How To Make Textbook Perfect French Fries

Words: Jess Spiro

Is there anything more irresistible than the humble chip? Whether you like yours thin and crispy or slightly fat and more slap-like, there is no denying that everyone loves a cheeky chip. Here’s all you need to know about cutting, frying and making perfect French fries.

french fries

Tips for Making Perfect French Fries

Potato Choice

Firstly, you’ll need to choose the correct potato. In South Africa, we don’t get the wide varieties of potatoes the rest of the world does, so pickings are slim. However, if you use dry or floury potatoes, as opposed to waxy ones – which are better suited to boiling for a potato salad – you’re halfway to making your next French fry your best one yet.

Potato Prep

Now that you’ve got the potatoes, you’ll need to prep them. We’re partial to skinless chips, but you can leave your potatoes unpeeled – just make sure you wash and scrub them well. Slice the potato into planks measuring between 1 cm and 1 ½ cm, depending on how thick or thin you like your chips. Take each of these planks, and then slice them into batons or French fries. Keep them in water while you wait for your oil to warm up.

Oil Choice

When it comes to frying, you want an oil with a mild flavour and a high smoking point. Vegetable oil is your best, readily available, affordable bet, but beef dripping is the most indulgent fat to use.

Frying Technique

The technique for the best French fries requires a two-phase process of frying. Firstly, you want to blanch your chips in oil, to give them an opportunity to cook partially. The temperature of this oil is relatively low, about 140 ºC, as you don’t want to colour or crisp the chips just yet. Dry your chips to remove any excess water, place them in the oil and allow to cook for about 5 or so minutes or until they begin to soften. Remove them from the oil, and place on a couple of sheets of paper towel to cool.

The next fry is going to be a hot one, so increase the heat of your oil to about 180 ºC. Place your blanched chips in and leave them until they crisp up and get that desired crunchy, golden glow. Remove from the oil, drain on a clean stack of paper towels and season with salt immediately.

One thing to watch out for is overcrowding the pan. If you place too many chips in the oil at once, the oil temperature will drop and you’ll end up with soggy, oil-soaked chips. Fry in batches instead, to avoid this.

Now that you know how, get cracking on making the best French fries yet with our recipe.

Recipe for Perfect French Fries

Serves: 4 – 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

1 kg potatoes, washed and dried
sunflower oil
sea salt

To serve
Sriracha sauce

Wash and peel the potatoes, and towel dry with a sheet of kitchen towel. Cut the chips into index finger-sized pieces; try to keep the shapes as even as possible to ensure even cooking time. Tip: you can top and tail the potato to square it off, which will give more even slices.

Fill a medium-sized saucepan (or a deep-fryer) with sunflower oil; you need the oil to be about 8 cm deep, but be careful that it doesn’t come above halfway up the side of the pot. If it does, switch to a slightly larger pot. Place on a medium heat.

If you have a thermometer, use it to check the temperature – you want it to be around 140 ºC. If you don’t have a thermometer, use a raw potato to test. The chip should float, but not brown too quickly. Blanch the chips in batches in relatively cool oil for about 8 minutes until soft, but not browned. Remove from the oil and place on a roasting tray lined with paper towels and allow to cool.

Once all of the chips have been blanched, turn the heat up. Again, if you have a thermometer, use it to check the temperature – you want it to be around 180 ºC. Place a chip in the oil again to test if need be; make sure that it’s floating and beginning to brown. Fry the chips for a second time in batches for about another 6-8 minutes, or until they turn an even golden brown.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the French fries from the oil; drain on paper towel and season immediately with a generous sprinkling of Maldon salt.

Serve straight away with mayonnaise, tomato sauce or Sriracha sauce, or a mixture of all three combined.

Need something to go with those fries? Try one of these recipes…

Oven Baked Triple Decker Croque Monsieur

Cheesy Pretzel Roll Sliders

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