For crispy fries, you'll need to fry, fry again


POSTED: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anybody need a science fair project? I suggest “;What Makes French Fries the Crispiest?”; — and when you're done, tell me what you learn.

I'll start you out with the variables: starch and sugar content of the potatoes, temperature (of the cooking oil and of the potatoes before they go into the oil), coatings, frying time, type of oil, type of potato, pre-cooking or no pre-cooking ...

Hypothesis: McDonald's is easier.

Stanley S. Toyama wrote that he'd like to make fries for his grandson but couldn't get the right recipe. “;I found several, but none come out crispy, like McD.”;

That's because it's hard, Stanley.

As evidence, I offer the experience of Henry Adaniya, owner of Hank's Haute Dogs, who has been working on the perfect fry recipe since he opened Hank's in 2007.

Adaniya and his crew developed a technique early on that worked well: He fries his fries once at 300 to 325 degrees, and again at 375 degrees. Then he discovered that potatoes change by season — starchier or higher in sugar at times. This affects how long they need to soak in water to remove excess starch, how long they need to dry before frying and all those other variables mentioned above.

He also found that he needs to add fresh oil to the fryer between batches. “;It's a molecular thing that goes on once oil has been fried in.”; Yes, molecular things, physics things, chemistry things — science!

Adaniya allows that using commercial frozen fries would be easier, as they've been manipulated and treated to come out crisp. But he, like Stanley and me, wants to go natural.

I consulted a number of resources and experimented with several batches of potatoes to come up with a basic formula for doing this at home. Before you begin, understand that this will take time. You have to soak the potatoes, chill them, pre-cook and cool them again before re-cooking. All of this seems to matter, although I don't know why. Science, I guess.

I bought a small deep-fryer to keep the temperature and mess under control, but you could do this in a pot on the stove if you are a confident fryer.

Now, we start at a disadvantage compared with restaurants with their commercial equipment and frozen-fry makers with their chemical boosts. As the great equalizer, I suggest potato starch, which gives fries a nice crunch. But apply it lightly and evenly or you'll get clumps.

This recipe calls for double frying, but to cut some fat you could instead blanch the potatoes in boiling water (about 5 minutes), then dry and fry once. You'll get good results, but for ultimate crunch, fry twice.



3 large russet potatoes
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup potato starch
Salt, to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into sticks about 1/4-inch thick. Rinse well to remove excess starch. Cover fries with cold water and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Heat oil to 325 degrees.

Drain fries and pat dry. Dust lightly in potato starch, rubbing with fingers to get an even coat. Fry about 6 minutes, until starting to color. Work in batches so fries aren't crowded. Remove, shaking off excess oil and drain fries on paper towels. Let cool to room temperature.

Increase oil temperature to 375 degrees. Fry potatoes again, 2 to 3 minutes, until light brown. Drain again on paper towels and season with salt. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.


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