For all intents and purposes, making French fries at home sounds like it should be relatively easy. You slice up some potatoes, heat up a pot of oil, dump ‘em in, and pull them out when they look done. But in reality, making a batch of perfect French fries — that is, golden brown, perfectly crispy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside — is much more difficult than it may appear, and there’s a good reason why restaurants that hit the nail on the head are renowned far and wide.
A lot of factors come into play when it comes to crafting the perfect fry. They all need to be sliced into equal sizes, or else they’ll cook unevenly. The potatoes should ideally be Russet, because the variety contains the highest amount of starch, and they should be rinsed or stored in water after being sliced to rinse off surface starch and keep them from turning brown, and dried off before being fried. An oil with a high smoke point, like canola or peanut, should be used, so it doesn’t burn. And the fries should be salted right after they come out of the oil. But there’s one technique that’s more important than any if you want to make French fries at home: the double fry.
The exact science behind it is pretty complicated, but if you want to achieve that perfect fry texture, you need to fry them twice — once in cooler oil, and once in hot oil. The first fry, in 325-degree oil for about five minutes, begins to cook the potatoes and form a crust; and the second fry, in 375- to 400-degree oil, completes the process. Many fry shops will do the first fry in advance, then do the second to order.
If you just toss some cut-up potatoes in oil and call it a day, you’ll end up with something that’s perfectly edible, but nothing close to anything that delivers the supreme satisfaction of a perfect French fry. To achieve true French fry perfection at home, do as the restaurants do and fry them twice, and check out our ranking of America’s best French fries here.