Never Fry A French Fry

By Spencer Ackerman

I’ll sidestep my friend Ben Miller’s narrowminded objections to Super Bowl salads for the time being and focus on his guide to french fries. You see how many steps you’ll have to climb to eat your fries? What’s more, most of us don’t have preternatural Millerlike gifts of precision, so when it comes to dealing with scalding oil, we’re going to hurt ourselves and/or get improperly fried fries. As the infomercial says: there’s got to be a better way.

There is. Don’t fry your fries. Bake them. Simple and plain. You see how golden and delicious the fries looked in the picture for my Super Bowl post? There’s not a drop of oil on them, which is healthier in any case. When it comes to frying potatoes at home, take Johnny Thunders’ advice and don’t try.For all the reasons Ben elucidates in his post, hot oil is a volatile substance. He soldiers through. I say it’s not worth it. The worst thing that can happen to your fries is that you end up tasting oil and not potato. You’ll never run into that problem if you cut out the oil.

Instead, set your oven to 400 degrees. While it’s warming, peel — or don’t, if you like skin on your fries — and cut your potatoes to the desired thickness. Try to keep your cuts uniform, but if you’re off by a bit, don’t worry about it. Take generous portions of salt and pepper and, if you like, garlic salt, and toss them in a Ziploc bag with your potatoes. Shake well to coat. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz it with cooking spray so your fries won’t stick to the sheet when they’re done. Place the fries in a single layer on the sheet and put the sheet in the oven for 45 minutes. If you want something nice and aromatic, stick a few sprigs of rosemary on the sheet as well. You’re done.

When it’s time to eat, you’ll taste nothing but delicious, crisp, salty potato (and garlic, if you used it). There won’t be any oil sopping around your stomach — more room for beer — or greasy pot to clean. People will ask you how you got your fries to come out so pleasantly non-greasy. You’ll be like I’m just that good.

12 responses to “Never Fry A French Fry

  1. Awesome, thanks. I’d never taken the time to perfect the french fry, but now I will.

  2. Feh. Countertop deep fryers are cheap and easy to use. Done properly, fries don’t soak up all that much oil, and if you use good potatoes, fresh oil and a little care, are one of the great foods of all time. I’ve made better fries at home than I get at most restaurants.

  3. I agree with everything Spencer says here re: healthfulness. And also give him credit for his diplomatic tone. But there’s one problem, what you’re describing here really is an oven roasted potato that happens to be cut in the shape of a french fry. The whole idea behind frying is that you crisp the outside while essentially steaming the inside. Roasting them in an oven doesn’t achieve that. You might get a crispness, but the texture likely won’t be the same.

  4. Yeah, with a deep fryer and a cheap plastic mandoline(v-slicer) the prep is neither onerous nor dangerous for the real deal… though obviously it’s another appliance that takes up valuable kitchen space.

    Now, I don’t make oven fries, but I do roast potato wedges all the time… and I think you should be covering the fries in foil at first (not sure of a time) so that they steam before you start crisping them. It makes a *huge* difference IMHO… with roasted red potatoes you end up with a nice crisp exterior and creamy interior. Potatoes I’ve made without the foil come out really dry and disappointing.

  5. spencerackerman

    @millerben, give it a shot. You’ll get the texture of thick-cut fries. Never once has anyone said to me, “Are these fries or potato wedges”?

    @J.W. Hamner, I’ve never tried covering the fries in foil, but I’ll give that a shot too.

  6. Kriston and I dipped the baked fries in queso to make up for their healthfulness.

  7. I make fries pretty much the same way, but I put a little olive oil (maybe 2 tablespoons) in the bag with the salt… not quite as healthy, but they do get nicely crispy on the outside, and it still beats deep-frying them.

  8. I am sorry, you guys are all tripping. I have made oven-fries in many ways over the years (including the way you mention in your post) and none can come close to a well-made batch of homemade french fries. The prep is somewhat involved but certainly not onerous and the payoff is definitely worth it.

  9. If the food being fried is taking oil on board, UR DOING IT WRONG.

    A potato is just a big ol’ lump-o-carbs anyway, no matter how it’s cooked.

  10. A restaurant here in Austin makes awesome fries, and a waiter told me they bake them first, then fry them quickly in very hot oil. So you get the fried crispiness without leaving them in the oil too long.

  11. Cardinal Fang

    Oven baked potato wedges are delicious, but any Naugahyde-palate who can’t taste the difference between a baked potato wedge and a french fry has no business writing on a food blog.

    And I’m deeply skeptical of anyone who offers as evidence of indistinguishability the claim that his friends don’t complain. First of all, as I mentioned, baked potato wedges are tasty so why would they complain, but secondly, many people are too polite to say, “What is this crap you just put on my plate?” If someone offers me butter but then serves me margarine instead, I don’t fling the plate across the room and stalk out, but that doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly lost the ability to distinguish between delicious and revolting.

  12. If you want to read a reader’s feedback :) , I rate this article for 4/5. Decent info, but I have to go to that damn msn to find the missed bits. Thank you, anyway!

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