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Please help troubleshoot my french fries

I've read many posts on this board and others regarding fries and I think I know where I went wrong, but would appreciate additional opinions.

My husband was gifted a 10-lb pail of duck fat for his birthday in October. Of course, duck confit and duck fat fries were on the agenda. A French fry cutter from his parents on Christmas sealed the deal.

I tried the fries last weekend and was disappointed with my result. The fries turned out rather limp and lackluster. Some weren't cooked all the way through. They were rather like boardwalk style fries that had been out of the fryer too long.

We used russet potatoes, cut and soaked in ice water for about 1/2 hour before the first fry. We then blotted them with towels until dry.

We used about 2 1/2 quarts of duck fat (previously used in confit) in a cast iron pot. Heated to 325 at med-high heat, then fried the potatoes in small batches. During the first batch of the first fry, the temperature of the fat dropped like a rock (bottomed out at 275 before it started to recover). Keeping the heat cranked on high helped to maintain the temperature on subsequent batches. *All* of the batches started to brown before the potatoes softened.

Once the first fry was finished, cranked the heat to 375, then dropped for the second fry. Again, this was done in small batches. The fries browned quite quickly, so they had a very short stay in the fat. I think this was because they browned prematurely on the first fry.

Based on Dr. Google, it seems as though I should have soaked the potatoes much longer than I did. The browning could be the result of excess starch on the surface, maybe?

As far as the temperature dropping so dramatically, should I let the potatoes come to room temperature before frying? Is there anything different about frying in duck fat vs oil? Could using the fat from the confit have caused an issue?

I intend to take another run at them this weekend (I don't deal with failure well) and would appreciate all the help I could get. Thanks!

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  1. I see you fried them twice. You did the first one at a lower temperature to cook them thru, right. Then, you give them a brief rest while you bring the fat up to a higher temp to crisp them.

    Lucky you to have 10 pounds of duck fat!

    1. I would definitely have the potatoes at room temp before frying.

      1. Maybe slightly off track, but I have given up on making french fries. Growing up, my mom made the best crisp fries in a cheap aluminum pan with Crisco. Every attempt I have made to replicate those fries have been a HUGE disappointment. I have tried every method.. I wish you luck.

        1. Your technique seems generally fine but I would modify a few things.

          Let the fries soak in water at least over night. I often cut a large batch of potatoes into fries and then put them into large sealed containers with water in the fridge. I change the water every day. I've kept potatoes like this for over a week and fried up batches when the mood struck. 1/2 hour was not enough.

          Check your thermometer. Temperatures you were aiming for were right. Just confirm that the readings were correct.

          You let the fries cook too long in the initial frying if they were turning brown or maybe the temp was higher than what the thermometer read. 5-6 minutes should be enough.

          Otherwise, your description of what you did should be fine.

          Good luck.

          1. I haven't made double-fried fries in ages, not since I learned about the cold oil start method: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/476770 . You might want to give that a go - I would recommend using Yukon Golds. It makes really delicious fries with very little effort.

            1 Reply
            1. re: biondanonima

              I think this technique works nicely - and would use less of the OP's duck fat.

            2. No need to take the fries out. Cook on low, then raise the heat. And you had it too hot for the first part... they should still be pale before you crank the heat.

              1. I have found that 1) blanching, and 2) a higher temp for the first fry makes a big difference. Google showed me this page: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2... It is much like how I do it, but my dad taught me to blanch or parboil only for a few minutes -- he worked in the restaurant quality control business for years.

                1. Basic technique is spot on, though I generally do the first fry at 320 and the second at 360. Remember, the whole point of the first fry is to boil the water out of the spuds, so the temp isn't that critical unless its too hot, which will start the edges browning before sufficient water's gone.

                  You said you did Russets -- how old were they? Last time i made fries (about a month ago) I had a batch of Idaho's that were very fresh and also very watery. I wasn't paying attention & my first batch came out too limp. Second time around, i did the first fry at a lower temp and for a longer time. Bingo.

                  1. You are getting plenty of advice on technique, but my question is where did the gift giver get the 10 lb. pail of duck fat?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: John E.

                      D'artagnan, of course! It cost about the same as 4 of those little pots you pick up in the grocery store for $7.

                    2. Mrs Porker makes great fries, but seems to disregard almost all advice here.

                      She uses whatever potatoes on hand (usually white table potatoes or yellow-flesh).

                      She does not soak (unless she's making a BIG batch and throws the raw fries in water simply to avoid oxidation).

                      Her initial fry starts at a VERY low temp and increases gradually until plenty of bubbling happens (I don't have temps, but she plops the fries in the oil and there is NO action (likely <300F). I stopped giving her pointers on this long ago).

                      She cooks until the fries are soft and removes from the pot, working in batches (OK, this is one technique she has in common).

                      Finishes in a bit hotter oil until browned.

                      I'm thinking the very low initial temp is the key to HER success....

                      1. I have to agree with Behemoth. The one and only time my fries came out limp and partially cooked was when they were refrigerated prior to frying. I get perfectly yum fries at room temperature.

                        1. If your next episode goes poorly as well you might try doing the initial slow cook fry in duck and then the high temperature fry in peanut or veg oil. Perhaps duck fat smoke point is too low. Mindless conjecture on my part.