French fries are one of the most popular side dishes in Germany. However, they are seldomly prepared at home as most people don’t like to deep fry in their own kitchen. Real French fries are often prepared in restaurants and fast food stalls.
I think that it’s generally a good idea to leave fries to the professionals. Without experience and a deep-fryer, it can be very hard to replicate French fries like the ones from Mc Donalds. You need to choose the right potato variety, have good heat control of the oil, and you can’t leave the stove while the potatoes fry to prepare any other dishes.
However, it’s certainly not impossible to make crunchy French fries at home. If you follow my simple recipe, you should be rewarded with perfectly fried potatoes. It’s certainly no secret how to prepare French fries. You can learn how to make them from just about any site but I think it’s important to include them as part of my basics series just for the sake of completeness.
The Building Blocks of German Cusine Series
This article is part of my basics series, which will introduce you to key ingredients and preparation methods. You can find all these articles in the ‘Basics’ category of this blog. Listed below are the articles that have yet been published in this series:
- Swabian Egg Noodles (‘Schwäbische Eiernudeln’)
- Swabian Soup Noodles (‘Schwäbische Suppennudeln’)
- French Fries (‘Pommes frites’)
- Swabian Pretzels (‘Schwäbische Laugenbrezeln’)
- Kratzete, Eierhaber
- Duchess Potatoes (‘Herzoginnenkartoffeln’)
- Ribbon Noodles (‘Bandnudeln’)
- Muesli (‘Müsli’)
- German Bread Rolls (‘Weizenbrötchen’)
- Potato Puree (‘Kartoffelbrei’)
- German Potato Dumplings Bavaria-style (‘Bayerische Kartoffelknödel’)
- German Potato Dumplings Thuringia-style (‘Thüringer Kartoffelklöse’)
- German Bread Dumplings (‘Semmelknödel’)
- German Potato Pancakes (‘Reibekuchen’)
- Potato Noodles (‘Schupfnudeln’)
- German Boiled Potatoes (‘Kartoffeln’)
- Homemade Beef broth (‘Fleischbrühe’)
- German Pancakes (‘Pfannkuchen’)
- Homemade Semolina Soup Noodles (‘Hartweizen-Suppennudeln’)
- Chicken Broth (‘Hühnerbrühe’)
- Spaetzle (‘Spätzle’)
The history of French fries
French fries originated in Belgium. And even though you might think they have been around forever, that is not true. That’s because it is very important to choose the right potato variety to deep-fry. With the wrong potato and wrong frying technique, you will end up with a soggy mess.
As you might’ve noticed, French fries don’t have a German name. Instead, the Germans just use the French name ‘Pommes frites’. Fries have been around in Germany since 1838. It’s was supposedly a Bavarian cook who learned how to prepare fried potatoes in Paris that brought them back to Germany.
French fries were introduced to America just after World War I. Nowadays, they are a symbol of American fast-food culture. It’s hard to imagine what fast food around the world would look like if American soldiers didn’t participate in World War I and brought home ketchup and French fries. I’ve already published an article that explains the origin of ketchup. If you’re interested in how a fish sauce turned into a thick and sweet tomato sauce, please check it out!
The right potato variety for French fries
To get crispy and fluffy French fries you need to use a starchy potato variety. The best one to use is called ‘Bintje’. Please inform yourself which potato varieties that you can locally source are suited to make fries. If your potato isn’t suitable to make French fries, you might be very disappointed with the end result.
The excess starch of the potatoes needs to be rinsed off the potatoes before frying. To do that, you soak the potatoes in water and dry them thoroughly afterward. French fries always need to be fried twice. The first fry is called ‘blanching’ and its purpose is to cook through the potato at a lower temperature. After blanching, the potatoes won’t be crispy. That is ok at that stage.
For the second frying, you then heat the oil to about 360 °F (180 °C). This is the stage at which the potatoes will darken and crisp up on the surface. It’s very easy to tell when they are done. You take the fries out once they’ve reached your desired browning.
French fries should always be salted immediately after frying. You can be very generous with the salt here as the potatoes haven’t been salted prior to frying.
Old frying oil will help with browning
To get your fries beautifully golden brown like the ones on my picture, it is essential that you mix your new frying oil with some old frying oil. Always keep some old frying oil in your deep-fryer or add it to your frying pan. It helps with browning and is a very common trick used in restaurants.
Of course, after a few deep-frying sessions you should always dispose the frying oil. It deteriorates in quality quickly and it’s not healthy to keep frying with it forever. But always reserve just about 1/2 cup and add that to your new frying oil. You will be amazed at how big of a difference it makes.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what to serve French fries with but here are some inspirations:
French fries (‘Pommes frites’)
- 2 pounds (900 g) starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into fries
- 2 quarts (1.9 liters) canola oil (substitute any other neutral vegetable oil)
- salt, to taste
- Soak the raw potato fries in a bowl of cold water for about 5-10 minutes. Drain them and thoroughly dry the fries with paper towels.
- Heat your oil in a large pot, wok, or deep skillet to 300 °F (150 °C). Carefully drop in your fries (it’s best to work in batches) and let them blanch in the hot oil until cooked through and very lightly browned, about 6-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fries. Drain the blanched fries on paper towels and heat your oil to 360 °F (180 °C). Drop in the blanched fries and fry them a second time until crispy and browned to your liking, about 3-4 minutes. Drain the fries on paper towels and immediately season them with plenty of salt to taste.
- Serve immediately while the fries are still crispy.