Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
We've updated our instructions with better advice on cooking oil, from J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats.
July 17, 2015
We humans have accomplished some astounding things during our relatively short time on this planet, but is any achievement greater than the invention of the humble French fry? We think not.
Still, finding the fry that perfectly encapsulates the Platonic ideal of starchy goodness can be a struggle (unless of course you live in Belgium). Crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, sturdy enough to survive a good dunk in your favorite sauce, and piping hot—that's how they should be. Yes, the ideal French fry is beautiful and elusive, but even harder to find is its healthier, less messy cousin. That’s right, we’re talking about world-class oven fries—specifically, homemade oven fries.
Baking fries eliminates the messy splatter of the deep fryer, making them both healthier and easier to clean up after. But how can one attain that same lovely crispness in the oven?
NOTE: Some of the following tips can be applied to store-bought frozen spuds, but for the best, crispiest non-fried French fries, you're going to want to put in the elbow grease and do it yourself.
Reduce Water Content
The perfect fry is a product of precise chemistry, but one of the biggest factors you can influence is simply water content. Less water makes for crispier fries, and since nearly half of a potato's weight is water, it’s essential to get that percentage down. Here's how:
- Use russet potatoes, which are drier than other varieties. Yukon gold are a decent second choice, but avoid waxy potatoes, which have higher water content.
- Slice your spuds wide and thin. This creates a higher surface area-to-volume ratio, which helps water evaporate.
- Soak your uncooked fries in a salted water bath for half an hour to draw starch out of the potato. Since starch holds moisture, soaking potatoes actually decreases their water content. (For an alternative to this step, see the section below.)
- Thoroughly dry your fries with a paper towel before coating in your oil of choice (Kenji from Serious Eats suggests peanut oil or duck fat).
- Place fries in a single layer on your baking sheet, taking care not to overcrowd. During baking, evaporating water from each fry will steam its neighbors if you’re not careful.
- Bake according to your recipe of choice—we like 450°F until they’re browned and crispy. Use the bottom rack in your oven and flip halfway through cooking.
- Open the oven door a few times during baking to allow steam to escape. Steam is good, since it means your potatoes are releasing water, but if too much builds up, it can make your fries soggy.
These steps will help ensure drier, crispier homemade baked fries, but they're not the end of the story. Read on to find out how to get that perfect golden-brown exterior.
Build a Better Crust
The best fries have a lovely, golden-brown exterior. There are plenty of ways to get there, but if you take your fries really seriously (we do), you may want to try a more advanced step: parboiling your potatoes before you bake.
This strengthens the pectin in the potato and essentially helps to build a layer of dry, crunch starch on the outside of the fries. Parboiling takes the place of Step 3 above.
Here's how it's done:
- Cut your potatoes into fries, rinse them, then place them in a pot and cover them with cold water.
- Add a pinch or two of salt and a dash of vinegar, which will help the potatoes retain their shape.
- Bring the water to a boil, then boil gently for three minutes. When you're done, your potatoes will be slightly softer, but not mushy.
The Last Step
Enjoy! And remember—homemade fries are best with homemade ketchup.