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What makes "hand cut" fries so special?

You see it all the time on menus and what-not ... "hand cut fries"

Is there a taste difference between hand cut and machine cut fries?

Certainly, there may be a cosmetic difference, but is there a difference in taste?

Assuming I start with the same Idaho spud, will the fries I make with that spud that are hand cut actually taste better than if I used, say, some sort of mechanical contraption to make the fries?

If there is no taste difference, then there's got to be some sort of reason to advertise and make specific mention of the fact that the fries you are ordering, and the ones they are making for you, have been sliced by hand, right? Right??

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  1. I think there's an image that unless it's hand cut, you get frozen Ore-Ida potatoes masquerading as high class french fries.

    1. I think hand cut implies that the french fries have more recently been a potato -- when your options are 1. hand cut, 2. machine cut in the kitchen, or 3. machine cut in factory, most restaurants have probably opted for 1 or 3.

      1. Hand cut fries are always taste better because of the qi imparted by hand onto the fries. If no qi is transferred, then the fries would be functionally indistinguishable from machine-cut fries to everyone except for the marketing department. :-)

        1. Hand cut fries are preferred because they are cut fresh instead of being frozen. The method of being cut isn't isn't as important them being cut the same day, and then being double fried when ordered.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Kelli2006

            Well, couldn't you machine cut the fries the same day, then double fry them as well?

            Would fries cut by machine at the time of order be somehow inferior to fries cut by hand at the time order?

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Yes, you definitely could. Ive never seen anyone cut shoestrings or frites by hand w/ a knife.

              I like pikawicca's terminology.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Restaurant fries, if not frozen, but made in house, are virtually always machine cut,
                mostly by a manual machine and a human hand. Hence, hand-cut. Frozen fries are more consistent, with less labor and waste, more cost effective. Hand-cut fries are a menu marketing tool with more waste and labor. I've had good and bad of both. It's a crap shoot.

          2. I think a better terminology would be "house-cut" to distinguish the product from pre-cut, frozen fries.

            1. There were posts recently saying some of the top chefs at high end restaurants were using frozen fries because they were more consistent.
              Depending on the time of year the sugar content in the potatoes are different which has an effect on the taste and how they fry up.
              Having been in the restaurant business and having to taste test brands of fries from fresh or frozen you can't tell the difference.

              10 Replies
              1. re: monku

                Believe it was Thomas Keller of Bouchon using frozen fries for consistency.

                1. re: monku

                  Yes, I think there is big difference in the two. Manufactured fries are first steam peeled then trimmed of black nematodes and other bad spots. They are then cut to size, blanched in high sugar water, then blanched in hot oil and frozen. They are real good if you take them off the fry line and cook them in the lab. But when frozen I think the natural sugars turn into starches and when cooked in a restaurant they turn out bland tasting. the sugar blanch is to just give them a even color when cooked.
                  Fresh cut potatoes have a earthy flavor ( even better with the peels on) with a uneven color. It takes a longer to cook fresh than frozen fries, so everyone uses frozen because of time, labor, color and forgot the taste. Oh by the way oils make a big different in taste, remember Mc D's and K F C used lard before the P C people got to them.

                  1. re: yakitat jack

                    McDonald's fries used to be fried in a mixture of beef tallow and vegetable oil, not lard.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      You're right, it was beef tallow, but you can't beat lard for the flavor either.

                      1. re: yakitat jack

                        Those were the best fries - I am sure I ate a whole lifetime's worth before they changed from beef tallow to whatever crap they cook with now.

                        1. re: yakitat jack

                          I love lard, but I don't think I've ever had potatoes fried in it. Does anyone know what the smoke point of lard is?

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            It varies with the purity of the lard but its close to 370°F when clean.

                      2. re: yakitat jack

                        Potato nematodes result in cysts, deformed tubers, and yield reductions, and not just in surface discoloration. Infested crops are not commonly sold nor accepted for human consumption.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Sorry Sam, but nematodes are a Little micro worm that blackens a potato under the skin. And yes they are sold for human consumption. How many times have you peeled a raw sud found black ends, that's nematodes, just cut it off, the rest of the potato is OK to eat. Cysts? Deformed tubers comes from not watering the field right. Surface discoloration is called pressure bruising by potato growers and hollow heart is from watering the field too much. The red in hollow heart is not good to eat.

                          1. re: yakitat jack

                            The nemotologists at our sister institute, the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima will be interested in your findings.

                  2. "Hand-cut fries" implies to me the use of Lamb-Weston frozen fries with the bits of skin on them, not that they had been cut in the kitchen. I know of many restaurants that use the term and serve these. I always chuckle when I see it. Then again, it's hard to make a better fry without the added topical starch. I used to coat duck fat-parcooked fries in a potato starch slurry before re-frying, and that worked pretty well.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: almansa

                      What does the starch addition do to the fry, flavor-wise, crunch-wise? I've honestly never heard of this being done, especially dipping the blanched fries in a slurry.
                      Very few restaurants would cook their french fries in duck fat, too cost prohibitive. I only know of one place in Chicago.

                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                        It enhances and preserves the crunch. I noticed a starch coating on frozen fries and tried to emulate it at work.

                      2. re: almansa

                        You know, I'd never heard of Lamb-Weston fries until I was in Palm Springs last week, and a couple of menus I looked at mentioned them....

                      3. I'm definitely a sucker when I see hand-cut fries on a menu, because as novelgazer says, that means they went from being a potato to a frency fry and those are just so, so delicious. I don't care if a hand or a machine has cut them, but fries made from fresh potatoes that haven't been frozen are hands down way better than frozen ones. I've had some decent frozen fries too....but some awfully bad ones as well. Some of the ones you can find in the grocery store are just potatoes that are fried and frozen...others seem to be the chicken nuggets of french fries, formed with potato meal and all kinds of other crap. They don't taste what a french fry should taste like, but I've never met a "fresh-cut" or "hand-cut" fry that I thought didn't taste like a potato.

                        1. I work at a place where we cut our fries by hand, then twice fry them. They aren't that great, to tell the truth. We have two deep fryers for fries and potato chips, but we're so slammed that it's really tempting to overcrowd the baskets, resulting in a somewhat limp fry.

                          Honestly, SO much work goes into producing these hand cut fries that I feel like the boss man doesn't really value the effort of his prep cooks.