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Freezing french fries is beneficial? (split from Boston board)

I know that this is slightly off topic, but former Bostonian J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote a great piece about homemade french fries today, and concluded that freezing actually has a beneficial effect, encouraging a fluffy interior by making the cells more able to release water. Fascinating, and it makes the fresh/frozen debate seem a little off target:

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

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  1. That was a fascinating article. French fries are indeed very tricky to get just right. A technique I have seen used that works pretty good (I have done it myself several times) is to start the fries in COLD oil, then bring it up to 375 degrees......makes for crispy, fluffy fries with big potato flavor, the downside is they can easily get too dark (as is mentioned in the article as being undesirous)

    1. I'm not sure how accurate this article is, but it claims that Thomas Keller uses frozen commercial fries at some of his restaurants.

      http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2007/01...

      1. I don't know about freezing, but I know that Heston Blumenthal encourages water evaporation from his fries before frying - at first he used a desiccator and uncovered refrigeration and later moved on to using a vacuum chamber.

        So it makes sense enough. The problem with a lot of frozen convenience foods is that they're not very good, not that freezing in and of itself is a bad thing.

        10 Replies
        1. re: cowboyardee

          This is the part I don't understanding. You think water evaporation makes sense, but I also read many people suggest soaking the fries before frying them. That seems odd.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I haven't really heard this. Who suggests soaking fries? Where in the process and for how long? What is this supposed to accomplish?

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Cowboy,

              I have never tried it myself, but I have read that suggestion in many places. It is supposed to be done before adding the cut potatoes in the oil -- before the frying step. I think it is supposed to remove the extra starch.

              "The trick to French fries is you have to either cut them and then soak them in water (in the fridge) for 12 hours (or overnight)"

              http://www.cheeseslave.com/2008/06/21...

              "Fill a large bowl with water and about 2 tablespoons of salt. Place the french fries in the water and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes."

              http://www.ehow.com/how_2198470_make-...

              "In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water. Soak potatoes in water mixture for 15 minutes. Remove from water, and dry thoroughly on paper towels."

              http://allrecipes.com/recipe/french-f...

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks. I was thinking that you meant that potatoes should still be wet when they go into the oil, which struck me as counterproductive.

                I should add that the Heston Blumenthal method I mentioned starts off with rinsing the potatoes under water for a minute and then cooking them in salted 185 deg F water until the potatoes are nearly falling apart. Then they go into the fridge, then the oil, fridge again, and oil again. I imagine the rinse and boil would remove extra starch, though I'm still not sure why that's important.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  So I see you have been using a similar method. If removing the extra starch is not important, then what is your rationale for rinising the cut potatoes under water and what is the reasons for cooking the cut potatoes in boiling salted water?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    The stated rationale for the rinse is that it removes starch. But I didn't come up with the recipe, so I'm not personally sure why that's important, though I will take Blumenthal's word for it that it is.

                    The cooking in hot water helps to create a fissured texture that will dry up well in the fridge and later fry up extra crispy on the outside.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Thanks. I will try your method. One last question.: After all the rinising and boiling, the cut potatoes are surely filled with water. How do you dry them up before the deep frying step? Do you just put them in the refrigerator and have the water evaporate there? Thanks.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Yeah, leaving them uncovered in the fridge until cold encourages evaporation. It's important to put them on a cake rack or something similar.

                        Here is the actual recipe, if you're interested.
                        http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life...

              2. re: cowboyardee

                A local burger place, the Nook, soaks their fries in vinegar-water overnight. Supposedly it makes them crispy. They are fantastic.

                ~TDQ

          2. Freezing definitely makes a difference.

            This is why McDonald's fries are so damn good, and why the fries at In-N-Out are so subpar by comparison.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              If you order fries at In N Out "Extra Well" and add salt they are better than McDonalds.

              1. re: SDGourmand

                I've tried all iterations of In-N-Out fries and no matter how they are made they do not measure up.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I agree that McDonald fries are pretty awesome, but I won't say In-N-Out fries are bad. The first time I tried In-N-Out fries I didn't like them, but they grew on my and eventually I like them more than McDonald's.

            2. How to Make the Perfect French Fries
              When choosing the type of potato to make the perfect French fries there were certain factors that had to be looked at. First, the percent of dry matter (starch) and the percent of water that was in the potato. Also, the sugar content played a role into the decision of what type of potato to use. The average percentage of starch to water in a potato is 17 % starch to 78 % water. The other 5 % of the potato is irrelevant to making French fries. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck discovered that to make the perfect French fry the percent of starch would be 22.5% of the potato. If the potato had more than 22.5 % starch it had a tough, leathery exterior when fried and if the potato had less than 22.5 % starch the potato tasted bland and did not crisp up well. The potatoes that were consistently closest to this percentage were the Maris Piper and the Arron Victory potato. Some other potatoes that are good for French fries are Russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, King Edward potatoes, and Sante potatoes. If there is too much sugar content in the potato it prevents the fries from crisping. The extra sugar makes the potatoes brown before they crisp so if you wanted to have crisp potatoes you would have to “burn” them if the potato had high sugar contents. The sugar content in the potato increases after the potato has been harvested or if the potato is kept in a chill place like a refrigerator. To make sure that your potato does not have a high sugar content either get potatoes that have just been harvested and that have not been sitting in a factory garage for months or you can get potatoes that were frozen the day they were harvested (I do not know if they have these). Potatoes are typically harvested in September, so that would be the prime time to use the very fresh potatoes.
              When choosing the fat in which you want to fry you potatoes there are a few things to consider. What is the smoke rate of the fat? Does the fat impart any pleasant or unpleasant flavors? Do you want the potato to not get any flavor from the fat at all? A high smoke rate for frying is key because if the smoke rate of the fat is below 400 degrees the fat will break down and cause the fries to taste burnt and fishy. Some oils that have high smoke rates are canola (486 degrees), peanut (448 degrees), safflower (509 degrees), and beef tallow (420 degrees), and horse tallow (475 degrees). Horse tallow is used by Alain Passard, owner of L’Arpege, to make his French fries. In America I believe a lot of people would consider using horse tallow unethical. Beef Tallow gives a great flavor to fries that can only be matched by horse tallow. Also let’s say you had extra duck fat around you can use that to make fries, but duck fat would impart a good flavor, but that might not be wanted in the end result of the French fries. Oils like canola, safflower, and peanut do not give of much flavor because they usually have Vitamin E. Vitamin E prohibits the transfer of flavors between the oils and the potatoes being fried. There is no best fat for frying, but if you want your fries to have an extraordinary flavor that most fries don’t have use beef tallow. McDonalds was using beef tallow in America up to 1983 for their fries, but McDonalds stopped using it because people did not like how the fries were so unhealthy. If you want fries with neutral flavor use canola oil, safflower oil, our peanut oil. Just make sure whatever fat you are using that it is very clean.
              I think everyone agrees that perfect fries are crisp on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside. To achieve this there are numerous steps that need to be made. When cutting the potato for French fries the knife you are using or whatever you are using to cut your potatoes has to be extremely sharp. If the knife is not extremely sharp when it cuts through the potato it creates a rigid cut (whenever you have a sharp knife and you cut something the surface that you cut should be very smooth). When this rigid cut goes into the fat that you are frying in it will cause oil to get stuck in the crevices on the surface resulting in greasy fries. All of your fries have to be uniform in size so there is equal browning throughout. If you cut your fries too thin the whole fry will be crispy but there will be no fluffy interior. If you cut your potatoes too thick the crust will be cooked before the inside of the fry gets cooked. Once fries are cut to ¼ inch slices put them in salted cold water for at least an hour. There are many reasons to do this. One reason is that the salted water prevents the potatoes from oxidizing. Secondly, if there is too much water content in your potato the water will leach out of the potato to form equilibrium with the salted water (osmosis). Thirdly, putting the potatoes in the salted water will remove the excess starch that is on the surface of the potatoes. If the excess starch is not removed from the potato when the potato is frying the steam will get trapped inside of the potato which will make the potato have an unpleasant gummy texture. Also, if the steam gets trapped inside of the potato it cannot “block” the oil from coming into the potato. If the oil is not stopped from reaching the inside of the potato, the potato will be very greasy. Fries need to be cooked twice in a big vat of oil and in small batches of potatoes so the fat does not lower drastically in temperature and so the fries do not stick together. The potatoes must be extremely dry before put into fryer. Some ways to dry the potatoes completely are using a dissactor, a cyrovac, or a salad spinner (the most practical way). There is an initial par cook in the fat at a temperature of 275 degrees to cook the inside of the potato and then there is a second fry at 375 degrees that crisps the outside of the potato. You must initially par cook the potatoes in the fat because the starch in the potato has time to dissolve and glue to the outer cell walls to make them thicker and has a more robust flavor. Also, potato cells have granules of starch, which swell when the cellular water is heated, which forms a “puree” inside of the potato that gives the fries there fluffy texture. After the first period of frying the potatoes should be cooked through but not crispy. If the fat for the pre cook is too hot the potatoes will not get cooked all the way through on the inside and if the fat is too cold the fries will turn out to be too greasy. Once all of the fries have been precooked again in small batches, crisp the fries up in the same fat that was used to precook them, but instead at a much higher temperature. Make sure not to puncture the fries because that will make the inside of the fry collapse, like a soufflé, and the fry would not be as fluffy. The second the fries come out of the fryer drain them and then season them with good sea salt and any other flavorings you wish to impart in the fries. You season right after the fries come out of the fryer because the remaining fat that is still on the fries will make the seasonings stick to the fries. Serve the fries to the diners as quickly as possible. Maybe serve with some sort of vinegar sauce because vinegar (malt vinegar) pairs great with fries.
              http://teenchefteddy.blogspot.com/