Published July 1, 2009.
Classic crisp French fries with half the oil and no double-frying? We burned through 50-odd pounds of potatoes to land on an uncommonly easy approach.
Traditional methods for making French fries are time consuming and require rinsing sliced spuds to remove excess surface starch that can cause sticking, soaking them in ice water to encourage even more cooking, and then deep-frying them in a vat of oil—not once, but twice—at incrementally hotter temperatures. And most “easy” French fry recipes produce fries that are either limp and soggy or leathery and mealy.
We wanted to find a way to make crisp, slender fries with a tender interior and earthy potato flavor, without the traditional rigmarole.
We were inspired by a method attributed to Michelin-starred French chef Jöel Robuchon. This recipe skipped the rinsing and soaking steps and submerged the spuds in a few cups of room temperature, or “cold” oil, before frying over high heat until browned. When we tried this technique—with peeled russet batons and just enough peanut oil to cover them—we pulled out golden fries that tasted pretty darn good, albeit a little tough in texture. Intrigued, we approached our science editor, who surmised that by starting with cold oil, we gave the potato interior an opportunity to soften and cook through before the exterior started to crisp. And despite that the temperature of the oil never got as hot as in the classic method, it was still high enough to trigger the same reactions that led to a golden, nicely crisped crust.
As for the slight toughness, we thought the russet’s starchiness might be the culprit. With a longer cooking time, too many starch granules were bursting, leading to an overly thick crust that was more leathery than crisp. To avoid this, we turned to Yukon Golds, which have less starch and more water than russets, and found that they worked well. The exterior was crisp, with none of the toughness of russets, and the interior was creamy. Clearly, the moister, less starchy composition of the Yukon Golds could better withstand the long cooking time of this approach. Plus, Yukon Golds have such a thin skin that they could be used unpeeled, making the recipe even easier. As an added bonus, our cold-start method produced fries that contained about a third less oil than conventional, twice-fried spuds. The only remaining problem was fries sticking to the bottom of the pot (and each other). We found that if we didn’t touch the spuds for about 20 minutes after putting them in the pot, enough of a crust formed so that we could stir them with no ill effect. We also determined that thinner fries were less likely to stick, and we liked their greater ratio of crispy crust to creamy interior. For a final touch, we whipped up two creamy dipping sauces as alternatives to ketchup.list of recipes