Incredible, Crispy Oven Fries
Superior fries from your own oven
Years ago I worked for a summer in the kitchen of a 200 seat tourist trap in Anchorage, Alaska. As the new guy I was relegated to the fryers, where my chief responsibility was crank out hundreds of pounds of fries every lunch, since every dish other than the salads came with them.
The french fries came in twenty-five pound bags, which were stored in the freezer. These were not just precut, but had also been partially cooked in whatever factory produced them, which made them cook extra quickly in the oil. In the restaurant this mostly made the kitchen run faster, but adopting the method to homemade fries yields superior results.
Parboil for the best texture
“Parboiling” a food simply means partially cooking it in hot water. It serves two purposes when done to potatoes. First, it ensures that they cook completely by the time they are done. Second, it draws a layer of starch to the surface of the fries, which make them crisp up faster.
Fat is not optional
At the restaurant the fryers were filled with some mysterious, partially hydrogenated concoction that arrived in 5 gallon jugs and had been engineered solely to last as long as possible without degrading. But we can do better. The very best fat for cooking potatoes is rendered lard, but if you don’t feel like making it and can’t find it for sale, duck fat, ghee, butter, or a neutral oil can substitute in a pinch.
Whatever you use, don’t skimp on it. To crisp the outside of the fries, they need to be well covered. You’ll never get oven fries as crispy as ones that have been deep fried, but using enough fat gets you as close as possible.
Perfect Crispy Oven Fries
- 2-3 pounds potatoes Yukon Gold or other intermediate potato (see note)
- 2 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ cup lard ghee, butter, or other nuetral fat can be substituted
- Peel potatoes, then cut them into wedges.
- Place them in a pot, add enough water to just cover them, then add salt and baking soda. Heat over medium until water is not quite boiling. This should take about 25 minutes, but the timing is much less important than what the water is doing. DO NOT LET IT BOIL! It's better to slightly undercook at this stage than to overcook.
- Drain potato wedges, then arrange them in a single layer on a cooling rack. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes, but they can stay there for a couple hours without harm (though the longer they rest the more likely they are to show gray spots – see note.)
- Heat oven to 375° Put a baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes. Take it out, and put on lard or other fat, then spread to evenly coat the bottom. Arrange the fries in a single layer, then flip them over once.
- Bake for approximately an hour, flipping fries over after 20 minutes. Then flip and rearrange them every 15 minutes or so until they are evenly cooked, about an hour total.
- When they look nicely browned and crispy, pull them from the oven. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with ketchup and a burger.