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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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

[print_this]

PERFECT FRENCH FRIES

1. Cut baking potatoes into medium sized fries.

2.  Place in pot of cold, heavily salted water. Bring to boil.  Once  you see the first big bubble of a boil, remove fries. They will be cooked, but not falling apart.  Drain and run under cool water.

3.  Dry and cool fries in fridge, convection oven or with hairdryer until leathery.

4.  Fry at 325°f until a crust forms but no colour.

5.  Shake out oil and cool in refrigerator.

6.  Fry again at 385°f until golden and crispy.

[/print_this]

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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173 Comments

  1. billy sharpstick says:

    What about lard? In a more recent post, you showed how to make lard, and mentioned that fries used to be made with lard.

  2. David says:

    Late to the game on this one?

    Oh well, in short, no vagina here; name’s David. Spleen’s another deal…
    No need to punch me anyhow. Your ‘perfect’ recipe for fries not only sounds reasonable from a preparation standpoint but at least in this boy’s (again, no vagina) kitchen, the amount of time that’s involved sounds totally doable, at least as a proof of (your) concept. If it doesn’t work, no worries. I don’t punch any vitals… cheers.

  3. Reid Smith says:

    This method works well for me, but for the blanch first phase I add some distilled white vinegar in addition to the salt. I use canola oil, but I’m going to try beef tallow or duck fat this spring. I usually do a full Russett, leaving me with about 3 servings, which freeze nicely. THe fryer lives in the garage year around and the oil gets changes every few months or so. Never in 45 years has this been a problem, for those who fret about storage.

    • Karen says:

      Baking soda works well in the water too. I use that now when I want potato flesh that will fry well. I can’t even remember if I mentioned that in this post. I’ll have to go back and reread it, lol. ~ karen!

  4. Daniel says:

    Can these be done the night before upto stage 2, then do the final fry the next day?

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  7. Donna Elder says:

    I’ve been making these just like ur recipe states and They are perfect and my family LOVES them!! Thanks for doing the footwork to figure this out! Your writing is enjoyable and funny and I love your website! Again thank you!!!!

  8. Dina says:

    Hi Karen,

    Long time follower of your site. I have yet to read a post that I haven’t found fun/interesting/worth while reading. But, THIS post…..I’m over the moon!

    And I know the next time I make French fries I will try this method. But, I have to do it just like you. Which means using home grown Kennebec’s…..where do you buy the seeds? I’m sure you’ve mentioned it but try as I might, I can’t seem to find that information anywhere on your site. Please tell me:)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dina! You can buy Kennebec seed potatoes at most places that sell seed potatoes. So places like seed shops, TSC stores or even a lot of garden centres. They’re suddenly one of the more popular potatoes in terms of seed potatoes so they aren’t too hard to find. Most places carry Yukon Gold, Russet, a variety of red, Russian Blue or Peruvian Purple a type of fingerling and Kennebecs. Good luck! ~ karen!

  9. Annie says:

    I must agree I’m glad I was patient my fries ? were divine

  10. MPoss says:

    Honey, for those that want a quick and more contemporary version of making fries is using that shiny metallic box on your counter or on top of your fridge…. it’s called a microwave.
    The process, Moi Cherie?
    Peel an elongated potato of your choice.
    Place the peeled potato in your microwave and depending on the size of your potato, (now here comes the tricky part) you want to microwave it until the potato reaches what is referred to as that “parboil” stage -it’s that semi-soft, and less semi-hard stage. Try microwaving with time set to one and a half minutes. Pause/Stop microwave and with a folded paper towel (to protect from steam) -gently squeeze the potato for that semi-soft texture . If still hard, continue microwaving potato for an additional minute.
    The goal is to slightly soften the potato as a substitute and to eliminate that archaic method “first frying stage step”. When slightly softened – gently remove the potato with an oven glove/mit and allow to cool on a flexi cutting mat.
    Set your electric fryer to 400-450 range.
    Taking a long thin knife with an ultra thin blade (long bread knife with serrated edge works great) gently slice the (now sticky) potato to desired thickness length-wise and… blah, blah, blah. If it falls apart, you F.I.Up and must be new to cooking,however if knife slices easy through the potato, excellent.
    Gently place the cut fries in the frying basket and lower in the hot oil (which would be the second frying stage). Fry to desired crispiness – lift basket – drain – salt and eat.
    It’s fast – it’s simple and also LESS OILY than the traditional archaic way of frying potatoes.

  11. T. Monsauret says:

    I’d like to say to Marc
    “BTW, I saw the word ketchup mentioned…..if take so much trouble to make the perfect fries, you dont put ketchup on them. French fries and ketchup dont go well together. That is why civilised people like the French do not combine this. Not even top notch home made ketchup. If something, let it be a nice home made mayonnaise. But why not plain, with a bit of sea salt? Why destroy your work with confusing tastes? July 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM”
    that the French do eat fries with Ketchup, and absolutely not with mayonaise. The Belgians/Flemish do though. In Holland they combine the two sauces. Try ordering mayonaise with your moules frites next time you’re in France, you’ll be talk of the town.
    Bon chance.

  12. Garret says:

    Perfect!!! Best fry ever

  13. Garret says:

    I have to tell you what got me interested in your post on making fries was the “punch” my type of woman! So, it’s my birthday today and I’ve been looking and trying to make the perfect fry for years; and just by accident came across your site. I am excited about this because I only strive for perfection and don’t care how hard the process will be. I am hoping this will be what I am looking for and a b-day present to myself. One question have you tried to infuse the fries with flavor when you boil them? I know you use salt but have you tried anything else?

    • Karen says:

      Happy birthday Garret! The only thing I’ve ever done is put a tablespoon or so of vinegar into the water because someone suggested it would help with something or other. I can’t remember what, lol. Crispiness I think. But I’ not sure if it helped or not. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t give the fries any flavour either. Remember. Boil. Dry. Fry. Dry. Fry. Also your choice of potato matters. Something dry, not waxy. So russet or kennebec not Yukon Gold which is slightly waxy if oyu can help it. ~ karen!

  14. JPH says:

    I remember when a video was posted to a popular social bookmarking site with exactly this. I mean, every word of this article verbatim. I just spent an hour trying to find that video again, and only happened upon this article when I tried searching for phrases spoken in the actual video. That video was even posted around the same time as this article.

    What I have found, aside from this article, are a few thousand videos copying the recipe. Poorly. And typically with incorrect instructions or really annoying narration.

    • Karen says:

      Well I’d appreciate it if you found it/them Jeremy because I make my living with this blog and any and all writing and photographs are copyrighted. I don’t copy other people’s work and I fully expect people to not copy mine. ~ karen!

      • JPH says:

        The video didn’t include photos from this site, but it did include the language. All I recall other than that is, the narrator was male and was working in a decent home kitchen.

        I’m fairly certain the video is gone now; I couldn’t find it. But it annoyed me that this page isn’t more visible in Google. Once that video hit that social bookmarking site, it’s as if every aspiring cooking show youtuber made their own version of the recipe.

        It’s too bad we can’t just upvote results in Google to directly give them ranking, isn’t it?

  15. Vanessa says:

    Home made fries are a treat. They are NOT difficult, and like anything worthwhile, you have to work for it. I have done the twice fried method in the past. For oven baked fries, I toss the potatoes in an egg white and spray with evoo. Not great, but good for minimal effort. So looking forward to trying these! (with ketchup)

    Glad you haven’t changed. :) Keep it up!

  16. Shen says:

    Hey Karen, thanks for the recipe. I don’t mean to offend but I found that soaking it in heavily salted water really dried out the fries.

    So, the next time I made it, I just sprinkled as little salt as I can, kept the soaking to a minimum and drain out the water.

    I then boiled a separate pot of water with a teeny tiny sprinkle of clear vinegar(I think I got this tip from stack exchange’s recipe portal, the guy said the vinegar keeps the potatoes’ structure together) before tossing the cut potatoes in. I was afraid it would make for sour fries but I couldn’t taste the vinegar at all.

    Combining your techniques and his yielded fries with a crunchy exterior and an arguably creamier centre.

    I understand you take this recipe very seriously, but I just thought this might be something useful to add.

  17. Marc says:

    Excellent. I recognise your quest, and your way of writing and thinking. THIS is indeed the way to make m, no other way. Cheers for writing it down.

    If I may add, for absolute perfection: it is better to have your potatoes a week or so at room temperature, I decided that years ago, cant remember exactly, but it came from the eternal food bible On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. Something with different kinds of starches etc. Chemistry.

    BTW, I saw the word ketchup mentioned…..if take so much trouble to make the perfect fries, you dont put ketchup on them. French fries and ketchup dont go well together. That is why civilised people like the French do not combine this. Not even top notch home made ketchup. If something, let it be a nice home made mayonnaise. But why not plain, with a bit of sea salt? Why destroy your work with confusing tastes?

    • Karen says:

      NO, NO! I must have ketchup with my french fries, lol. That’s just the way it is. Not on them but for dipping. I’m not sure what you mean about leaving the potatoes at room temperature. My potatoes are always kept at room temperature. Do you mean after one of the steps? Potatoes should always be kept at room temperature because temperatures below a certain degree convert the starch to sugar and you end up with sweetness in your potatoes. I do however, like a bit nice homemade mayo. ~ karen!

  18. Rodger says:

    I’ve been in search of the perfect fry for some time now. I’ve come close a few times, but alas. I have never tried the boil/re/ re cook method, but I will. Since I’m the cook in the family, I’ll have to offer up my wife’s vagina for the kicking part, should you ever catch me with fries in the oven.

    • Karen says:

      I don’t have a problem with that. You should probably get her consent of course, but barring that I see no complications with your compromise. Good luck with the fries. ~ karen!

  19. Noreta says:

    First time coming across your blog. Funny lady! Reading this post makes me wish I had a fryer. But I don’t. And I won’t. Boo! I am on a quest for the “best I can do in an oven” oven chip. These ones look amazeballs, but I will have to move on. I am bookmarking your blog though! Very entertaining!

  20. Nancy says:

    OMG! I tried these today, exactly as you said to make them and they were DA BOMB! I will never go back to buying frozen fries or fast food fries again. They were better than McDonald’s (my husband thought so too). Tomorrow’s plain is to make a huge batch of these and freeze using your freezing method. ^.^

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