It’s not been easy finding the trick to the perfect french fries. Half the times I’ve tried, I’ve failed miserably and those were usually when they had to be perfect with either hungry kids around or eager clients I had to serve!
Many years have I searched for secrets, took advice from the experts and looked for the Holy Grail of recipes. Along the way, I’ve heard the most ridiculous things, (like sprinkling salt before frying???), and I’ve been served mounds of humiliated, soggy, pitifully half-cooked and pale fries, whereas, all I wanted was a portion of
perfect fried potato.
An honest fried potato that can be a heavenly summer lunch with just a Greek salad. A fried potato that will accompany meat in a tomato, lemon or wine sauce and stand next to it as equal and not as the poor relative. A fried potato that will compliment a succulent spare rib. A fried potato that, with the right homemade chilli mayonnaise, is the perfect snack for any occasion.
Because the perfect fries are not only a side dish, but also a superb meal of their own.
My tips for the Perfect French Fries!
- Choose fat, large, dark-skinned potatoes, preferably organic ones, they’re tastier. Never fry potatoes with green patches on their skin or flesh.
- Peel the potatoes with the peeler, removing any black spots too. What you should be after is glossy and unblemished flesh, and it goes without saying that there shouldn’t be even a trace of skin.
- Once peeled, rinse the potatoes well under cold running water so all dirt and soil is removed, then place in a sieve, not a bowl of water. From now on, no more water!
- Cut the potatoes in thick slices, then in slim sticks. Some will be longer and some shorter, but it’s very important to make sure they’re all, more or less, the same thickness. That way, they’ll cook evenly and every fry will be both juicy and crunchy. The fatter fries are good for scooping up sauces (that’s why when frying potatoes to accompany meals with a sauce, always cut thicker slices). The crispier ones are more enjoyable with fried eggs and salads.
- Absolutely no trace of water! Most important piece of advice you’ll ever get! Fried potatoes hate being damp, the way oil hates water in the pan. And there’s logic behind this: water dilutes the oil and, instead of frying the potatoes in a very high temperature, they simmer in a tepid…oily water. That’s why we peel, rinse, cut and then let the potatoes sit in a sieve, so that more of the water drains out and they dry naturally; that way, no water is transferred to the oil. Don’t worry about the potatoes turning black if left outside water – they start reacting after being exposed to the air for two hours, and sometimes, not even then. As an extra measure, wipe the potatoes with kitchen paper so that they are completely dry when they dive into the hot, HOT oil.
- Use your widest frying pan and sizzling hot oil. Fried potatoes enjoy having space around them and a high steady temperature. Fry on maximum heat from beginning to end, unless they’re cut in wedges, in which case, fry them at the highest temperature for the first ten minutes, then reduce the intensity. So, no potatoes crammed together and with enough oil to cover them at least halfway. Olive or corn oil? You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m no expert, won’t even come close to adding one more suggestion to this scorching culinary debate! My grandmother would cut the potatoes in wedges and always fry them in olive oil over a low slow heat, and they were divine. I mostly fry them in corn oil, because I’m stingy with my best olive oil when it comes to frying, but also because I find that corn oil makes the fries crispier. How long should you fry them for? I’d say about twenty minutes. Wedges need more frying and require frequent turning over with a metal fork.
- Don’t stir them too much. Santa never paid attention to my wish for a professional fryer but I still tiptoe around on New Year’s morning, hoping that I’ll see a small fryer on the kitchen bench, for no other reason than to be able to stir the fries in the right manner and with ease. Have you watched the way professional cooks toss fries? They lift the fryer basket from the oil, shake it until the fries that were at the bottom come to the top, then immerse everything back into the hot oil. Only once, not all the time. So, forget about using spatulas and wooden spoons, as well as frequent tossing. In fact, forget stirring them altogether, until they turn golden on their underside. Then, for a second time, turn the potatoes over with two metal forks, moving them around in the pan, so that the more cooked ones are transferred to the side, and the undercooked ones to the centre. When should you first stir them? As soon as you empty the fries in the hot oil! Stir them well at the beginning so that they’re all covered in oil, then…LEAVE THEM ALONE!
- If you’ve followed the advice of this tortured explorer who has spent years in search of the perfect fries to this point, then your meat dish or salad are already served and waiting on the table for Her Royal Highness, the fried potato! Yes, the time has come to remove the fries from the pan with care, and lay them on a platter. In four words: stainless steel sieve strainer. Fries make their entrance last and sizzling. Otherwise, you might as well eat oven potatoes. Or mash. Or potato salad, if you don’t like last-minute frying.
- Does the oil the fries leave on the platter bother you? All right, let’s compromise and use kitchen paper. But, don’t even think of serving them on the paper, not even to your best friend! Fries need respect, from beginning to end! Personally, I like the extra oil, it doesn’t bother me. I also find that the kitchen paper makes them somewhat soggy, it removes a small % of their crunchiness. What? Doesn’t it?
- We salt the fries very well, using our best sea salt or freshly ground salt flakes. They deserve it! Only make sure that you salt them at the very last minute, just before you serve them so that they don’t lose a little of their…Crrrrrrunch! Or, alternatively, you could be democratic and place the salt mill on the table so each can add their own desired amount. Opinions differ on how much salt fries need, so beware.