Last night I set out to make the perfect french fries. I looked through several recipes to decide whether to bake or fry, double fry or single fry, season or not season. Who knew there were so many recipes for a simple french fry out there?
After reading reviews, I decided to try the double fry method. I wasn't sure it would work, but I put my faith in Emeril and his recipe for perfect french fries.
Emeril told me to soak my fries in ice cold water. I did, but had no idea why. Then, Emeril told me to fry my potatoes, remove them from the oil, and let them rest. I did that, too, but was still unconvinced that my soggy fries would ever turn crispy. Finally, Emeril told me to re-fry my soggy fries for 1-2 minutes. And like magic, the fries turned crispy.
Crispy, tasty fries with the perfect texture. But I couldn't help but wonder WHY? Why did all that work? Emeril's recipe did not fill me in on the science behind the crispy fries, so I turned to my trusty friend Google.
That's when I found this long, but helpful post that explained why double frying works. During the first fry, some of the water in the potato evaporates and the oil takes its place, coming into direct contact with the potato's cells (soggy fries). The water that is more tightly bound in the potato structure is still present, though. The hot oil helps the starch molecules break free and they combine with the remaining water to form a gel. These reinforced starch cells move to the exterior of the potato. After this outer later is built up, you can fry the potatoes a second time. This dries out the remaining water and leaves the crunchy, starchy exterior.
[Pictures below are: 1) raw potatoes 2) soggy fries after fry #1 and 3) crispy fries and fry #2]
I'm never content to just follow the directions and wonder why it works. I like to know WHY it works. So now I know the science behind crispy fries. Want to make a batch of your own?
Perfect french fries
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut
1 quart oil (I used canola, Emeril recommends peanut)
Cut and peel the potatoes. Place potatoes in a large bowl, cover with water and add ice. Let sit for 30-60 minutes.
In a deep / large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees (it's important to heat the oil to the right temperature. If you try to do this with oil that isn't hot enough, it won't work).
Drain the potatoes from the water and dry them off with a towel. Increase the heat on the oil to medium high and add the potatoes to the oil. Stir occasionally. Fry for 6-8 minutes or until potatoes are soft and limp. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the oil and let them drain on paper towels.
Let the limp potatoes sit for at least 10 minutes. Make sure the oil is heated back up to 350 degrees and put the potatoes back in the oil. Be ready to remove them quickly. They only need 1 minute for the second fry.
Drain the potatoes again and sprinkle with salt.