French fries: hand cut, home cooked

In an older entry, I mentioned how my younger daughter, Alex, simply loves French fries. And, in a more recent entry, I wrote about how she has fallen in love with Mojo potatoes. She’s the resident potato girl. Takes after her father. And me. It’s no surprise that we have perfected the art of making French fries at home.

It might sound simple but many cooks still wonder why home cooked French fries often turn soggy while those served in restaurants are firm and crisp. Some think it’s because the potatoes have been prepared and treated using some special technique. Not true. Making crisp and firm French fries depends on four things:

1. Proportion of the cooking oil to the amount of potatoes

You can’t cook a cup of potatoes in a cup of oil. The potatoes have to float in oil to achieve the desired crispness. Generally (and this isn’t a hard and fast rule), I use at least twice as much oil as the potatoes.

2. Very high temperature of the oil before the potatoes are added

The cooking oil must be very, very hot before the potatoes are added. This is the first key to short cooking. French fried potatoes are deep-fried after all and the trick is short but intense cooking. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the potatoes will soak up so much oil and turn soggy.

3. Maintaining the very high temperature of the cooking oil while the potatoes cook

If the proportion of potatoes to oil is correct, then it won’t be a problem maintaining the high temperature of the cooking oil during frying. But if the frying pan is overcrowded (too much potatoes and too little oil), the temperature will drop and make the potatoes soggy even if the initial temperature of the oil was correct.

4. Serve at once

Serve your French fries immediately because they start get soggy as they cool.

That said, let me illustrate how I make French fries at home. I am providing a time frame based on the EXIF data of my camera (yes, the exact time when I photo was taken is supplied by the camera). It takes me approximately eight minutes to cook my French fries (minus prep time). If you have a pressure fryer, the job should be done in five minutes. 3:54:01

3:54:01 p.m. While cutting the potatoes, the cooking oil was already heating on the stove. french-fries-15-57-11

3:57:11 p.m. I added the potatoes to the very hot cooking oil. On contact, the oil spattered and a froth formed on the surface. Note that I DO NOT STIR the potatoes. Stirring is not necessary. french-fries-15-58-05

3:58:05 p.m. The froth started to subside and some pieces of the potatoes were already breaking into the surface. french-fries-15-59-53

3:59:53 p.m. More froth has subsided. More pieces of potato have started to move and float. french-fries-16-02-46

4:02:46 p.m. Many of the potato pieces have floated to the surface and have started to acquire a nice golden color. french-fries-16-04-36

4:04:36 p.m. Most of the froth has subsided, the potatoes have floated to the surface and they are nicely textured and colored. french-fries-16-05-26

4:05:26. I have scooped out the potatoes and I let the oil drip off for about a minute. french-fries-16-07-36

4:07:36 p.m. The potatoes have been tossed with cheese flavoring and ready to be served.