I got a call a couple of nights ago (Valentine evening) from our son, Ben. He wanted to know at what temperature to cook French fries. This was a monumental moment for me for two reasons.
1: He is learning to use temperature.
2: He is learning that the best restaurant in any town is the home kitchen. (He had his sweetheart over for a home cooked dinner. Quite an achievement for him!)
The answer to his question is 375*. But I also reminded him that he needed to be careful, because the smoke and flash point for cooking oil is around 412*. This again states why temperature is so important.
We call our fries “Home Fries.” Slice potatoes lengthwise and fairly thin. (The thinner they are, the crispier they will be.) After you cut the potatoes, place them in a bowl/pan of water to keep them from turning brown. Caution: Hot oil and water don’t mix. When ready to fry potatoes, be sure to strain them and then pat dry with a paper towel.
Using my favorite black iron skillet, I pour in about an inch of oil and heat it to 375*. (My oil of choice is peanut oil.) Don’t overcrowd your skillet with too many potatoes, as they need room to fry. Gently place the pat dried potatoes in the oil.
As soon as you put your potatoes in the oil, the temperature of the oil will drop. The key here is to let them cook until you get your temperature up to 375*. Now is tasting time for desired ‘doneness’ and crispness.
I generally let the potatoes continue to cook at 375* for at least two minutes if not longer.
Now line a platter with double thick paper towels and place the fries on them. You can use straight salt, but I like seasoned salt, and season to taste.
If you are doing multiple batches as I do, be careful of this step. You need to watch your oil after removing the fries from the skillet. If you keep the skillet on the burner, the temperature will rise rapidly with nothing in the pan. Either remove the pan from the heat, or quickly continue to cook the fries.
Somehow I always have to cook more of these than I think I need, because the first batch or two usually get eaten before making it to the table.
Now you might ask, “What do French fries have to do with barbecue?”
1. Barbecue is the TRUE American food. I don’t know where French fries were really born, but try running a BBQ restaurant without having fries on your menu and you may not be in business very long!
2. It is yet another opportunity to preach the gospel of temperature and temperature control.