How to make from scratch? Do I boil the ptoatoes firs or jst deep fry? I'm assuming russets but am I wrong?
I have never made them at home, but from what I've read - you want to fry twice - once at a lower temp, then once at a higher temp. Hopefully others who have done this will chime in.
Russets are good, and it's better if they're old. Slice them up, and soak them in ice cold water for a while. Dry well, and fry at a lowish temp until they are limp. Take them out and let the oil come to a higher temp. When potatoes are coolish and oil is at high temp, (400+?) refry until brown. Sorry to be so vague, but I usually do it by feel.
First of all, if you're not experienced cooking with pots of hot oil, do some reading and learn and follow the safety rules. I can't think of anything more dangerous in cooking than hot oil. The risk of conflagration and/or personal injury to yourself or someone else is enormous. If you've experienced (or read about) those emergency calls generated by attempts to deep fry the Thanksgiving turkey, you know what I mean.
I agree with some of the ideas presented so far, but I take issue with others. Most oils commonly used in cooking have a smoking point somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees. Try to use an oil with a smoking temperature above 410 degrees so you have some margin on controlling your cooking process. Cooking french fries successfully doesn't' normally require temperatures greater than 375 degrees. If you can maintain good control over your oil temperature and keep it between 350 and 375 degrees after the first batch of sliced spuds enter the oil you should produce the perfect french fry. For this initial introduction of the potato slices to the oil, you may want to push the temp. to about 390 - 400 (but no higher) because it's common for the oil temp. to drop as much as 50 degrees when the potato slices make their entry. Try to watch the temp. and introduce a few pieces of potato at a time to control that aspect of the process. For the first phase you want to cook the potato rather than brown it. The oil doesn't cook the potato, the steam generated inside the potato by the hot oil does the actual cooking. You want to maintain an oil temperature high enough to maintain a constant supply of steam generated inside the potato to cook it (and that's also what keeps the oil from penetrating the food) without getting the outside browned to any degree.
As a side note, you'll find that oil that has had some previous use browns the fries better than fresh oil. But tt's a subject better suited for chemistry class and we don't have enough space here to cover that much data.
I wouldn't put the potatoes in cold water. Water leaches out the starch and you need the starch to crisp up the outside. When you first introduce the potato to the hot oil you'll find a l lot of bubbles forming; kinda like a foaming cauldron. That's caused by the steam created with the wet potato hits the hot oil; and that's why you don't fill your deep fryer above the limit line set by its manufacturer. The limit line is intended to provide space for the bubbling oil to expand as the steam tries to escape the hot oil environment.
When the bubbling has pretty much stopped and the potatoes are slightly limp, remove them to a rack (use a spider) beneath which you've placed absorbent paper and allow them to cool. Once these pre-cooked beauties have cooled, re-introduce them to the oil to finish cooking them and crisp them up. When you achieve the degree of donness you want, remove them back to the rack and immediately sprinkle with salt (or other seasonings).
Russets? Good choice ...
Exactly the method I use EXCEPT that I rid the potatoes of the starch by running cut potatoes under water until clear (or multiple baths). Then cover with ice and leave in the ref for 30 min or more. When ready to cook, dry the potatoes and put in the medium oil (250-325) and cook until blond. When ready to serve (after 10 minutes to 2 hours - longer requires some storage), fry the potatoes in hot oil (350-375) until brown. As stated by todao, older starchy potatoes are best.
Always produces great fries .
I would agree that if you don't have an electric deep fryer, it is really important to use a good thermometer.
I learned this method from watching America's Test Kitchen.
Peel and cut your Russets into your desired shape and size. Rinse cut potatoes in a large bowl with lots of cold running water until water becomes clear. Cover with water by 1-inch and cover with ice. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. You want the potatoes cold. When you're ready to fy them, make sure you dry the potatoes really well.
In a 5-quart pot or Dutch oven (or in an electric deep fryer), heat peanut oil over medium-low heat until the thermometer registers 325 degrees F. Make sure that you have at least 3 inches of space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan, because the fries will bubble up when they are added.
Drain the fries and wrap potato pieces in a clean dishcloth or tea towel and thoroughly pat dry. A cloth towel is better than paper towels because you don't want little paper pieces sticking to the fries.
Just before you add the fries turn the heat up a little because it will drop when you add the cold potatoes. Add fries, a handful at a time, into the hot oil.
This is where it's important to watch the temperature of the oil because you do not want it to go over 325
Fry, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft and limp and begin to turn a blond color, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a skimmer or a slotted spoon, carefully remove fries from the oil and set aside to drain on paper towels. Let rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. They also said you can put them on a cookie sheet and freeze at this point. But, I don't know why you would really want to.........
When ready to serve the French fries, reheat the oil to 350 degrees F. Put the potatoes into hot oil and fry again, stirring frequently, until golden brown and puffed, about 1 minute. Drain on a paper lined platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.
I use the same method as alwayscooking and they always come out great. Have never used a thermometer, but you might feel more comfortable using one. You'll definitely find what works for you after you've made them a few times. Let us know how they turn out!