How to Make Perfect French Fries

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So you wanna know how to make perfect French Fries, do you?  Yeah.  So did I.  For about the past 20 years.

I will tell you now, that I have tried every method, potato and oil temperature known to mankind in my quest to create THE PERFECT FRENCH FRY.  I’ve come close many times. In all that time I  had never succeeded in creating the perfect chip at home.

Until now.

To reiterate.  This is NOT a post on how to make easy french fries.  It is a post on how to make THE PERFECT FRENCH FRY.  If a single one of you complains this is too much work I’m going to punch you in the vagina.  Or maybe the spleen. I haven’t decided yet.

Before I get to the method for making the perfect french fry I want to go through the most common ways to make fries.

 

♦  The first way people make fries is to grab whatever potato they have in their cupboard, cut it up, turn the deep fryer onto “HOT AS HELL”, and throw them in.

This will not create the perfect french fry.

♦  The second way people try to make fries is by getting fancy and twice cooking the french fries.  First cooking them in oil, taking them out to cool.  And then cooking them again at a higher temperature.

This will not create the perfect french fry.

If you want to make perfect french fries, you need to use a method made popular by The Fat Duck’s Heston Blumenthal.  Thrice cooked french fries.

I’ve modified his technique slightly to work better for the at home fry cook, but basically the method is boiling the fries, frying them at a low temperature, then frying them at a high temperature.

 

You’ll need baking potatoes and a deep fryer plus a pot of cold, salted water.  You cannot under any circumstances create PERFECT french fries in the oven.  Cannot.  You can create slightly healthier fries in the oven but they will NOT be considered, referred to or hailed as perfect.

1

 

 

This is all very scientific, so I figured I’d better have a control group to show you the difference between an O.K. fry and THE PERFECT FRY.

I’m even wearing rubber gloves and a lab coat.  And a stethoscope.

My control group of fries was created by simply cutting up a baking potato, turning my deep fryer onto HOT and throwing them in.

This method produced overly dark, slightly undercooked fries.

4

 

They were limp.  And unappealing.  As limp things often are.

5

 

So let’s make PERFECT FRENCH FRIES.  Peel your potatoes.  You CANNOT leave the skin on for perfect fries.  Yeah that’s where the vitamins and nutrients are blah, blah.  Perfect fries don’t have skin, because the skin won’t get crispy the way we need it to.  Off with the skin!

Plop your fries into a pot of cold, heavily salted water.

Cook until soft but not falling apart.

The easiest way to cook them to the right degree is to immediately remove the fries once the water shows its first big bubble.  If you make it to the rolling boil your fries will be overcooked and falling apart.

You should be able to pick up one of the fries without it breaking in half.

2

 

 

Spread your fries on a cookie rack to dry.

You can dry them in the fridge, convection oven, or with a hairdryer.

The surface should be dry and leathery. Refrigerate until cool.

3

 

Once the fries are dry and cold, fry at 325°f until a crust forms.

You don’t want the fry to colour.  It just has to form a crust.

Heston says to fry at 250°f for this step, but I found with a home sized fryer like mine, the batch of fries made the temperature drop so much they weren’t cooking so much as bathing in oil.

6

7

Return your fries to the cookie rack and refrigerate until cool.

Fry again in hot oil of 385°f until golden brown and crispy.  Won’t take long.

 

8

 

These fries are crispy good with no “limping” even after sitting out for several minutes.

The outer shell is crispy and crunchy, while the inside of the fry is hot, fluffy and salty.

 

Recap Quick Instructions

Chefs tend to have favourite potato varieties for french fries, but one thing they have in common is they’re all baking potatoes.  A baking potato has the right amount of starch and moisture to make a good french fry.  Different chefs have different favourites in terms of potato varieties, but since most of us live in places where grocery stores carry “baking potatoes” as opposed to “Kennebec variety baking potatoes”, I’ll stick with telling you to use whatever baking potato you can find.

I … on the other hand … have purchased a bag full of Kennebec seed potatoes.  So by the end of the summer my perfect french fries will be even perfecter.

See here for how to make Guaranteed Crispy Sweet Potato Fries.


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167 Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    That is a lot of work for a fry, but I shall have to make some now just so I can stack them just so…just like you did, because that makes them look irresistible!

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – Well … it’s definitely not a post on how to make the easiest french fry. It’s a post on how to make the very best, *perfect* french fry. ~ k!

    • Linda says:

      @Lisa – I agree! Perfect french fry, perfect stack of french fries … and she’s hysterical! I’m going to have to make these just so that I can have a reason to read this again & so that I can stack those fries!

    • Keelea says:

      Hope for the spleen, Lisa. Hope for the spleen.

    • Arvin says:

      Ooooookay folks. Here is an abridged version of how to make a “perfect” french fry (to my standards anyhow).

      1. Bring a pot of (unsalted) water up to a boil. and Preheat your deep fryer to 375 degrees.

      2. Peel your potatoes, and cut them into fry shape. Throw em in the boiling water. Depending on how big the pot of water is, and how thick your fries are cut, it may take anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

      3. Monitor your boiling fries. Once the outsides start fraying away and they are able to break pretty easily (Some will break on their own) Take them out and strain them. (The hard boiling of the fries destroys the outer layer, turning it to an irregular shape, which increases surface area, which is good!)

      4. Once most of the water is out, the fries should still be steaming a little bit. Put them in your deep fryer. Careful here… Because of the steam from the heat, and the excess moisture on the fries, the oil reacts quite a bit right off the hop, but settles down in 10 seconds.. so slowly drop em into the fryer. Also, this will decrease the heat of the oil, giving you an effective frying temperature of 325-350 which is good.

      5. Let em go until they are golden on the outside, strain, salt, and enjoy 🙂

      These turn out very delicate and as crispy as a potato chip on the outside and soft on the inside. enjoy!

  2. Melissa says:

    Hmmm. Maybe. But it sounds like an awful lot of work. My Mom makes the best French fries I have ever tasted. Hands down, the absolute best. So I just drive there when I want the best French fries. Much easier and quicker too!

  3. Melissa says:

    The rest of you will just have to follow Karen’s instructions, I guess. ;P

    • Gayla T says:

      Or you could just give us all your mother’s addy so we could drop in for fries when we are in the neighborhood. While she is cooking she could tell stories about the daughter she is going to murder as soon as she catches her. LOL

  4. Melissa Tuli says:

    I guess people aren’t afraid of getting punched in the vagina, or spleen.

  5. Lisa says:

    I’ve done it and it’s true. The technique makes the perfect french fry. They are even better with potatoes you’ve grown yourself… no matter what floury potato you use.

  6. Doni says:

    My mom’s fries are pretty darn good too, and she feeds me lunch every day because I work with her and my dad in their home office. They are 85, so they eat their “dinner” meal at exactly noon every day, so I roll in to work promptly around 11:30ish, because I’m kind of spoiled and can get away with that. But I am totally on board with trying this perfect French fry myself. I have the time but not the fryer because I got rid of mine when we moved rather than clean it and pack it. And it wasn’t that great anyway. So I was wondering what kind of fryer is that one you have? Does it heat the oil hot enough to actually fry? I had several that did not, and now it seems I will need to buy one if I am going to make perfect fries. Any suggestions?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Doni – Yup the fryer I have is good. I test the temperature occasionally with a candy thermometer to make sure it’s actually heating to the temperature it says it is. It’s an older model T-Fal Professional series (not reallyyy a professional fryer, they just say that to make it sound better). I don’t think they sell it anymore, but my guess is another TFal would work. ~ karen

  7. Mary Bozarth says:

    AWESOME. I saw this article in Wired a while back http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/ff_myhrvold/all/1, which mentions the thrice cooked fries you speak of. I can’t wait to try this!

  8. Micol says:

    Hi Karen,
    Are those hand cutted?
    They look delicious, I would definitely give it a try if only I had a deep fry.
    Love you.

  9. lori says:

    I promise to try if you tell me what kind of deep frier you have!!

    • Karen says:

      This one is an older model TFal. (professional series) I don’t think they sell it anymore. But any tfal should do. ~ karen!

  10. Gayla T says:

    I was sure you were going to wrap yours up in a tea towel like my mother did. I don’t remember why she did them that way but she wrapped them up and put them in the fridge for maybe an hour or so. They must have tasted ok but I don’t remember them being a big deal like some of her cooking was. I’ll have to take your word for how great yours are. When I have to have a recipe to make fries, it’s too darn much trouble. Now the part of the recipe you obviously left out is how you got out a ruler and straight edge to make them all the EXACT same size. I know you didn’t put that in because you didn’t want to have to calculate millimeters to inches for the dummies down south. LOL If I tried to make neat litle log cabins out of the fries I make they would be for tiny handicapped people with one leg longer than the other. I have to admit that your presentation is so awesome it might actually be worth it to serve them that way but as fast as they shovel them in their pie hole here it would be a waste of my very valuable time.

  11. Natika says:

    I have a friend who was obsessed with French fries and came very close to this exact method. I’ll have to tell him!

    A few times a year he would make a big batch of fries and chili (even the ingredients are hard to find in Japan) and we’d have chili fries! The whole process would take hours, but it was always worth it. (^-^)

  12. Deborah says:

    Shoot – now I want some and I do not have a deep fryer. Thanks for making me go to Wal-Mart and buy one today 😛 My husband also thanks you from the BOTTOM of his HEART, he has missed *regular* fries (I have been doing the *healthier* oven fry method and he tolerates it at best).

  13. Kristin says:

    Wow….now I’m just hungry for fries and it’s 7 a.m.

  14. CatFauve says:

    It’s just plain stupid – why to make simple when you can make complicated… I’m Belgian and we’re doing the best fries – by cooking them twice (and no, it’s not fancy, it’s just the right recipe). The potatoes matters, the fat also – it has to be vegetable. First at 170°C, then cool down and repeat at 190°C.
    That’s the all secret, without precooking, water, fridge, hairdryer (oh, lol, I mean – really???)…

  15. Bridget says:

    Your fries are beautiful! How do you cut them to be so square in shape?

  16. mimiindublin says:

    Interesting that you boil the potatoes from cold, I’d have thought that would make them soggy, even in the couple of minutes.
    But then I’m no French Fry expert! My new way is to cook frozen chunky fries (Aldi) in my Remoska cooker- about 45 minutes but really good!

  17. calliek says:

    But what if I LIKE soggy fries?

  18. Karena says:

    Gosh I think the rules were broken from the start!Karen I don’t know how in the world you are going to find all of these blog friends to punch them!

    Your French Fries look delish!

    I hope you will come see my new Annie Sloan Projects revealed!
    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

  19. Maria says:

    You crack me up!!!!
    and BTW there was a McDonalds ad at the bottom of the blog!!!! Thought that was funny!!!

  20. mollydolittle says:

    You are a woman after my own heart. I, too believe that Kennebec potatoes are the best potatoes, period. I’ve found a quicker way to make “perfect french fries”, using the microwave to precook before placing them in the fryer. Cook for 2 minutes, then fry. I don’t have a picture, however. But, my family gobbles them up, perfect or not.

  21. Barbie says:

    I guess I’m gonna have to go re-buy that deep fryer! I had one …..long time ago….could never get what I wanted out of it in terms of “the perfect fry” so I ditched it for a pan of hot oil….which of course made very soggy fries! Yours look awesome! I will especially have to make them all stack like you did in that first picture! If ONLY for that! LOVE the way they look! 🙂

  22. Diane says:

    Yum yum yum, delicious fries…that is all. I like my vagina intact, thank you! 🙂

  23. Sally says:

    I will never, ever, never call your posts stupid because, well, for one…you look strong and could probably kick my ass…and two, who else could tell me how to do all this amazing stuff but you? Everyone else I hang with doesn’t know how to do crap. I learn from you, amaze them all with my expertise, and am elevated to demi-god status. It’s a win-win kinda thing.
    How is the front yard garden project going??? Can’t wait for THAT post. I’m gonna blow their simple little minds 😉

    • Sally says:

      Oh, and btw, I wasn’t being sarcastic. I really do think you could kick my ass. And, I really do love all the great things I learn from you. Just in case you are dirty and sore and cranky from working in the new garden…just wanted you to know that I appreciate your blog 🙂

      • Karen says:

        I believe you. You’ll have to excuse me now while I teach my kung fu class. While lifting weights. And doing various other tough, strong things. ~ karen

  24. Mrsblocko says:

    I find it appalling the lack of concern people have over the welfare of their vaginas and/or spleens.

    The fries look and sound amazing.

  25. Keith says:

    Karen,

    Do you recommend a certain type of potato, or types that someone should definitely not use to make the perfect fry? Thanks for all of your experimentation!

    • Karen says:

      Keith – Just stick to any kind of baking potato and you’ll be fine. They’re the driest. Other potatoes will be too waxy. ~ karen!

  26. Tina says:

    My husband’s family is originally from Chicago, so if you be needin to take out a contract on your vag-hits, you know who to call. You warned ’em.

  27. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    They are the most perfect fries I have ever seen..not hard to do at all..please don’t hurt me..I’m way smarter than some people..in Belgium..you will feel much better if you punch her instead!!!

  28. Jillian says:

    LOVE Fries and I would take the time to make the perfect fry.
    BUT I am taking much more time reading the post to see who will be punched in the vagina….Whaaaaa

  29. Kristen S says:

    Karen,

    I am curious to hear your preferred oil? The best french fries I have ever had came from Didier in Toronto. They were fried in DUCK fat. Fan-effing-tastic. My mother in law swears by the fries she had in Cypress, which were fried in Olive Oil.
    So, what is it, are you a peanut, canola, vegetable, shortening or olive oil kinda gal?

    • Karen says:

      Kristen S – I meant to put oil info in the post and completely forgot. Animal fat is the very best fat to cook french fries in. Hands down. However, I’ve recently been using Sunflower Oil. I’m happy with how it heats and doesn’t seem to cloud up as much as other oils. Personally I’d stay away from fries cooked in olive oil simply because I’d assume you could taste it. With frying I don’t want the taste of the oil, I want the taste of the food. But who knows … ~ karen!

      • Kristen S says:

        I haven’t tried Sunflower. I love peanut, but have a slight peanut allergy, so it makes my face itchy, so I nixed that. I have been using crisco and been happy with the results. Will have to give Sunflower a try. 🙂

  30. Patti says:

    This post is GREAT!

    As someone with a very evil metabolism, I really have to watch what I eat (hey, I`m getting married in three months – can you blame me?), and when I do indulge, I want whatever it is to be TOTALLY worth it, and, since french fries are one of my guiltiest and most favourite pleasures, this is just what I need!

    There’s nothing worse than deciding to blow a bunch of calories on a special meal, to find yourself eating a soggy, sad mess of inferior food! I can’t wait to try these! I’ll do jumping jacks while they cool in the fridge. Then I won’t even feel guilty!

    Thanks Karen! You rock!

  31. Matthew says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for this new (to me) technique. I’m always looking for a better at-home fry recipe. I’ll definitely try it out soon. This has been my previous technique:

    – Pour cold oil into a pot
    – Drop the raw fresh sliced potatoes into the cold oil
    – Heat the oil to maintain a medium-low boil.
    – Cook fries to desired doneness, about 15 minutes total time from turning the heat on
    – Eat

    Matthew

    • Karen says:

      Matthew – I’m familiar with that method. I think you’ll like the results of the thrice cooked fries better. They’ll be crispier, and stay crispier longer. ~ karen!

  32. Jacqueline says:

    Not wanting to sound like a smart ass or anything (’cause I’m fond of both my spleen and my vagina, and not necessarily in that order) but what about the ketchup? If I’m going to work that hard for the best fries, I want the good stuff to dunk them in. Do you have a recipe for homemade ketchup? ‘Cause the bought stuff is just not good enough for these beauties.

  33. Traci L. says:

    I’ve got to tell ya, I make OVEN fries with the skins ON and LOVE them. I know everything you said not to do. I hand cut them, put little pats of butter on the fries (I know, not so healthy) and bake them at 400 temp for about 45 minutes. Salt them when they come out. You can also add dried rosemary before cooking. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I don’t own a deep fryer and not sure I ever will.

  34. Thera says:

    Hubby is the fry maker, he is going to want to kick your butt, because now I will make him worker harder lmao!

  35. Nancy says:

    Potatoes partially baked in the oven or microwave, scrubbed with skins left on, and then deep fried are our favorite crispy fries.

  36. Lin N says:

    So what’s the count on punched out vagina’s and spleens? Toooo funny. The french fries look awesome. As much as I’d go out and buy a deep fryer, my partner would murder me which is much worse than the punch. Can you mail me some french fries next time you make em?

  37. Laura McG. says:

    I could have told you all this if you had only asked! This is how my mother made her fries, except she cut them with an old wooden-handled crinkle cutter. Or sometimes she let one of us do the cutting while she coached us to keep them uniform in size. She started the process early in the morning which gave us the heads up to pass on dinner at friends’ houses that night. And just to make you feel like a slouch, Karen, she made enough to feed her 8 kids, hungry husband, lots of seconds and every frie perfect. Bless her soul.

  38. Amy in StL says:

    My favorite fries are ones I don’t have to cook myself. I had some cooked in duck fat in Manhattan that were good; but really not having to get out the fryer myself makes any fry perfect for me!

  39. Danielle m. says:

    Wow. I had to stop reading the comments because I was getting truly annoyed. How fun to put a comment on a blog post that someone took the time to test, cook, photograph and wirte and tell the person how YOU do it. Isn’t that just so precious? Awesome.

    I think Tina should get a medal for her offer. And also that people should learn to spell.

    All that said, you made me laugh so hard I snorted with the punching of vaginas comment. And I believe this is the perfect fry. Not even because I value my vag. Just because no one would go to the effort if it was not worth the result.

  40. Danielle m. says:

    Dang. Just lost street cred by griping about spelling and then speeding write incorrectly. Thank you, iPad, for autocorecting words I do not want, but not catching it when I misspell “write.”

  41. Vere says:

    Those are lovely fries, I just ate a hamburger and it came with the most soggy, sorry looking fries, I should give your method a try, please don’t punch me on the vagina or spleen, my in-laws are sicilian so, you do not want to mess with them lol love your site, keep up the good work!

  42. Paulina J! says:

    Do I REALLY need a deep fryer? I finally convinced my husband to get me an ice cream maker!! Can I use a thermometer and deep cast iron skillet? Do tell please.

    • Karen says:

      Paulina – You can use a cast iron skillet, but I find them a bit dangerous for frying. I’d go for the deep fryer. You just need a small one. I just bought my mother a teeny tiny one (Cuisinart I think) for Xmas. ~ karen

  43. Nicola Cunha says:

    Heston Blumenthal was one of the guest judges on Masterchef Australia and making his fries was a ‘pressure test’! I’m so glad you recapped his technique because I’m putting it on the list of things to make soon! Thanks Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Yup. That’s why I made them! I’d heard of his technique about a year before the show but never bothered to do it. Figured it was a lotta work for a fry. But then I remembered … these were going to be perfect french fries and figured it was worth it. And it is. ~ karen

  44. Tricia Rose says:

    Karen dear, ( how can I say this) – you CARE. Do you need Help?

  45. kimberly says:

    My hubby has been on the search for the perfect French fry. I will be passing this onto him!
    PS I LOVE your stack of fries!

  46. debra b says:

    I am a fries-hund and I will definably be trying this method, and I know my spleen and vagina will be thanking me for it.

  47. Kasia says:

    Love this post Karen! Never made fries at home before, not sure I’ll start… and I consider myself a french fry addict 🙂 Thanks for all your hard work and scientific inquiry!!!

    (Most confusing bunch of replies ever on this one though!)

  48. Ashleigh says:

    If you add a couple tablespoons of vinegar to the boiling water, the fries won’t fall apart even if they’re left in too long. I found out about that here (http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/05/the-burger-lab-how-to-make-perfect-mcdonalds-style-french-fries.html), and trust me, you won’t even believe the difference.

  49. Pam says:

    Back in the 80’s , I worked for Chili’s . This is very similar to the process that we used . I have made them this way ever since. Best way to get a great FF. Thanks!

  50. Sharlene says:

    Oh my gosh, I laughed SO HARD at your post and replies! Recipes and laughter–perfect combo that made my evening. Thanks a million. I don’t even care anymore if I make those yummy looking fries 🙂

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