hotter the oven, the crisper the fries, we tested ours at extremely high temperatures. Ultimately, we settled on an oven temperature that was hot enough to crisp the fries, but not hot enough to incinerate their edges before the centers browned.
The key to crispiness turned out to be upping the amount of oil coating the potatoes, and getting both the oil and the pan good and hot before baking them. Sprinkling cornstarch over the fries helped them absorb moisture, which also improved crispiness.
STEP BY STEP
Baked Fry Bliss
1. For a fluffy interior, start the potatoes in the microwave.
2. Wet fries won't crisp, so blot them dry with paper towels.
3. Toss the fries with oil, cornstarch, and salt. The cornstarch absorbs moisture.
4. For deep-fried crispness, arrange the fries on an oiled, sizzling-hot baking sheet.
Crispy Oven Fries
You need a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet for this recipe; our favorite is the Lincoln Foodservice Half-Size Heavy Duty Sheet Pan.
4 russet potatoes (6 to 8 ounces each), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick fries
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1. MICROWAVE POTATOES Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in bowl, wrap tightly with plastic, and microwave until translucent around edges, 3 to 5 minutes, shaking bowl to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking. Transfer potatoes to cooling rack and thoroughly blot fry with paper towels.
2. HEAT OIL Coat rimmed baking sheet with 5 tablespoons oil. Transfer to oven and heat until just smoking, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk remaining oil, cornstarch, and salt in large bowl. Add potatoes to bowl and toss to coat.
3. BAKES POTATOES Arrange in a single layer on hot baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown and crisp, 25 to 35 minutes, flipping potatoes half-way through cooking time. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and lightly salt immediately.
For what it's worth, most cookbooks I've seen recommend Idaho and/or Russet potatoes, or some other "meally" as opposed to "waxy" potato. Both the Bouchon and Balthazar cookbooks recommend peanut oil - and those places take their "frites" very seriously. ;-)
Both also recommend soaking the fries before cooking and both use the two-fry (blanche and finish) method other posters have described.
There is nothing better than homemade french fries and the old Idaho cut precisely using large longish potatoes works the best for us. I fry once. We can't make them fast enough. I have a fairly new deep fryer, with the ventilation top that will cut the smell, but I still keep it out on a counter in the garage. Not that I make a mess I just don't want it in the house with hot oil, small children and big children, oh no. Place cooked fries on towels to blot oil, season with salt and we keep warm in the oven. That is if no one sees them coming out.
I too like lard, or peanut oil. Olive oil also makes a wonderful fryFries made with freshly dug potatoes are well worth the effort. The local potatoes here where I live, which are grown for potato chips, make excellent fries; they are Norwis. For generally available potatoes, Russets.
There is a lot of good advice on this thread. I use peanut oil. It's not as healthy as canola (healthy - deep fry???), but gives less of a flavor to the food. In a comparison test with lard, minimally processed lard is available at hispanic markets here in LA, my tasters preferred the peanut oil fried potatoes to those fried in lard. I use russets, soak them in ice water for at least 1/2 hour, and use the double fry method mentioned several times above. Another trick I picked up from "Cooks Illustrated" is to dust the potatoes with either corn or potato starch before the first fry. This helps crisp the end product.
Canola's health reputation is a function of great marketing. Besides, at high temperatures, the oil gives off a fishy flavor (it's because of its fat structure) that many but not all people are quite aware of, for which reason it shouldn't be use for high heat cooking unless you know none of the guests suffer from being aware of that...
Idaho russet potatoes are standard for American fries. In Europe they generally use potatoes similar to Yukon Golds. What's best? That's a matter of personal preference. So is your choice of oil. Me, I like the crispness of corn oil. Others find that taste overpowers the taste of the potato. Beef fat is wonderful but it is difficult for most home cooks to accumulate enough of it for deep frying. Some day I'll save up a quart or two of duck fat and then watch out...
Try Kennebecs if you can find them. Berkeley Bowl has them sometimes. Good starchy potato. Cut them, soak them, dry them and fry them. I second the nomination for good lard. Duck fat or goose fat also makes a superior fry. McD's used to fry in beef tallow for a really great tasting fry. Hard to find.
You can render tallow from suet (just like lard is rendered from pork fat), which can often be found in better meat markets. Of course, home-rendered fats are often a bit impure and may smoke.
Tallow fries were available in Canadian McDonalds long after being discontinued in the US - US fries have never been as good since the switch (the reputation of McDonald's fries is resting on stale laurels, in other words).
Interestingly, I remember comparing the caloric values of Canadian (tallow-fried) and US (all vegetable oil fried) fries for the same portion sizes: the US fries had 30% *more* calories, albeit with less cholesterol (with transfats, of course...).
I use Idahos. I do the double fry method. 325 F. for the first fry then 350-365 F for the second. I usually use veg. oil but I do sometimes add some lard. Also with my fried chicken. The lard I get is produced by a local farm and has no partially hydrogenated fats. It is pure rendered laf lard. OMG is it good expecailly for meat pies.
French fries are one of those items that is just better to find a good outside source for me. I seldom deep fry anything else, and I mean deep fry, as in using alot of oil. Gotta store the oil to reuse, or more $$ one t ime use. Cannot use oil used for anything meat.
Double fry is best, dropping single dry fresh Idahos strings.
I guess because I grew up in the business and worked in it, I still think, what is the Real Cost to make some item at home. French Fries are not it.
They have those oil-filtering shelf-top fryers that look pretty decent now... I've never used one, but a friend got one for a wedding present and seems to like it. I just get some peanut oil going in a dutch oven... works pretty well. Messy, but tasty. I always make sure I'm going to get several uses out of the oil over the course of a week or so... it's a shame to use it once and throw it out.
Agreed on the double frying.... it is essential for french fries. And make sure to use a thermometer... Seems to be a more reliable indicator than time spent in the oil.