How to French Fry a Potato or How Oil and Water are not friends

I think french fries were one of the very first things I learned how to make, somewhere between the olive sandwich and buttered noodles. My Baba would always cook them for my sister and I when we were staying with her and I have a distinct memory of trying to recreate her methods at my Dad’s apartment in Chicago while he was out. We poured all the oil into a pot but it didn’t look like enough so we filled the rest of the pot with water. I remember looking at the pot of water with the big circle of oil in the middle and trying to stir it up so that it would mix. We lit the gas stove and threw the potatoes in and for some reason we couldn’t get them to turn into french fries, I guess we never heard that saying about oil and water.

Somehow we didn’t burn the building down and my Baba told me how to make them. Although we were out of oil to try again that day I have made french fries a lot since then. There is something really fun about deep frying even though it makes a huge mess and is pretty bad for you. I do it just a couple times a year but it seems like I meet a lot of people who are terrified of deep frying things and that you need all sorts of extra gadgets or skills. You really don’t need anything besides a lot of oil and a pot. And something to fry. State Fairs have taught us that you can fry anything but french fries are probably the easiest. I thought I would give some tips for all the deep-fried vegans out there who eat out every meal because it is one of the easiest cheapest things you can do and a great way to celebrate Independence Day because there can be fire involved and what is more American than a pile of Freedom Fries?

First cut up your potatoes in whatever shape you want and toss them into a bowl filled with water. Next, set the scene. Although I can only remember one grease fire in my life it is a good idea to grab the baking soda and have it ready or a lid for the pot you are going to use just in case. You never want to throw water on a grease fire. That is the most important thing to remember because the fire will probably just go out on its own if you don’t put water on it. Water will will cause the oil to sputter all over the place and that is how you can lose the house.Also this is a good time to put a shirt on if you like to cook topless or an apron if you have nice clothes because some oil will probably splatter on you. If you are particularly paranoid you can also wear glasses to protect those seein’ eyes although it is unlikely the grease would take out both eyes. Probably you would just lose one and have to wear a patch. It would be really annoying to explain to people for the rest of your life how that happened though. Once when I was 12 I twisted my ankle playing ping pong and people still give me a hard time.

Next you want to fill a pot or skillet with some high temperature oil like peanut or sunflower. This is not the time for extra virgin unless you are Italian and cook everything that way.  This is the time to use really cheap oil, American oil. If you have a candy thermometer you can use it to see when the oil reaches about 375. If you don’t have one just wait a couple minutes and then throw in a test fry. If it bubbles immediately you are probably all right. If it sinks and you can count how many bubbles are on it you are not ready.

Here is another important tip: after you take the potatoes out of the water dry them off with a towel. It seems like an unnecessary step BUT  remember water is oil’s enemy and you don’t want to get caught in between.

Once the oil is ready gently drop in some a potion of the fries in using some sort of utensil like a fryer basket or tongs or even a fork. The key is to just place them in the oil rather than tossing them. Once they turn golden place them on some paper bags or paper towels on a baking sheet to get rid of the excess oil.Here you have a choice. You can be impatient and eat the fries or you can put the whole baking sheet in the fridge, let them cool for an hour or so and then give them a second frying in hotter oil. This is the step that separates the best restaurant fries from the worst. That and letting the fries sit out for awhile before serving. You have to eat those fries while they are still hot or no one is going to love you. And then you will be all alone with a bunch a mushy french fries wondering what the hell happened to your life. I take it back, the dog will still love you. Dogs are great that way. The best way to do it is do the first round of fries, beer batter something and fry it and then put it in the oven on warm, and then do the second french frying and serve everything together with malt vinegar.

To summarize this ridiculously verbose post:

1) Water Hates Oil

2) Deep frying is fast and easy but only if you do it right

3) soak your potatoes after chopping

4) mise en place! baking soda nearby, baking sheet with paper lining ready

5) dry the potatoes after soaking

6) fry the potatoes in batches

7) get rid of the excess oil before eating

8 ) cool for an hour

9) fry them again in hotter oil

10) Enjoy with malt vinegar and something else battered and deep fried because  you don’t want to waste all that oil

11) Dispose of the oil in the trash not in the sink

If you live in Austin and you don’t want to make your own fries there is a Belgian french fry trailer downtown called Frietkot they have tons of different sauces to try and many of them are vegan.


10 thoughts on “How to French Fry a Potato or How Oil and Water are not friends

  1. veganhomemade

    Great post! I am one of those people that is terrified of trying to fry something myself – I leave it to the pros 🙂

  2. Shannon (Vegan Burnout)

    I love this! So funny. When we were roommates, my friend–who is a champion french fry-maker–set the stove on fire. I think it was a combo of too much oil + too much heat + too many fries, so it bubbled over and lit up. She panicked while I cursed at her and beat the flames out with a dishtowel.

    The first time I made buffalo tofu, I gave myself a nasty oil burn. The next time, my husband suggested we use a big pot instead of a skillet, so the oil spatters couldn’t get me as easily. It worked.

  3. jessy

    this is the best How To post, fo ‘sho! i remember my momma making my family french fries when i was wee, but i haven’t tried making them myself. i’m terrified of using hot oil – although i love me some fried goodies, but i really suck at being careful and graceful and all that jazz in the kitchen. my spouse and i have a little fry-daddy we got years ago and have never opened; i didn’t even think about just using a big ‘ol skillet or pan. aces! anyways – this is a fantastical post, and it’s got me thinking that i’ve gotta make some french fries for dan and i to enjoy. thanks for the pictures, reminders, notes, advice (especially the part about wearing a shirt. good call!), etc. this makes me happyfaced and waaaaay less intimidated about frying up some yummies. thanks again!

  4. Zoa

    Wow, thanks for all this knowledge! Will I ever deep fry potatoes…twice? I guess, in for a penny…at least I’ll know the proper way to do it if I ever try. Very funny and informative post!

  5. Carrie

    Those look so good!

    I hardly every deep fry things, but when I do I make my husband do it because I’m scared of the sputtering oil. Hehe.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  6. trinity (of haiku tofu)

    lol, you were really speaking to me with the whole put-on-clothes-or-an-apron thing. i’ve made that mistake before- never again. Those fries look great. I need to my deep fry on soon!

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