It’s not how you fry them, but how many times you fry them.
I’ve tried to make French fries at home on numerous occasions, but each attempt resulted in a visually pleasing mess of half-fried potatoes. They looked the part on the outside, with an appetizing golden crust, but remained undercooked on the inside... leaving me with inedible spuds and a pot of wasted oil. It wasn’t until I learned this restaurant trick, which has completely transformed my sad fries into potato perfection, that I understood the problem.
The key to frying restaurant-quality French fries is to fry them not once, but twice.
Trust me; there is a reason to the madness. The first fry par-cooks your potatoes to soften them, while the second fry both finishes the cooking process and achieves the beloved crispy texture. Here’s how it’s done.
Russet potatoes, A.K.A. Idaho potatoes, are the best potatoes to use for making perfect, at-home French fries. Russets are widely available, and because of their large size, you can make an abundance of sizeable fries from only a few potatoes. Their interior is starchy, mealy and white enabling them to fry well for a crispy crust and fluffy inside.
To begin making your fries, clean the exterior of your potato by scrubbing away any loose dirt. If you would like to add a little character to your fries, you can leave the skin on; if not, proceed to peel your potatoes. One potato will yield about one serving of fries, so cut as many as you need depending on the number of people that you plan to serve.
Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch-thick wedges, making sure your cuts are as uniform as possible (to ensure even cooking). Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and submerge them in cold water. The water helps to draw out excess starch and prevents the wedges from browning. Allow the potatoes to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re looking to prep ahead, you can cut the potatoes and store them in a container filled with water for 2 to 3 days before frying.
The First Fry
The first fry starts at a lower temperature than the second round. The low heat allows the potatoes to cook and soften without browning them. First, drain the potatoes and thoroughly pat them dry with a paper towel to prevent aggressive oil popping.
Grab your favorite heavy-bottomed piece of cookware for frying, such as a high-sided cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to prep for the first fry. Fill your pan with about 3 inches of canola oil, or another neutral oil with a high smoke point, and heat to 300°F. For the most accurate temperature control, pull out your handy candy thermometer. Next, you’re going to fry your potatoes (in batches, if need be) for about 5 minutes in the oil; stirring occasionally. I found a fish spatula to be incredibly helpful in adding potatoes to the hot oil. (A spider strainer can also help reduce splashing while adding and removing the fries to and from the oil.) At this point, the fries should not brown, remaining pale, as they cook. As you remove the fries from the oil, place them on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain.
The Second Fry
The second fry session allows the fries to attain their signature golden color and crispy exterior. As you complete the first fry, increase the heat of the oil to between 380°F to 400°F in preparation for the second fry. When the oil is up to temperature, return the fries to the oil and cook for another 5 minutes or until the fries golden brown.
Remove your fries from the oil and place back onto the sheet pan (lined with fresh paper towels, of course). Now, one crucial rule of thumb for frying is to salt your fried foods immediately as they come out of the oil. Therefore, you’ll want to have your salt ready within reach to hit your fries with a generous sprinkle as you take them from the oil.
I realize it might sound laborious, but this double frying technique is the secret to making restaurant-quality French fries that you can mimic at home. It takes a little patience and faith the first time, but I assure you, it’s well worth the effort.