Text and images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Thin, crisp fries
What I’m going to say and attempt takes some courage. Breathe… All right. Let’s do this.
McDonald’s french fries are one of the bests.
There I said it! Many of you may not openly agree, but they are everything a french fry should be – thin, crispy but not oily, fluffy inside and salty enough. The only problem is, they are difficult to replicate at home. To be very honest, I’ve never been able to make fries as good as theirs. My fries are often too tanned, ashamedly hallow inside and limp within a few minutes after coming out from the fryer.
So imagine my euphoria when I found a fellow food writer who shares my preference and, better still, figured out a way to make strikingly similar McDonald’s french fries out of his own kitchen.
I have all the respect for this man, J.Kenji Lopez-Alt of seriouseats.com, for faking a scavenger hunt to get hold of McDonald’s frozen fries so that he can examine the surface for clues on how they were parcooked, using a caliper to measure their thickness, digging out an article on the company’s potato processing procedure and experimenting umpteen times with and without blanching, blanching with or without vinegar, freezing or not, etc…
His obsession with getting the right recipe borders on lunacy but totally necessary. It let us in on the chemistry that goes behind, which I absolutely need to be convinced of, to attempt this tedious recipe. For example, I learnt that blanching the potatoes helps to rinse off excess simple sugar so that the fries attains a light gold colour instead of deep dark brown; vinegar prevents them from falling apart in the same step; and freezing convert moisture in the potatoes to ice which damages the cell structure, making it easier for the moisture to be released once they are heated, resulting in a fluffier interior.
Lucky for you and me (yes including you secret admirers of McDonald’s fries), we can simply reap the benefit of his recipe, without going through too many imperfect fries.
Ingredients 900g Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch by ¼-inch fries (keep potatoes stored in a bowl of water) 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar Kosher salt/ Sea salt 2 litre peanut oil
1_4 inch is a perfect size for optimising crust to interior ratio
Methods 1.Place potatoes and vinegar in saucepan and add 2 litres of water and 2 tbsp of salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Potatoes should be fully tender but not falling apart. Drain and spread on paper towel-lined tray. Allow to dry for at least five minutes.
Blanching releases excess simple sugar in potatoes so that the fries do not turn brown before they crisp
2.Meanwhile, heat oil in 5 litre Dutch oven or large wok over high heat to 205 Degrees C. Add 1/3 of fries to oil (oil temperature should drop to around 182 Degrees C.). Fry for 50 seconds, stirring occasionally with metal strainer, then remove to second paper towel-lined tray. Repeat with remaining potato (in two batches). Allow potatoes to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Continue with step 3, or for best results, freeze potatoes at least overnight, or even up to 2 months.
3. Return oil to 205 Degrees C over high heat. Fry half of potatoes (do not thaw) until crisp and light golden brown, about 3 ½ minutes, maintaining heat at around 180 Degrees C. Drain in bowl lined with paper towel and season immediately with salt. Cooked fries can be kept hot and crisp on wire rack set on a sheet tray in a 93 Degrees C oven while the second batch is cooked. Serve immediately.
*Editor’s Note: It is important to use a big enough Dutch oven or wok as moisture escapes as steam from the potatoes in hot oil, and may cause it to overflow. If you don’t have such equipment (or wish to use lesser oil), cook in smaller batches and lower a handful of fries into the oil each time. Taste the fries before adding more salt in Step 3 as they may already be salty enough, depending on your preference.