In this posting, I'll explain which types of potatoes make the best french fries and explain how to cook them.
Half the battle in making delicious food is having the right ingredients and french fries (what Europeans call "chips") are no exception.
Although they may look alike on the outside, not all potatoes are created equal. Potatoes can differ in their starch and sugar content and this dramatically impacts their usefulness in a variety of dishes.
- Dry/floury potatoes - this group of potatoes has a starch content of 20-22%. They have a mealy texture and crumble easily after cooking. Dry/floury potatoes make great baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries and potato chips. When fried, this type of potato tends to absorb less oil, so they are less greasy. Dry/Floury potatoes varieties that are also low in sugar make the best potato chips because low sugar dry potatoes fry to a pale or golden brown color, versus potatoes with high sugar content tend to go dark brown during frying due to caramelization of sugars. Here are some good potato choices:
- Chips: Snowden
- Fries: Bintje, Desiree, Russet Burbank
- Baking: Russet, Russet Burbank
- Firm/waxy potatoes - these potatoes are relatively low in starch (16-18%) which makes them hold up well when boiled or roasted. Firm/waxy potatoes are ideal for potato salad. Some good choices include:
- Charlotte, Red Pontiac, Austrian Crescent, Russian Banana, French Fingerling, Purple Peruvian, Yellow Finn,
- All purpose potatoes: These potatoes are 18-20% starch and will work reasonably well in most dishes but will not be as good as dry/floury potatoes for baking and frying, nor will they be as good as waxy potatoes for boiling. Some good all purpose potatoes include:
- Maris Piper, Bison, Yukon Gold, Purple Viking, Kennebec, All Blue, German Butterball
How to Make Awesome French Fries
This year I grew a variety of potatoes including Maris Piper, a good all purpose potato that has high yields, creamy flesh and a taste that is similar to Yukon Gold. This variety is not common in the United States, but is the potato of choice in England -- when you eat fish & chips in the U.K., this is the potato that is generally used.
- Wash, dry and then cut the potato into thin strips of even size. The easiest way to do this is to use a potato wedge cutter, a device that pushes the potato through a sharp grate (see below). If you use this type of device, you'll get fries that are 1/4 inch thick. You can peel the potatoes if you like, but I actually like a little of the skin on my fries, so I don't bother.
- Using a fryer, wok or pan, heat peanut oil to a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. (Temperature is important in frying so use a cooking thermometer if you have one.)
- Add some potatoes to the fryer and let cook for about 3 minutes. (I generally add about a cup of potatoes at a time but it really depends on the size and depth of your fryer. You want to make sure that you don't add more potatoes than can be covered completely by oil.)
- Remove the potatoes from the fryer and transfer to a colander to allow the excess oil to drain into a bowl or pan.
- If you want to do more than one batch of fries, add the next batch of raw potatoes and cook for 3 minutes, transfer to the colander etc. until all your potatoes are cooked.
- For the second frying, increase the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer a portion of the cooked potatoes to the fryer and cook for another 3-4 minutes until they just begin to turn pale brown on the outside.
- Transfer to a bowl lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle generously with sea salt.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all the potatoes are cooked twice.
- Serve immediately. (If you plan to do many batches, I recommend placing the fries on a cookie sheet in a warm oven to keep them hot.)
A Gourmet Twist on French Fries
An amazingly good variation on this recipe is to add a sprig of fresh rosemary to the fryer when you do the second frying of each batch of potatoes. This imparts a lovely flavor to the fries. You can even grate some fresh lemon zest onto the fries when they come out of the fryer to kick them up another notch.
What condiments do you put on your fries.? Take the poll on the right side of this web site to cast your vote.