Make Your Own Junk Food: French Fry Edition

Introduction: Make Your Own Junk Food: French Fry Edition

About: Michele Hays believes that any dish, even one that’s strange to you, communicates the care of the farmer, forager, market and cook who brought it to your plate. At her blog, Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails…

Everybody loves junk food. Despite the huge push to healthy eating, none of us can resist our fast-food favorites, even though they really should be treats rather than everyday foods.

One way to really appreciate junk food for what it is - make it yourself! One of the reasons we usually go out for french fries is that making good fries is a complex process. If we had to make our own french fries from scratch every time, we might eat them less often.

The good news - homemade french fries blow fast-food fries out of the water every time. You just need the right techniques, ingredients, and equipment.

Ingredients and Equipment

You will need:

Starchy raw potatoes (russets) - note that, since you're frying in batches, you can make as few or as many as you desire
A large bowl of cold water
A large (preferably enameled cast iron) dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, filled 1 1/2 inches deep of oil (I used a combo of canola oil and clarified bacon drippings)
Salt (we prefer the sea salt or garlic salt that comes in a grinder, but use what you've got.)

A potato peeler
A mandoline slicer (optional, but makes this much faster)
A large colander
Paper towels
A cookie sheet
Another cookie sheet with a baker's cooling rack set inside it
A spider/skimmer
Kitchen tongs
A candy thermometer
A serving dish lined with several thicknesses of paper towel

Step 1: Clean, Peel and Slice Your Potatoes

Scrub your potatoes under running water and peel them using the potato peeler.  

Using the mandoline slicer on the julienne setting and the guard or a kevlar glove to protect your hands, cut your potatoes into matchsticks.

Alternatively, using a sharp knife, cut your potato in half the long way, and lay the flat sides on your cutting board.  Cut each half into thin long slices perpendicular to your cutting board. Separate the slices into two stacks, turn each stack so that the flat side is on your cutting board. Slice the stack into matchsticks.

Step 2: Soak Your Raw Fries

Immediately after you cut them, put the raw french fries into your large bowl of cold water and swish them around a bit.  Set them aside while your oil is heating.

You will notice that the water becomes cloudy: this is good.  Your fries are letting go of some of their starch, ensuring eventual crispiness.  Putting them in water right away also ensures that they won't discolor.

Step 3: Set Up Your Frying Station

Put your Dutch Oven and the oil on your stove under medium heat.

Your unlined cookie sheet will go to the right of your Dutch Oven, and the one with the rack goes to the left.  Put the serving dish lined with paper towels to the left of the cookie sheet with the rack (taking care that there is enough space so that you cannot accidentally ignite the paper towels.)

Step 4: Dry Off Your Fries

Drain your fries into a colander in the sink.  Shake to remove excess water.

It is critical to get your fries as dry as possible before frying.  Line the plain cookie sheet with several thicknesses of paper towels, and dump the fries on top of them.  Blot them with more paper towels, rolling them around until they are dry.  Remove and discard the towels.

Place your cookie sheet of dry raw fries at their station to the right of your hot oil.  The goal is to move from right to left as you are frying.

Step 5: Bring Your Oil Up to Temperature

Increase the heat under your oil until it reaches 350 degrees, or until a single (ONE) drop of water fizzles away to nothing instantly.

Set your tongs in the prepared french fries, and place your spider near the final "station"  As soon as your oil is up to temperature, we can move on to frying.

Step 6: Blanching (first Fry)

Gently lay the french fries into the hot oil using the tongs, until you have a single layer of fries (about one potato's worth of fries.)  Allow them to cook until they have the texture of limp noodles (one or two minutes) but still retain their white color, and then scoop them out with your spider and put them on the prepared rack in the cookie sheet to drain.  

Allow the oil to come back up to temperature.  Repeat with the remaining raw fries until all your fries are blanched and draining.

Step 7: Second Fry

Again, check the temperature as described in Step 6.  Move your tray of fries to the right of your pot of oil, and move the lined serving dish closer to the left side of the oil (again, taking care that the paper towels don't catch fire.)

Once more working in batches that make a single layer in your oil, gently lay your blanched fries back in the oil.  Allow them to cook until they are golden brown and crispy.

Lift the fries up with the spider and allow them to drain a bit inside the pot.  Taking care not to drip oil on your burner, move the scoopful of fries to the waiting paper towels until all your fries are out of the oil.

Step 8: Salting

Toss the fries around lightly on the paper towel a bit with the tongs to blot up any excess oil, and salt to taste. 

As soon as they cool enough to touch, gobble them up!

See my website at Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails for the terrific Garlic-Avocado Aioli for dipping!

As you can see, making good french fries takes commitment!  If we only ate french fries we made ourselves, I'm guessing that we'd not only enjoy them more when we get them, but we'd also eat healthier the rest of the time - healthy foods are so much easier!

If just reading this instructable makes you tired and hungry, may I suggest an apple or banana? Wash or peel, eat - no instructable needed.

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    LOL! A friend just posted this YouTube video from the 1960s that discusses the twice-fry!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Sooooooo going to make this, it looks amazing! What is the purpose of the second fry? Thanks

    Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails
    Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for doing it!

    The second fry is what gives french fries (or chips!) their crunch and golden color. If you don't take them out and give them a rest, they will be soggy and limp. Most restaurants use pre-cut, pre-fried potatoes to make french fries, which is why you never notice they're twice-fried. (This works for tostones - fried green plantains - too)