Crispy, salt-flecked, and delectable, deep-fried vegetables are hard to resist. Especially french fries: Having the ability to serve homemade fries with your burgers is a culinary coup. But this can be a challenge to pull off at home.
While everyone loves fried foods, cooking them is quite another story. Submerging food in large quantities of boiling-hot oil results in dangerous and messy splatters. Plus, with typical recipes for french fries, you’re asked to deep-fry them twice: the first time at a lower temperature to evaporate some water and form a thin crust, and then a second time at a higher temperature to finish cooking and browning them. No wonder frozen bags of fries are so popular.
But there is a way to make fantastic french fries from scratch without a double-fried kitchen disaster. Our nontraditional technique starts with cold oil; that is, oil straight from the cupboard. A deep pot, with oil and vegetables inside, is set over high heat; as the oil heats, the food slowly softens and cooks through, browning and crisping up at the end as the oil eventually reaches a boil. This cooking method is much easier, requiring less oil and little temperature monitoring. And it minimizes mess and scary splattering. Another bonus with this technique is that, because you use low-starch Yukon Gold potatoes, it allows you to do away with presoaking the potatoes in water to remove excess starch.
This approach isn’t just for potatoes, though. Fried Brussels sprouts are (well, almost) as delicious as french fries. But with their high moisture content, they’re a prime candidate for throwing angry, splattery fits when submerged into hot frying oil. Sure enough, starting them in cold oil calms them right down. If you’ve ever roasted Brussels sprouts, you know they can handle a lot of color, so an extended
frying time browns and crisps them up beautifully.
1 Cut potatoes into ¼-inch by ¼-inch sticks.
2 Stir together potatoes and oil in large Dutch oven. Place on stove, turn heat to high, and cook until oil reaches rolling boil.
3 Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are starting to turn golden and exteriors are crisp.
4 Stir potatoes with tongs and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp.
5 Transfer fries to paper bag to drain. Season with salt.
THE SCIENCE OF Cold-Start Frying
Vegetables fried using the cold-start method spend more time in the oil than when using the more traditional frying method, but they don’t turn out greasier—they are actually lower in fat. As the veggies cook, they lose surface moisture, which is replaced by oil. Because the cold start cooks them more gently, less moisture is lost, and less oil is absorbed during frying.
Easier French Fries with Dipping Sauces
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS For homemade fries with no double frying and less oil than normally would be required, we submerged the potatoes in cold oil to fry them over high heat until browned. We chose Yukon Gold potatoes because they are less starchy than the more traditional choice of russets. This meant that they fried up creamy and smooth inside and crispy outside with this method, whereas starchier russets turned leathery with the longer-than-typical cooking time. As a bonus, the thin skin of Yukon Golds didn’t need to be removed. For those who like it, flavoring the oil with bacon fat gives these fries a subtle meaty flavor. We prefer peanut oil for french fries, but vegetable oil can be substituted. This recipe will not work with russets or sweet potatoes. We love our two dipping sauces with these fries, but feel free to use ketchup or whatever condiment you prefer.
2½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sides squared off and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch by ¼-inch batons
1½ quarts peanut oil
- cup bacon fat, strained (optional) Dipping sauce of choice (recipes follow)
1 Line rimmed baking sheet with thick paper bag or triple layer of paper towels. Stir together potatoes, oil, and bacon fat (if using) in large Dutch oven. Cook over high heat until oil has reached rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are starting to turn golden and exteriors are crisp, about 15 minutes
(fries at bottom of pot will be darker).
2 Using tongs, stir potatoes, gently scraping up any that stick, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Using spider skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer fries to prepared sheet. Season with kosher salt to taste and serve immediately with dipping sauce.