The Art of Making French Fries

Making french fries isn't complicated, but success depends on the understanding of some basic principles and precise techniques.

The Potato:

Start with good starchy ones, such as Idahos (also known as russets). For classic fries, peel the potatoes just before slicing, then place in water to cover.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Oil:

We like the clean, faintly nutty flavor of peanut oil for our fries, but olive oil and other vegetable oils work well, too--as do lard and rendered beef fat, if you (or your arteries) dare.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Knife:

Using a sharp chef's knife, shape peeled potatoes into blocks. To hand-cut fries, slice the potatoes evenly lengthwise, then cut slices into fry-shaped pieces. If the potato sticks to the knife as you cut, wipe the blade or run it under water.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Mandoline:

Another way of making fries is to cut the trimmed potatoes on a mandoline, using the wide, serrated blade, which is perfect for this task.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Soak:

To keep cut potatoes from turning brown, place them in a nonreactive bowl and cover with water. For crispier fries, refrigerate soaking potatoes for two hours.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Blot:

Before frying, dry potatoes thoroughly by blotting them with paper towels. Wet potatoes splatter and cook unevenly.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Plunge:

Fries should be fried twice: once to cook, once to crisp. Don't waste your money on special fryers; the only equipment you need is a heavy pot and a thermometer. Precise temperatures are vital; make sure the oil is at 325¿ for the first fry.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Cooldown:

After the first fry, drain potatoes on paper towels and let them cool completely. At this point, they can be covered and refrigerated for later finishing.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Second Plunge:

The second fry, at 375¿, crisps the potatoes. Again, check oil temperature with a thermometer.Christopher Hirshiemer

The Results:

Remove fries from oil with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve. Classic fries, unlike potato chips, taste best when eaten immediately, while they're still hot and crisp.Christopher Hirshiemer