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COLD OIL French Fries & Potato Chips

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Hot, crispy homemade french fries and potato chips make a healthy comeback with the unorthodox method of cold frying.   

Here are 4 excellent reasons why you should stop everything you're doing and try this... right now! 

1. The preparation couldn't get any easier or faster. (less than 15 minutes for fries!)  
2. Your stove top remains virtually grease-free because there's no explosive flash-spatter
3. Cold frying produces healthier french fries with less fat than conventional fries.  
4. Best of all:  These fries (and chips) taste absolutely  f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c.  

They're so delicious and so easy, I've completely abandoned traditional hot-oil frying... for french fries, anyway. ;-) 

Are you skeptical?  The proof is in the pudding potato. ;-)  I want to will make a believer out of you!

Let's get started!




 
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Step 1: Ingredients and Tools:

Picture of Ingredients and Tools:
You'll need potatoes, oil and salt. ;-)

Potato Types: 
 
Small (6-8 oz) Russet potatoes: Young "bakers" have less starch than their mature jumbo   siblings. Less starch = crispier french fries.  Make sure your potatoes are fresh and firm.  Save the large tubers for smashed or baked taters. ;-)

• Yukon Gold potatoes: They're reported to be low in starch.  I haven't bothered to try them because Russets are delicious, less expensive and they're always available. 

Bottom line: Feel free to experiment.  I tend to think White or Red rose potatoes are too high in starch to make a good french fry, but that's just speculation.  Maybe you have a tuber-exotica in your pantry?  Why not try it?  

Top Secret confession: Don't tell jessyratfink, but I did make an earnest effort to improve her Sweet Potato Fries using the cold-fry method.  The sweet potato gods weren't impressed with the results and neither was I.  When I say "Jessy's recipe ain't broke", I speak from first-hand experience. ;-)

Oil Types:
 
• Vegetable Oil- Excellent
• Canola Oil- Very Good

The beauty of cold-frying is that the oil never reaches the smoking-point before the potatoes are finished cooking.  While I'm sure higher quality oils (such as peanut) would produce great results, I haven't tried them.  I also haven't tried cold frying with Olive or Coconut oil, but I wouldn't hesitate to experiment with them.  Please give me the 411 if you do.  I'd love to hear your results!

Tools:

• A deep, heavy saucepan or dutch oven.  Flimsy aluminum or cheap stainless steel pans are not recommended.  They just don't hold the heat well. (I tried an aluminum pan once and the results were awful!)  

It's important to choose a saucepan deep enough to allow 2 inches between the top of the oil and the rim of the saucepan.

I use a 3 qt T-Fal saucepan.  It has enough room to cold fry 2 potatoes for french fries or potato chips.

Please: DO NOT use a frying pan or skillet for cold-frying.  Shallow pans are NOT safe for large amounts of very hot oil.  

• Tongs, a spider or even a pasta claw
• Paper towels 
 

 

Step 2: Cold Oil French Fries

Zero-hassle prep:

Scrub the potatoes and slice them horizontally into 3/8" sticks. There's no need to pat them dry unless you just can't stop yourself. ;-)

Fry:

Stagger/criss-cross the raw fries in layers as you put them into the heavy saucepan.  Cover completely with oil. 

Put the saucepan on the burner and turn the heat to "high".  When the oil begins to boil (about 5 minutes in) use tongs or a fork to stir the fries. This helps keep them from sticking together.  Let the fries boil in the oil 5 minutes longer and stir them again.   

Continue frying for a few more minutes. The bubbling will subside and the fries will begin to brown. When golden, remove them from the oil onto a layer of paper towels.  Salt and serve devour immediately.

Bon appétit!

P.S. The leftover oil can absolutely be reused. Cool and store it in a container until tomorrow. That's probably when you'll be craving another batch of awesome, easy, delicious homemade french fries! 






Step 3: Cold Oil Potato Chips

Unlike cold oil fries, potato chips do require some advance preparation.  You need to remove as much starch from the chips as possible before frying. Otherwise, they'll stick together while frying and get chewy instead of crispy. :-(

Prep:  

Thinly slice the potato with a mandoline or potato peeler.  Place the raw chips in a large bowl and cover the completely with water.  (The water will turn cloudy right away. That's the starch being released from the spud.)  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, an hour, or even overnight.

When you're ready to fry, put the chips in a colander and rinse briefly under cold-running water. (This helps remove any starch that may have settled between the slices.) Allow to drain for several minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.  It's fine to have some moisture... you just don't want them dripping-wet.

Fry: 

Since potato chips have more surface area than french fries, you'll need to use more oil.  Put the chips into a heavy saucepan and spread them out a bit.  Add enough oil to the pan so the chips are completely covered, then add at least another inch. 


Put the saucepan on your burner and turn the heat to "high".  

After about 3 minutes, the oil will begin to bubble around the walls of the saucepan. Give the chips a gently stir with a fork.  Wait a few more minutes until the oil reaches a rapid boil and stir again.  Gently stir the chips every few minutes. (You'll be able to feel their texture go from soggy to firm to crisp right through the fork.) 

As the oil bubbles begin to subside the chips will start to lightly brown.  When they're golden, remove them from the oil and place on a layer of paper towels to drain. Salt immediately.

For optimal crispiness, let the chips cool for a few minutes before serving. 
 

Caveat: These chips can go from "almost done" to "over-done" in a span of 20 seconds.  Keep a close eye on them

Step 4: Author's notes and credits:

Picture of Author's notes and credits:
This Instructable was inspired by member dirtymac.  We were discussing the fat-factor on my Instructable Half-baked French Fries.  He referenced and shared an article from America's Test Kitchen about cold-frying. (article here)

Well... I've been cooking since the stone-age... and I'd never even heard of cold-frying!  I was intrigued by (and skeptical of) the entire concept!

At the time, ATK didn't offer a tutorial on the process, so I just started experimenting.  In hindsight, I'm really glad I wasn't influenced jaded by any previously published accounts of cold oil french fries. 

In writing this Instructable, I've since revisited the topic with a recent Google search. There are a few tutorials online now.  I had to giggle when I discovered two very reputable sources (who shall remain nameless: Cook's Illustrated and ATK ;-) unequivocally dismiss Russet potatoes as "too starchy" for cold oil frying.  lol... not! 

This, my Instructable friends, is my favorite part of any story. It's the part where I get to jump up and holler "YES, you CAN!!!" ;-D 

Thanks for stopping by and P.S. Thanks Dirtymac!  My family loves these french fries!!!


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I just gave this a go! They're perfect. :D

Soft and fluffy in the middle, slightly sweet, nice and crisp. And it took less than 20 minutes! I also want to try sweet potato fries - did you try coating them in cornstarch and then frying? I've heard that works well!
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bajablue (author)  jessyratfink2 years ago
They look YUMMY, Jessy!  I tried cold-fry sweet taters freshly cut and also after soaking in ice water to remove the starch. Neither tasted good. I didn't coat them as you suggested, but that's worth a shot.

I also tried cold-frying Sweet Potato Chips and they were interesting. Soaked 'em in ice water and the slices ruffled up which stopped them from sticking together, anyway.  They shrank by about 50% but tasted pretty good after they cooled. 

Thanks for commenting!
ManojB510 days ago
ssimonsen2 years ago
Thanks for the inspiration!
I'm not that into deep frying stuff, but as I saw this instructable and we needed some snacks for a party anyway, I thought why not. Yes that is what I thought.

I used "plain norwegian" potatoes, probably Kerr's Pink, sliced them with a cheese slicer to ~3 mm thickness, directly into a (black) plastic bowl with cold water. I finally added more water to completely fill the bowl, then put the bowl in a 4 C refrigerator for 2 hours (the time I had available). The next time I would try to exchange the water after 1 hour, thinking this would increase the rate of de-starching.

If I understand correctly, a potato is not much more than starch and a small amount of cellular protein. So when soaking, you're basically just thinning the slice. And why thin the potato? In order to get that water trapped within the starch network, out! It takes time to remove the moisture, and when enough water has boiled off, the temperature increases to let the browning reaction of sugars (from broken down starch) with amino acids (from proteins) commence. If the browning reaction goes too fast, you may need to stop at a brown but soggy potato slice. I noticed that the slice started off very nearly crispy (the browner ones were more crispy of course), but upon arrival to the party, no-one were impressed by a limp slice between their fingers.

I'll emphasize right here, with a special paragraph, that a soggy potato, cross my heart, tastes fantastic. Yes I will definitively aim for more crispness next time because it's something that needs to be learned and the texture is more attractive, but it's a refreshing experience to have potato chips with some depth to them, a feeling of eating something substantial, something not SO unhealthy. Maybe I should just make fries...

Another point I noticed is that, depending on the variety of potato, your potato may contain some free sugars, not bound to the resilient starch configuration. These sugars will be off browning before you'd want them to. Best get them out of there. They'll be happier in water.

After 2 hours soaking in water, I rinsed them again in cold water and let them drip off in a colander. In a saucepan I added some leftover rapeseed oil and then a bit more fresh, then carefully lowered a layer of slices so that the oil only just covered them. I didn't have enough oil (or small saucepan) to cover it over with a 1 inch layer. I then heated the pan (7-8 on an induction oven top, where 9 is max) and let the water boil off the potato slices. I think one batch took 5-10 minutes and indeed you need to pay well attention once the browning has started. You need to be perfectly ready to lift out the potatoes once your personal taste dictates that they are done.

Anyone used the starchy rinsewater? You could probably dry it off in an oven and get a small amount of starch powder of out it. Use it in a salad dressing to go with your potato crisps??
bajablue (author)  ssimonsen2 years ago
I recently read that soaking potatoes is 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar helps remove the excess starch, too. I've also read that the saved starch can be used as a thickener like corn starch, but I haven't tried it yet.

I SO WANT an induction stove top!!! Lucky you!!!!
LukeL1 bajablue6 months ago

I tried that method tonight, but I ended up with soggy potato chips with a vinegar taste. I know some people like that taste with their chips or fries, but I don't care for it much. I suppose there could've been other factors that affected the outcome.

LukeL1 made it!6 months ago

I used a wok and they did not come out crispy at all, but my girlfriend and I still enjoyed them quite a bit with some salt, black pepper, and garlic powder sprinkled on top! Yum! :-D I'm going to make a second batch later...

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jayludden made it!6 months ago

I made these for my co-op! 50 servings, banana for scale. They were demolished within 15 minutes.

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RonaAppoo10 months ago

It's not rocket science folks, just as u start potatoes in cold water to have them cooked inside out first, the same goes for this recipe. made it came out perfecto!!!

bajablue (author)  RonaAppoo10 months ago

I never thought of it that way, but you're right! :-)

rshudson821 year ago
Does the oil not soak into the potatoes while it's heating? I thought in deep frying that the steam pressure inside the food kept the oil from soaking in, but if you start the oil cold, there's no steam.
bajablue (author)  rshudson821 year ago
Hey there rshudson82!

Here's the transcript from America's Test Kitchen. It explains the process better than I ever could. The only thing I found was that the fires cook up much faster than 25 minutes, as quoted below:

LANCASTER: French fries. French fries, one of the things is to make great French fries you have to twice fry them. And what I mean by that is after you cut the potato into planks or into strips you have to start them in oil basically to get most of the cooking done but not really the browning. And then you have to let them sit out of the oil and then later on you fry them again, and that's to really build up the crust on the French fries, make it nice and fluffy in the center and really, really crusty on the outside.

We wanted to rethink that. This is another one of those classic dishes. There's one way to cook French fries, and we wanted to go back and test this. And this is the cold oil, starting potatoes in cold oil, which everything about that sounds wrong to me. You know, we've been told if the oil temperature isn't hot enough that the tables are actually going to soak up all that oil and you're going to end up with greasy French fries, which by the way, I would still eat. But, you know, there's still French fries at the bottom of it. But this is amazing. As the potatoes come up to temperature, the oil comes up to temperature, the potatoes come up to temperature, they actually will not soak up the oil until they get to a certain point. And once you've heated up the French fries they're pretty darn amazing. They start to cook slowly, they're nice and tender on the outside, and then they build up crust on their own. It completely changed the way in the test kitchen that we think about cooking French fries.

KIMBALL: Well, we actually tested them after we had fried them and they had a third less fat, saturated fat from the oil.

LANCASTER: That right.

KIMBALL: It was actually less oil in the fry. And we did a little science experience with it and we found there were two things going on. One is they can't absorb oil until they lose moisture. So the oil is replacing water...

LANCASTER: Right.

KIMBALL: ...that was in the potato. So you put potatoes in a cold oil there's no transfer of oil to potato. The other thing is that a lot of the oil absorption happens in the cooling down period. So a typical fry, French fries, fried twice, and it cools down the first time oil is getting sucked into it...

LANCASTER: Sucked in.

KIMBALL: ...and then the second time. With our method there's only one cooling down method, period at the end and that means less oil. So you get substantially less oil. And by the way, this idea came from Joel Robuchon, the French Chef. He actually I think was the one who pioneered the cold oil...

LANCASTER: Mm-hmm.

KIMBALL: ...so we need to give him credit. But less fat and it's much easier. It takes what, 25 minutes from start to finish.

LANCASTER: Right.
sandy481 year ago
$
CJR21152 years ago
SO GOOD
bajablue (author)  CJR21152 years ago
SO GLAD! ;-D
eugene_nkl2 years ago
Nice, thank you, I really appreciate your tutorial:)
bajablue (author)  eugene_nkl2 years ago
Thanks so much, eugene! :-)
SandraDau2 years ago
Well when I heard of Cold Oil fires I was like What?? But I also had to try it. But they came out great!
bajablue (author)  SandraDau2 years ago
Thanks for commenting, Sandra!
wold6302 years ago
I LOVE this idea! I have never even heard of it and can't wait to try it!!
bajablue (author)  wold6302 years ago
Hope your family enjoys them as much as mine do! :-)
fffinikkk2 years ago
Tttastyyy!)))
bajablue (author)  fffinikkk2 years ago
;;;-)))
anatroccolo2 years ago
How interesting!
Must try even if I don't know which kind of potatoes I got in the house... hopefully the right kind! :D
Voted :)
antioch2 years ago
Not much of a potatoe eater or cook I'm having difficulties trying to see the 'cold' part with this frying method. Could you elaborate some more for us dummies please?
bajablue (author)  antioch2 years ago
Conventional French fries require the oil to be preheated, whereas cold oil frying requires no preheating of the oil. The potatoes cook as the oil heats up.

Oooh, gotcha! Thanks so much, bajablue!
bajablue (author)  antioch2 years ago
Thank YOU, antioch! ;-)
Taerzik2 years ago
Can I get input from those who've done chips?
I've done about 50 lbs at this point (not all at once mind you). Everyone seems to like home-made chips but they are so messy that I'm not planning on doing it again until I can get the right equipment to do it outdoors!
In my experience the chips came out better if the oil was all the way up to the 'deep fry' temp range whereas putting the chips in before then didn't get the desired crispyness - they either over cooked or or came out limp. Might have been some other mistake on my part though.
bajablue (author)  Taerzik2 years ago
I've cold-fried chips several times, but I never kept track of the oil temperature. They do need more attention than fries. When the chips turned golden they were perfectly cooked. 15-20 seconds too little or too long can make or break them. They also need to cool or they just don't crisp up.

Hope this helped.... thanks for commenting!
I got to thinking about it later - I used white potatoes, which would mean extra starch. I soaked and rinsed the sliced chips repeatedley over a 24 hour period until the water came out clear despite soaking for an hour. (Last run was a 5 gallon Homer bucket) It seemed that frying the chips without leeching the starch out made them extra difficult to guage the cook time.
Also, it seemed that if I put the chips in 'fry' temp oil (450 I think...) the chips shrank less and were more crispy, less crunchy, while working from less-hot oil, they shrank more and were 'harder'.
I think if I used a less starchy potato as you recommended they might not shrink as much.
Regardless, everyone loved 'em with fine ground seasalt and fresh ground pepper.

Again, this is just my experience with white potatoes and I haven't tried for over 4 months. Given your instructable here I might just take another shot at it with the cold oil method.
SpareiChan2 years ago
Wouldn't this increase the amount of oil absorbed by the food due to lack of the water/oil barrier being forming from the sudden flash boiling of water by the hot oil?

Though I will not I use the same method when infusing oil with garlic or herbs, it allows the natural flavor to come out into the oil.
bajablue (author)  SpareiChan2 years ago
Hi SpareiChan! I referenced the article (with a link) from ATK in "Author's Notes" at the end of this Instructable. They explain the scientific process much better than I ever could.
nmcrae12 years ago
SpareiChan:
I actually watched the America's Test Kitchen show where they showed the Cold-Frying method, and that exact question was even brought up... Apparently it does NOT increase the amount of oil that's absorbed by the food....

I kind of brushed it off when I saw the ATK show, but I may have to try it with all these great comments....
bajablue (author)  nmcrae12 years ago
nmcrae: I'm sure you'll be very happy with the results! ;-)
oilitright2 years ago
Just wondering to myself could a person with a deep fryer try cold frying? Or would that be not likely to provide good results? I have a crew of 8 at the dinner table so a couple potatoes would be quantity "insufficient", however I do have one of those big electric turkey fryers.
bajablue (author)  oilitright2 years ago
wow oilitright...That's a lot of hungry mouths to feed! ;-)

Potatoes aren't expensive, so why not give it a try? Please let me know how it works out.
I think as long as the device will produce the heat necessary to actually 'fry' - it should work. The worst you can do is have limp, mostly cooked fries that have to be turned into mashed potatoes.
onemoroni12 years ago
I have not done the cold fry. I use my Fry Daddy hot, but I'll have to give this a try. I have done both fries and chips hot.
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