Crispy, Homemade Oven-Baked French Fries
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These homemade french fries emerge from the oven with exceptionally crisp edges thanks to a simple trick: soaking the cut potatoes in hot water for 10 minutes before baking.
Every summer, when the potatoes start arriving in our CSA, I am blown away by their flavor, by how they need nothing more than olive oil and salt, by how many potatoes we consume as a family each week. When I was at the farmers market last week, I asked the woman at the Barber’s Farm table why the summer potatoes were so good. She responded: “Because they’re fresh!”
I mean, if most — all? — vegetables taste their best at their peak season, why shouldn’t potatoes, too? They should, and they do, but I think that because potatoes have the added virtue of storing well, which allows us to enjoy them well past their harvest, we often associate them with winter cooking.
And with many a gratin and mash on the horizon, it’s certainly easy to overlook potatoes this time of year. But thinly sliced or julienned, coated in olive oil, showered with salt, roasted until crisp, summer potatoes couldn’t be more irresistible. Or could they?
After weeks of making completely delicious, no-fuss, oven “chips” and “fries,” I decided to explore the matter further. Could the fries be crispier? Better? After finding little guidance in a few of my favorite vegetable-focused cookbooks, I turned once again to the ever-reliable America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, a book that has been open on my counter for weeks. And, of course, they had a trick. And fortunately, the trick was simple.
How to Make Crispy French Fries at Home
The ATK method calls for soaking the cut potatoes in hot water for 10 minutes before baking them. When developing the recipe, the Test Kitchen sought inspiration from the technique used when making traditional French fries, which is a brief blanching in hot oil or water before the final fry.
This blanching step “not only disrupts the starch molecules inside the potato (encouraging a fluffy interior), but also washes away some of the starch on the outside of the potato (preventing a leathery exterior).”
Here’s the method, in sum:
- Wash potatoes and cut them, lengthwise, into small, even wedges or sticks.
- Place the potatoes into a large bowl, cover them with hot tap water, and let them soak for 10 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, dry them thoroughly, then toss with olive oil and salt.
- Arrange the potatoes on an oiled baking sheet and cover tightly with foil.
- Bake for 5 minutes, remove foil, and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes, until the fries are golden and crisp.
- Sere immediately, seasoning with more salt as necessary
When I made the potatoes this way for the first time, everyone around the table agreed that these were especially good, especially crispy on the edges, especially creamy on the inside. I haven’t looked back since.
Update: I now cut them a bit smaller: more like 1/4 inch thick:Print
Slightly adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
A note on potatoes: Russets are most often cited as the best frying potato. Unlike many potatoes, Russets will release their starch (which is what causes potatoes to absorb oil) upon being soaked or rinsed. I’ve had success with Russets but also with a handful of others from our CSA and the farmers’ market, including Salem, Red Chieftain, and Kuka Gold.
- I now always slice up 3 Russet potatoes — I look for smallish ones and I aim for a total weight of 2 lbs. or just under — which is perfect for my family. For this amount of potatoes, you’ll need an extra-large sheet pan.
- If you are using a standard sized sheet pan, 2 Russet potatoes sliced will likely fit in a single layer.
- Instead of pouring 3 tablespoons of oil directly onto the sheet pan, I now line the sheet pan with parchment paper and I toss the potatoes with all of the oil (1/4 cup) as opposed to splitting up the oil between the sheet pan and the potatoes.
- I roast at 450ºF convection — I find that my potatoes cook a little more evenly when I cook them at a slightly lower temperature for longer.
- I don’t stir the potatoes once.
- 2 to 4 Russet potatoes, about 1½–2 pounds total, see notes above
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- nice flaky sea salt such as Maldon for seasoning at the end
- Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, and preheat the oven to 475ºF (or 450ºF convection — this is what I do now). Cut the potatoes lengthwise, into 1/4-inch thick sticks: it’s helpful to cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slabs first; then into 1/4-inch sticks.
- Place the sliced potatoes into a large bowl and cover them with hot tap water. Let them soak for 10 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a tea towel (a bath or beach towel gets the job done better!). Line a sheet pan — extra large if you have it — with parchment. Place the potatoes on top of the parchment, drizzle with the 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.
- Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet and cover the sheet tightly with foil. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crisp. Check on the potatoes after 10 minutes — if they are not browning evenly, rotate the pan. Note: previous versions of this recipe call for flipping the potatoes, which I always found problematic, and then baking for another 5-10 minutes or so. If you’ve made this recipe and didn’t have trouble flipping, you can continue to do so. Otherwise, bake until the fries are golden and crisp, rotating the pan as necessary to help them brown evenly.
- Remove from the oven, and season with more sea salt and/or any other seasonings you wish. Serve immediately or as soon as they are cool enough to eat.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Vegetable
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: crispy, oven, fries, roasted, simple