I’ve been having a go at making my own french fries, but they keep coming out a little too soggy and greasy, instead of crisp and dry.
I’m using regular vegetable oil, getting it good and hot in a frying pan, and dropping the sliced potatoes in for about four minutes. They look nice and golden brown when I take them out and put them on paper towels, but as I said, soggy and a little too greasy.
Should I use a different kind of oil? Different kind of potato? What?
Crisp fries involve a couple steps. First off, they need to be fried not once, but twice, the reason being that if you fry them at a hot enough temperature to crisp the outside, the interior will not be fully cooked before the outside starts burning.
Secondly, you need to deep fry them, not pan-fry them. They need to be completely immersed in the oil, and you can’t do that in a pan.
Most recipes call for the first fry to be at 325-350 degrees (get a candy thermometer if you don’t have one - they’re cheap), allow the fries to cool on a rack or on paper towels, then re-fry at about 375 degrees to crisp 'em up.
The oil has to be HOT. If I’m remembering Alton Brown’s book correctly, the way a french fry fries is that VERY hot oil basically flash-fries the surface, which causes the water in the potato to erupt into steam and cook the inside on its way to the surface. Because the surface has been cooked as soon as you put the fries in the oil, the oil doesn’t soak into it. If you fry in oil that’s not hot enough, not only does it allow the oil to soak into the fry, but the water inside the fry doesn’t steam out to escape quickly enough and the fry will be soggy.
Well, the amount of oil is crucial. I have a deep fryer for home use that holds about a gallon of oil and I always get perfect fries, without pre-frying. I’ve had a couple o’ glasses o’ claret tonight and would anyway be too lazy to try to work out the thermodynamics of it all*, but essentially, If you put a pound of room temperature potatoes with a quart of 350F oil, the potatoes are gonna lower the temperature of the oil enough that end end result are soggy, greasy fries. With a gallon of oil, that same pound of potatoes are still going to lower the temperature, but not enough to matter. IOW, it’s not only immersing them in oil, it’s more about the oil retaining the heat.
*besides, there are way better scientists than me on the SDMB
Thanks all. I was hoping to find a quick and simple way. The two-step process seems too time consuming for a simple one-potato order of fries to go with my one-person dinner.
After reading your replies, I tried boiling the potato first before peeling, slicing, and pan frying it. That seems to have promise, although I didn’t boil it long enough. The center was still uncooked, but the outer slices that were cooked fried up fairly crisp and dry. But boiling the whole potato would probably take at least 30 minutes; again, too long for a quick and simple dinner. I suspect that boiling the slices (which would obviously be faster) wouldn’t work: they’d break apart.
I may try the baking method Baldwin mentions. How long do you bake them? Do you have to turn them halfway through?
I also vote for baking. Oven fries are awesome. I cut them pretty thin, about 1/4 inch on each side, toss in a large zip lock with about a teaspoon of olive oil and whatever spices I’m in the mood for, and bake at 475 until done, about 30 minutes. I line my pan with aluminum foil so cleanup is extra easy, and I don’t usually turn them. They’re crispy outside and creamy inside. Different than regular fries, but just as good, I think. Also way healthier and easier.
That’s my preferred method, because it’s less messy and it’s far healthier. I don’t even bother to peel them, and it works with slices, wedges, or most other shapes. Italian seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder… so many options.
I do turn mine, though, for similar crispiness and color on both sides.
Does anyone know how much oil is retained by properly cooked fries? I have no idea, really. I know if I leave some on a napkin it gets greasy. The oven fries do have a touch of oil, but for two large potatoes I use about a tsp in the bag, then shake them and put them in the oven. About half the oil, I would guess, gets stuck to the bag, so maybe 1/2 tsp of oil (olive oil) for 3-4 servings of oven fries. I have a hard time believing that isn’t better than conventional french fries.