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Homemade french fries without a deep fryer, what's my best vessel?

Okay so I want to learn how to make some really good french fries.

I'll be following the instructions here: http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/05/...

I have the Pectinex SP-L, 20 lbs of russet potatoes, 5L of canola oil, and an iron will.

What I don't have is a professional deep fry machine... or any fry machine for that matter. Just an electric stove.

My options are:

- Stock pot
- Wok
- Deep coated cast iron fry pan
- Thin tall pot designed for deep frying
- Dutch oven

I don't need to make large quantities. I've included pictures of my options. I'm really quite confused as to what will work best, mostly concerned with bringing the oil back up to temperature after dropping the potatoes in.

I'm not sure if the thin bottomed wok would be best, or something with a thick bottom?

Or perhaps the thick bottomed cast iron pan or the dutch oven, since it's wider so the fries have room to spread out more?

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  1. I think the wok and the skillet are too short. The dutch oven might be fine for very small batches. You need enough depth to fit enough oil for it to qualify as deep frying (food should be surrounded by oil on all side and not touching the bottom) plus room for the food, plus room for the bubbing up that happens when you add something damp to hot oil - I'd say 8-10". So the two taller pots are probably best, if you can fill one about halfway with oil. Do you have a spider or something to scoop the fries out with? Have fun and be safe.

    1. The dutch oven. In small batches. It will retain heat, which will help to maintain a constant temp. Be careful! I always said that when I was deep frying, no children and no pets in the kitchen!!! Hint for frying: Throw a couple of popcorn kernels into the heating oil; they will remind you that you are heating oil when they pop, and they will pop at about 350 degrees, which will help you to determine when the correct cooking temp is hit.

      5 Replies
        1. re: sandylc

          I agree with the dutch oven, and what a great tip about the popcorn!

          1. re: sandylc

            Or you could use a thermometer. It would save the oil splatter when the kernel pops. I have the same DO and use that all the time for deep frying, I don't like the thin pots for this use.

            1. re: Dave5440

              Honestly, I have found popcorn to be more reliable than most thermometers! Placement of the thermometer tip can be clumsy and imprecise. And the popcorn doesn't splatter when it is in deep oil. It can be surprising, though! (A good thing when you don't want to forget that you're heating oil!)

              1. re: sandylc

                I wouldn't rely on popcorn, there's enough unpopped kernels for me to rely on that and if you get a good quality thermometer meant for the task it isn't akward and far more reliable. Also what do you do once it's popped? Do you keep putting more in so you know you are maintaining 350?

          2. You could also try cooking them at a lower temperature, per Joel Robuchon. I copied this paraphrase from another hound (forgot to save the name, sorry):

            "french fries by joel robuchon via america's test kitchen:

            2 pounds of 1/4 " planks of yukon gold potatoes, put into
            room temp dutch oven, pour in
            1 quart peanut oil (plus 1/4 C bacon grease -- or duck fat)
            heat to rolling boil (around 300 degrees) and do not disturb at all for 15 minutes.
            after 15 minutes, gently dislodge any fries stuck on bottom.
            let cook for 20 more minutes (i think it was 20).

            remove, drain on towel, salt. munch a bunch.

            science guy says they absorb less fat at 300 than cooking at 375, because of the role of water displacement. the higher the temp, the more water is displaced in the taters, the more oil goes into the taters. this is not really time dependent. cool, huh?"

            1. My 70 year old cast iron skillet (the deep, "chicken fryer" one) makes really great fries...crispy, light, and delicious.
              Grapeseed, Olive, and Rice Bran oil are all great oils great to use. When I feel decadent and want the real flavor of traditional fries (or chips) , I'll occasionally do a batch in good old Lard (or one of the above oils with some Lard added).
              Canola, Corn, and Soy oil are probably the worst choices for making fries.

              5 Replies
              1. re: The Professor

                Professor, where in tarnation do you get Rice Bran oil? I mean really? Never heard of it. Help please. Is lard also known as Manteca?

                1. re: iL Divo

                  You can find it on amazon.com for one. Very neutral in flavor. It's also really great for high temp cooking, since it has such a high smoke point. I use it to sear off foods where I want to get a deep brown crust but not cook the center any more than it has already been cooked.

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    If you can find unhydrogenated lard, that is where the difference is. Good lard is unfortunately quite expensive, and very difficult to find, even online. I have not tried it, but leaf lard (from around the pig's organs) is supposedly the best for deep frying.

                    "Manteca" is just Spanish for lard (and a brand name).

                  2. re: The Professor

                    I thought olive oil had low smoke point. or is it only for evoo?

                    1. re: Monica

                      Smoke points for Extra virgin - 406 Regular - 460 Light - 468

                  3. Are you going to double fry them?

                    1. The biggest factor in heat recovery is the volume of the oil, followed by the weight of the cooking vessel (OK, that is simplified, but true enough).

                      You want a cooking vessel that will fit as much oil as you are willing to add but not be filled to the top. If you are going to use all 5 liters, the stockpot might be best, but I can't really tell the volume of your pots.

                      You don't want to add such a large amount of fries that they would have much of a chance to clump anyway, so a wider pan isn't really necessary. Small batches will serve you better.

                      Technically, you could use any of them. The stock pot, tall pot, and dutch oven would be my picks, depending on how much oil I plan to use.

                      1. What cow said...You also need someone to sample the results...Will work for fries

                        1. I like the looks of the 3rd pix best for your purpose.
                          My fries will be done in my 'fry grand daddy' with the Manteca I took out of the freezer.
                          Having just watched a show on ATK about the perfect fries, I've sliced and cut up the sticks soaked them until water ran clear, now they're in a giant bowl full of clear water and ice cubes.
                          Two separate batches of fries first to do halfway and second to do the finale :)
                          fingers crossed for dinner fries tonight

                          1. I used a pot for years before finally giving in a buying a great fryer, so here is what I would offer:

                            - You can't fill the pot more than half full, so volume is important. That eliminates your low side pans

                            - Recovery is an issue when the temperature drops after adding food, but your other big problem is heat that is lost through thin sidewalls. Woks and pots with thin metal sides lose heat constantly through those sides as you are frying. My vote is for the Dutch oven, as it appears to be enameled cast iron, and it will retain heat very well. I used to fry in a disk bottomed SS saucepan, but switched to an enameled Dutch oven and/or a thick, clad construction stainless saucepan. Those pots kept the oil temperature more constant than my first pot, and the Dutch oven did the best job because even half-filled, the oil volume was greater and didn't fluctuate as much when I added potatoes. Don't know the size of your Dutch oven, but mine is something like 5 quarts. You can use a bigger pot if needed.

                            By all means, use a thermometer. My recommendation is a digital one that clips onto the side of the pot. Avoid the glass ones, as I have had them shatter in oil after a while. That is a disaster. I do agree that thermometers are not always accurate, but even within 50 degrees is safer than not using one. You want the oil hot enough, but want to avoid a fire, so overheating is something to be watchful of.

                            Double fry. There is no substitute.

                            When you are finally tired of constantly watching oil temperature (it took me years), pick a fryer to suit your needs. I shopped for a year before finding my Emeril fryer, which is really a TFal. It has a large capacity and an automatic oil drainer/strainer. Everything except the electronics goes in the dishwasher. I think the fries I make are now even better because I set temperature very accurately and the potatoes come out even better than before. Temperature is adjusted automatically in a fryer, and your chance of overheating is greatly reduced, so it is safer.

                            See how you like the manual process and how you adapt to it. I probably would have gone for years more without my fryer, except I tend to also want to put burgers or steaks on the outdoor grill while frying, and you very well can't leave a pot of oil unattended on the stove. You can set a fryer and keep a remote eye on it through the window from 15 feet away, so the fryer solved a multitude of problems for me, and the fries are much better because I can do the second fry at 375 degrees, which yields a perfect French Fry.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: RGC1982

                              I have the T-fal version of that fryer, have you checked yours to see if it hits 375? I checked mine with 3 thermometers and they all come in at 340+/- 10deg when the fryer says it's at 375. Other than that it's great for all the reasons you stated

                            2. Okay, now where to get Pectinex SP-L?

                              Is there a type of replacement of SP-L if we can't get it?