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How to Create French Fries in Home like what we eat in Hotels or Like McDonals

Uttam Sheth:I Cook Like This

There’s nothing more satisfying than effortlessly turning raw ingredients into a simple, iconic dish; like taking a handful of flour, eggs, water and turning it into fresh hand shaped pasta. It’s the kind of easy skill that comes with long practice and it always shows, and it’s always awesome to achieve.

That’s why I’ll go to immense effort to achieve that effortless skill. And for me, there is nothing more out of reach than getting french fries right at home. There’s just something about them that, especially in shoestring form, are better done on a commercial factory scale: In-n-out’s fries famously suck, Shake Shack had to walk back their fresh in-store french fries. Heston Blumenthal seemingly has it figured out, as long as its British chip sized, but what we’re looking for here is something more classic, something closer to shoestring.

When I saw this post on Quora, I jumped at it. It seemed almost too simple and good to be true, just a few easy steps, although it involved two overnight rests and lots of drying in the fridge. The basic idea was pretty obvious: dry cold fries will explode in hot oil, and if you do it twice, you should get perfectly crispy fries.
I had to try it, but more to the point, I wanted to pit it against other simple home recipes. My selection process for the other challengers was emotional, not scientific. I chose the best fries we had ever eaten: Heston’s perfect pommes frites, along with our nemesis recipe, Kenji Lopez Alt’s similarly named recipe.

The first time Steph ever made fries, she used Kenji’s recipe. An experienced deep fryer, she was confident in her abilities, but somehow, possibly because the fries were too wet from the brine, the hot oil overflowed the pot and almost scalded her. Luckily, we didn’t have a gas range at the time; I shudder to think what might have ensued if we did.

I modified these recipes to fit shoestring fries, this usually just meant any hard boils were closer to simmers and cooking times were shortened. I felt it was a fair test of what was the best method for getting shoestring fries at home.

Heston’s perfect chips took 5 hours. I boiled the potatoes on a low simmer for 10 minutes instead of his original 30, but they still came out completely broken. Not his fault; his original recipe was for inch thick chips, not 1/4” shoestrings. They came out very crispy and quite similar in taste, if not in looks, to the fries Steph and I had at Dinner in London.

Kenji’s fries take 2 days and are specified to be shoestring sized, so I followed his recipe to a tee. His came out more intact than Heston’s but still broken, I’m not sure how he managed to avoid the broken ones on a high heat boil, but I suspect that’s why his lead photo is only of 12 intact french fries. In the end, the recipe was about twice as involved as Heston’s, with vinegar and agitation needed, but looked and tasted better with more intact fries (marginally more intact).

The Quora recipe took 3 days but mostly zero effort. The post was short on details, so I invented them as I went along. The first thing I noticed was that they discolored while drying in the fridge. After frying, they recolored themselves but seemed to be the least crispy, and therefore, most disappointing of the bunch. As I ate more and more of them however, it ended up that they had the best, most potatoey flavor and satisfying crisp (as opposed to the boom-in-your-face crunch of the other two). I felt like I could eat endless amounts of these guys, and that made them the winner for me.

Thinking that I could optimize on this recipe, I tried condensing the process into one long day. By 10pm that night, I ended up with soggy fries that couldn’t hold a candle to their 3 day brethren. Something magical seems to happen on the third day.

Was this easier than just throwing some Ore-Ida or McCains fries in the oven? No, but it was far, far more satisfying, and I’m guessing either (or both) Steph or I will be improving this recipe as time goes by, until one day we’ll just effortlessly be able to throw together an easy batch of french fries that can rival the best french restaurants, or McDonalds.

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