Homemade french fries are difficult to master. Too often, they come out golden on the outside, raw on the inside, and laden with grease. Usually, the payoff just isn’t worth the effort.
This recipe changes all that. Cook’s Illustrated discovered the secret ingredient that guarantees crispy fries (cornstarch, believe it or not) and describes a technique that cooks both the inside and the outside.
The technique includes a few key steps:
- Square off the potatoes to eliminate uneven slices and ensure uniform fries. (If your knife skills aren’t that sharp, use a mandoline to slice the fries. You’ll get perfect fries in the blink of an eye.)
- Rinse cut potatoes to eliminate excess starch and keep the potatoes from sticking together.
- Coat the fries in cornstarch to ensure a crispy crust.
- Be generous with the amount of oil used for frying. A high ratio of oil to potatoes allows the fries more room to cook and prevents the temperature from dropping too dramatically when the potatoes are added. (Fries cooked this way are far superior to those cooked by fat-conscious fryers who are trying to conserve oil.)
- Cook the fries twice—once at 325°F to soften and cook the interior, and then again at 375°F to bring the exterior to a triumphant golden crisp.
- Let the fries rest in between the two frying steps. During this rest, the starches on the exterior to form a thin film that, in conjuction with the cornstarch, yields superior crispy fries.
So there you have it! Apply this technique in the recipe that follows and you will pump out French fries that rival the best of those served in burger joints and French bistros the world over.
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 quarts peanut oil
Scrub potatoes, then square off the sides and cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch fries.
Rinse cut potatoes in a large bowl under cold running water until water runs clear. Cover with ice water and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Pour off water, spread potatoes onto kitchen towels, and thoroughtly dry. Transfer potatoes to large bowl and toss with cornstarch until evenly coated. Transfer potatoes to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let rest until a fine white coating forms, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven fitted with a clip-on candy thermometer, heat oil to 325°F.
Add half of potatoes, a handful at a time, to hot oil. Increase heat to high. (This step is easy to forget, but very important!) Fry, stirring with mesh spider or large-hole slotted spoon, until potatoes start to turn from white to blond, 4 to 5 minutes. (Oil temperature will drop about 75°F during this frying. It stabilizes right around 250°F. If it drops lower than this, double-check and make sure you remembered to turn the heat on high after adding the fries.)
Transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels to absorb any excess grease. Return oil to 325°F and repeat with remaining potatoes.
Increase heat under Dutch oven to high, and heat oil to 375°F. Add half of fries, and handful at a time, and fry until golden brown and puffed, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to thick paper bag or paper towels. Lightly season with salt while fries are still hot. (I like using a paper bag for this step because you can simply toss the fries in the bag, add salt, and shake to absorb the grease and evenly season the fries all at once.) Return oil to 375°F and repeat with remaining fries. Serve immediately.