French fries, chips, finger chips, french-fried potatoes, or simply fries, are baronet or allumette-cut deep-fried potatoes, possibly originating from France. They are prepared by cutting potatoes into even strips, drying them, and frying them, usually in a deep fryer. Pre-cut, blanched, and frozen russet potatoes are widely used, and sometimes baked in a regular or convection oven; air fryers are small convection ovens marketed for frying potatoes.
French fries are served hot, either soft or crispy, and are generally eaten as part of lunch or dinner or by themselves as a snack, and they commonly appear on the menus of diners, fast food restaurants, pubs, and bars. They are often salted and may be served with ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, or other local specialities. Fries can be topped more heavily, as in the dishes of poutine or chili cheese fries. French fries can be made from sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. A baked variant, oven fries, uses less or no oil.
The potatoes are prepared by first cutting them (peeled or unpeeled) into even strips, which are then wiped off or soaked in cold water to remove the surface starch, and thoroughly dried. They may then be fried in one or two stages. Chefs generally agree that the two-bath technique produces better results. Potatoes fresh out of the ground can have too high a water content—resulting in soggy fries—so preference is for those that have been stored for a while.
In the two-stage or two-bath method, the first bath, sometimes called blanching, is in hot fat (around 160 °C/320 °F) to cook them through. This step can be done in advance. Then they are more briefly fried in very hot fat (190 °C/375 °F) to crisp the exterior. They are then placed in a colander or on a cloth to drain, salted, and served. The exact times of the two baths depend on the size of the potatoes. For example, for 2–3 mm strips, the first bath takes about 3 minutes, and the second bath takes only seconds.
The French and Belgians have an ongoing dispute about where fries were invented.
The myth of Belgian fries’ dates from around 1985. From the Belgian standpoint, the popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as “French gastronomic hegemony” into which the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding coupled with a shared language and geographic proximity of the countries. The Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claimed that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley as a substitute for frying fish when the rivers were frozen.
Gérard never produced the manuscript that supports this claim, and “the historical value of this story is open to question”. In any case, it is unrelated to the later history of the french fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. In any case, given 18th-century economic conditions: “it is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have dedicated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes. At most they were sautéed in a pan”.
Chemical and physical changes
French fries are fried in a two-step process: the first time is to cook the starch throughout the entire cut at low heat, and the second time is to create the golden crispy exterior of the fry at a higher temperature. This is necessary because if the potato cuts are only fried once, the temperature would either be too hot, causing only the exterior to be cooked and not the inside, or not hot enough where the entire fry is cooked, but its crispy exterior will not develop.
Although the potato cuts may be baked or steamed as a preparation method, this section will only focus on french fries made using frying oil. During the initial frying process (approximately 150 °C), water on the surface of the cuts evaporates off the surface and the water inside the cuts gets absorbed by the starch granules, causing them to swell and produce the fluffy interior of the fry.
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