Nothing can make a boring Friday night into bliss like a homemade dish. How about a bowl of french fries fresh from the pan? It’s healthier than the fast food version, and you can have as much as you crave without feeling guilty.
But can you make any potato into delicious, crispy french fries? Or does the potato type matter?
Let’s dig deep and see the best texture and flavor and if any potato can make the cut.
Best Potatoes for French Fries
The perfect spud should have very little water and high starch levels to yield crispy french fries. Low water content means oil doesn’t penetrate into the dry matter much, meaning the french fries will be crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
The best potato for making french fries is the russet, which has a high starch content and low moisture. Other options include Yukon gold, Kennebeck, and Peruvian purple potatoes. Although these varieties are less starchy than russets, they still make for great french fries.
The worst options for making french fries are waxy potatoes, which are high in moisture and low in starch. Fingerling potatoes, red potatoes like Red Bliss and Red Adirondack, and New Potatoes are classic examples of waxy potatoes that aren’t suitable for frying. The high water content leaves the fries hollow once the moisture evaporates.
- Russet Potatoes
The ideal, unbeatable potato variety for making french fries is the russet potato, which gets its name from its rough skin. It’s large, oblong, and oval, with a patchy, netted, and light-brown skin that becomes chewy after cooking.
In the United States, russets are also known as Idaho or Russet Burbank potatoes. However, according to the Idaho Potato Commission, different potato varieties are grown in Idaho, and every potato variety with the Idaho official trademark can be called an Idaho potato.
Thanks to its texture and taste, the russet potato lends itself to a wide variety of cooking types, including mashing, baking, and roasting. However, when it comes to crispy french fries, russets take the crown.
The main feature that makes russets ideal for making french fries is their high starch and low water content. Russets generally have:
- Floury, light, and fluffy texture
- Buttery, earthy flavors while being mild and neutral, making them go well with any seasoning, especially salt & vinegar, rosemary, chives, and cheddar.
- Large size, making them perfect for cutting different size wedges or slices
- White or pale yellow, mealy flesh
Russet potatoes come in a wide variety and under different names, including Pacific, Karibou, Burbank, Narkotah, and many more. Fortunately, you don’t need to look for a specific type of russet since all varieties fit the bill for perfect french fries.
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
The next best potato for french fries is the golden Yukon. It’s medium to large in size, with a round to oblong shape, tiny brown spots, and pink eyes.
Since it’s an all-purpose variety, it can give you crunchy french fries similar to russets. While it’s denser and less crunchy, it can be more flavorful and heartier.
Yukon golds have a floury texture with lower starch and higher sugar than russet potatoes, but the starch is high enough to yield crunchy french fries. This gold-flesh potato is buttery and flavorful, making it perfect for those who don’t like to add seasoning.
Still, Yukon gold pairs well with:
- Herbs (such as oregano, sage, and basil)
- Cheese (such as cheddar and parmesan)
- Spices (such as paprika, garlic powder, and cumin)
They also have fine skin, meaning you don’t need to peel the skin before making french fries. The skin fries well and adds to the crispy texture.
Like most other potato varieties, Yukon gold contains:
- Vitamin B6
Like russet potatoes, Yukon golds are also available all year round, so you can enjoy them anytime you feel the urge for homemade french fries!
Here’s another high-starch variety that makes for perfect french fries. These medium-to-large elliptical, oblong potatoes have thin skin and ivory-colored flesh.
The high starch content makes the flesh firm, dense, and solid, giving you crispy fries that are fluffy and tender inside. This feature has made Kennebec potatoes a highly sought-after variety for frying.
Kennebec potatoes are great for a variety of purposes, including baking, boiling, stewing, and roasting. They also make great options for hassle-back potatoes. Although it’s not as starchy as Russets, you can’t go wrong with it for palatable, crunchy fries.
Just pair them with cheddar or Swiss cheese, sprinkle some thyme, parsley, or paprika, and enjoy the crunchy bliss!
- Purple Peruvian
How about adding some color in the french fries department? The purple Peruvian potato comes to our table from the ancient lands in the Andes, giving a sense of history to our french fries!
Since they have a medium starch content, purple Peruvian potatoes may not give fries as crispy as Russets. However, they have a similar taste and can be an excellent choice if you’re bored with regular potatoes.
These potatoes can also be a healthier option thanks to their purple color, which comes from an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Purple Peruvian potatoes have a higher concentration of antioxidants, which have many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and fighting cancer.
Homemade French Fries
Although the secret to cooking crispy and golden fries is choosing the right type of potato, that’s not all that goes into the process. Preparation and frying methods are the other half of the process, which can make or break your meticulously chosen potatoes.
Here’s how the process goes:
Cut the Potatoes Correctly
Cutting the potatoes to the right size and length goes a long way toward giving you homemade fries that look like store-bought ones. After washing them, decide whether you want to peel the potatoes or not.
Keeping the peel can give you more nutritional value, a crispier exterior, and an earthy flavor. However, if the potato has thick skin, you may want to remove it to avoid a chewy result.
Check out this video to see how to peel and cut potato for french fries:
Soak the Slices in Water
This is an essential step to get crispier fries. Potatoes are starchy, the very feature that makes them versatile and a hearty dish.
However, excess starch can accelerate frying, leaving you with fries that are too brown and not cooked inside. Plus, the starch makes the potato slices stick together, leading to less-than-perfect results.
Soaking the sticks in cold water can lengthen the cooking process, but it’s totally worth it. To do so:
- Fill a bowl with cold water and put the potatoes in it.
- Wait 30 minutes and drain the potatoes.
- Rinse them until the water becomes clear.
- Put them on a paper towel and dry them completely. Failing to do so will increase moisture levels and give you soggy fries.
Fill a pan with oil and heat it to reach 300°F. After making sure the potatoes are dry, pour them slowly into the oil from a small distance to avoid splattering.
Don’t overcrowd the pan, though; only add one layer of potatoes to ensure all potatoes get an even temperature.
Now, it’s time for a double-frying method, recommended by most chefs and restaurants. In this method, you fry the potatoes at 300°F until they’re tender but not brown, about one or two minutes. Then remove them from heat and wait until they cool down. Heat the oil to 400°F and fry them until golden brown.
Double-frying gives the potatoes a chance to cook and then make them crispy on the outside.
Air Fryer French Fries
The air fryer is all the rage to get healthier dishes with much less oil. The good news is that you can make french fries that are as cool and delicious as deep-fried types with a fraction of oil.
There are many air fryer recipes, but this is my favorite one, which is hassle-free and fast:
The preparation steps are the same for both methods. The only difference is that it’s better to soak the sticks for an hour for better results.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil, heat the air fryer at 380°F, and toss the potatoes in. Make sure not to cram the potatoes, only adding a layer on the bottom of the basket. This way, you’ll allow the hot air to move freely among the sticks, giving them a chance to fry evenly. Let the potatoes cook for 13-14 minutes, and then repeat for the next batch.
Best Oil for Perfect French Fries
The best oil for making french fries is one with a high smoke point since we make french fries at high temperatures. Vegetable oil is the most popular option since it has high smoke points and a neutral flavor.
Canola, sunflower, and safflower are among the best oils with high smoke points. Refined avocado, olive, and peanut oil are among other options.
I’ve written an article on the best oils for searing steak, which also needs high-smoke oils. Give it a read to get better ideas.
The secret to crispy and golden brown french fries lies in the potato type. The ideal potato for french fries has a high starch and low water content. As such, russets are the number one option. Other high-starch potatoes include Yukon gold, Kennebec, and purple Peruvian, although with higher starch contents.
Make sure to try the recipes recommended in this article and leave replies on how it went!