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Why do Restaurants Use Frozen French Fries?

With lots of buzz about fries these days, I continue to find many joints (places that could be on the Triple-D show types) that use Frozen french fries. Yikes. With some slight variations, there just aren't any frozen french fries that cut it.

Why do these places have great, fresh food, and then accompany it with frozen french fries???

FN hosts continually say that fresh cut fries cost about HALF (to the restaurant) of what frozen cost them. Not to mention the geometric improvement in taste and quality.

Sure, it's a bit more labor intensive, but if they spend so much time custom cooking from scratch everything else, why not use fresh cut fries as well? Do you put old bald tires on a new shiny car?

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  1. I don't see how frozen could cost less, including labor costs. Many years ago, I cut french fries in a restaurant job. The peeling is the most labor-intensive part.

    Perhaps they think the fries are not an important menu item, sold mostly to children and people who order sandwiches.

    I know where to get perfect fries when I crave them. I don't need them in every restaurant.

    15 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      No you are right. Please re read above-- the Fresh cost half the price of the frozen, as I said. No need to peel, and there is a machine that cuts raw potatoes into fry strips, in one swoop of the arm. Quick.

      Sure, we can travel for good fries, but when a place has labor intensive prepared, from scratch dishes, frozen fries are a non-starter.

      1. re: lemarais

        I think you've just explained why those awful skin-on things have taken over about half the restaurants I know. I do not mind unpeeled White Rose or other "new" potatoes when they are very young, but Russet skins? Might as well eat my eggs unshelled.

        1. re: Will Owen

          When it comes to ingredients I am all about quality & freshness. However, with homemade fries, additional variables are added to the equation and I have experienced consistency issues with the fresh cut at many places. I also don't like skin on my fries.

          IMHO, sometimes its just hard to beat the old standby where good oil at the right temp for the right time produces a consistently good product. "KISS" comes to mind.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Hmm - I often bake Russetts and throw away the 'white stuff' :-)

          2. re: lemarais

            I prefer frozen. Some very serious places will cut their own, flash fry them, and then freeze them. Still, they are frozen at some point.

            For me, most fresh french fries are non-starters.

          3. re: GH1618

            <I don't see how frozen could cost less, including labor costs.>

            Most likely storage.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              ?? most places that use good frozen french fries go through 20 or 30 cases a week. They're in and out....and I'm not talking about the burgers. It's a high profit margin for most places that cater to the french fry clientele. A good frozen fry is most often better than fresh.

              1. re: coll

                Yep. Especially the fat crinkle-cut variety. I love 'em.

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  I agree, they are the best! You're not going to get that home made very easily.

                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    Love them too. More surface area to fry & holds condiment better.

                    1. re: Tom34

                      Del Taco in SoCal have (do they still?) some really tasty crinkle cuts. Order a bun taco (off the menu, but they'll make one for you) and you're in fast food heaven.

                  2. re: coll

                    Agree, and the cases stack perfect for hand truck movement and stack to the ceiling in the corner of the walk-in. Labor is limited to removing them from the box and placing them in the fryer. From there oil quality, temp & time are the only variables. Since they are frozen there is little if any waste or damaged / defective product.

                    1. re: Tom34

                      When it comes to fries, consistancy is king.

                      1. re: coll

                        Your right. I have had frozen fries that ranged from pretty good to Great but better that 1/2 the in-house cut fries I have had were terrible.

              2. To make fries right, you have to cook twice, so there's an extra labor cost there, after peeling, cutting and par-frying. Frozen is grab and fry.

                Last I checked you could get french fries for 20 cents a lb, with the really fancy/expensive maybe 45 cents? That's about as cheap as you could buy raw potatoes by the lb, so why add labor costs to your bottom line?

                1. Making french fries from from fresh cut potatoes usually doesn't result in better tasting fries. There's a lot of science that goes into making the perfect crispy french fry, and you can't do that just by cutting up potatoes and dunking them in hot oil. See here: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: E Eto

                    Sure, but even without the science, fresh just tastes better. I've made them at home in a skillet, single, not double cooked, and they are infinitely better than frozen.

                    I don't want the perfect french fry, just not a frozen one at a restaurant with the main dish prepared with such care.

                    Like the joints on Diners Driveins and Dives...

                    1. re: lemarais

                      I have to disagree. Fresh do not always taste better than frozen.

                      Take 5 guys. If you are lucky to get them fresh out if the fryer and don't take them to go they can be awesome-crispy and delicious- for about 5 minutes. As they cool they get soggy, they stick together and the grease becomes very pronounced. Take them to go and they are inedible by the time you get home. Get batch that sat in the drainer too long? Yuck

                      I don't have a fryolater so I make them in my cast iron pan. When they are good they are *really* good. But they are inconsistent. Depending on the potato, the oil, the temperature and the moisture one batch might be fabulous but the next not so much.

                      OreIda traditional fries and their steaks fries are consistently good every time. They are inexpensive and I know I am going get a quality fry that's crispy and tender every single time. I'll take those over a poorly prepared fresh one ant day

                      1. re: foodieX2

                        Too true. Some of the worst fries I've had were at restaurants that use fresh potatoes. Soggy, greasy, gack! I've not been to 5 guys, it's a 20-minute drive, but I know there's not much better than a 2-minute-old McD's fry.

                        1. re: DuffyH

                          I don't know if it is the beer I often consume before devouring a McDonald's LG fry but they sure seem good at the time.

                        2. re: foodieX2

                          Five Guys is a perfect example. Fresh cut, inconsistently fried, uneven temperature, lousy consistency, almost always a greasy, steamy mess. Even if you get them out of that damn bag ASAP, they're still horrible compared to the krinkle cut Ore Idas from the Chinese carryout across the street.

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            Had the same experience. McDonalds LG fry any day over 5 guys.

                        3. re: lemarais

                          Disagree. To echo some of the other sentiments, I'd take a bad frozen over a bad fresh any day. And most fresh fries are done poorly

                      2. There are a number of reasons for using frozen fries. Even Thomas Keller uses them in his restaurants. Here is an interesting article:

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

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: raytamsgv

                          Well, seems like Keller is rather eccentric in this matter. In the same article you linked to is this quote from another chef:

                          "The frozen ones have a strange edge to them from all the things they add — like sugar and starch and hydrogenated oil — to make them crispy. It’s so easy to make fresh French fries, I can't imagine why anyone would do anything else"

                          'Nough said. I have a feeling the reason a lot of these mom n pop places that turn out home cooked food use frozen is just plain ignorance. Irvine has turned up a few on his show, and got them to switch immediately to fresh.

                          1. re: lemarais

                            "I have a feeling the reason a lot of these mom n pop places that turn out home cooked food use frozen is just plain ignorance."

                            I will bet you that a solid majority of people selling "Home-Cooked" food have never made a French fry in their own homes that wasn't frozen. Ignorance? Okay, call it that, but I've shown my fry cutter to people who've assumed it must be from the Olden Times, when folks couldn't get normal frozen ones.

                            1. re: lemarais

                              I would also like to point out that that other chef obviously was unaware that Keller had said the frozen fries he uses are "100% potato, no additives."

                          2. Fresh-cut potatoes for fries are the one kudo I give to In 'n Out burgers. Keep the burgers, just give me a platterful of their fries.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: pine time

                              In 'n out fries are almost universally despised, never crisp and get "rigor mortis" quite quickly. One of the best fries I ever used to buy blew my mind 20 years ago when my "to go" order was presented in a empty commercial frozen french fry carton. I went on to investigate, and there is good science why pre-blanched frozen FF's might be better than fresh, in many cases.

                              Caveat: We keep a fryer full of oil on the counter always, but always use fresh potatoes for fries, which we always properly double fry with a rest/cooling between fry's. Mainly because fresh potatoes are $1/10lb. This does not mean that there is not a sack of tater-tots in the freezer.

                              1. re: DWB

                                I tried ordering the In-n-Out fries "light well" last time, on the recommendation of someone here, and I liked them better.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  Yup, agree on "light well," and well as eating 'em within 2 minutes, while hot. But then, I've never eaten any fry cold or cooling, that I'd recommend.

                              2. re: pine time

                                I like the fries from In N' Out Burgers too. It took awhile for me to like them, but I ended up likening them alot.