Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Guide to Cooking the Perfect French Fry

While I try to eat a well-balanced diet, I have my cravings for salty, crisp french fries. My particular favorite of late has been the sweet potato fry. I had a nice sweet potato that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a couple days and decided to cook up a batch of fries.

Cutting a gnarled potato into perfectly equal batons is not as easy as it looks. I cut off the ends and parts of the sides, creating a sort of sweet potato rectangular prism. Then I sectioned that into smaller rectangles, and then into strips, about 1/4 in by 1/4 in by 4 in.

I heated up some canola oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. I placed about 5-6 fries in the pan and cooked them for about 4-5 minutes, flipping them over, to ensure that each side was cooked evenly.

I placed them on a paper towel to dry, salting them while they were still warm. The fries were pretty tasty, but they browned extremely fast, and some of them didn't cook all the way through on the inside.

I decided to conduct some research on perfecting the french fry. It seems that there are several factors that are important to consider: size, water, oil, temperature, and cooking time.

The fries should be cut thin enough to ensure that they don't crisp up too soon before they have cooked through on the inside. A recommended thickness should be somewhere betwen 1/4 in and 1/2 in.

It seems that soaking the cut potatoes in cold, ice water for 30 minutes, up to one day is critical. This practice washes away some of the excess starch that cause the fries to clump and stick together during cooking. Make sure to dry the fries off sufficiently before frying. An added benefit of soaking is that it may decrease the amount of acrylamide, a chemical formed when starches are fried, that has been linked to cancer and other health issues.

Many different kinds of oil are used for frying, olive oil for its omega-3s and ability to hold up to high temperatures. It also imparts a certain fruitiness that not everyone enjoys, and it is expensive. The next best option is peanut oil, because of its ability to hold up to high temperatures, a quality not found in corn or sunflower oil.

According to many websites, the proper temperature for cooking lies somewhere between 345 -375 degrees F. Overheating oil can lead to rancid taste as a result of oxidation.

Cooking Time
Double frying is a popular method to ensure super crispy fries, a technique employed at many restaurants. Cook the fries at 325 to 340 degrees for 4-6 minutes. Remove fries from oil and let cool. Turn heat up to 350-360 degrees F. Return fries to oil and cook for 1 minute or until golden brown.


Malia said...

Yummy, I love a sweet potato fry...or any fry for that matter! ;)

Raisin Canes said...

How many jams?!?!?!?