Traditional Double-Fry vs Cold Start Method
I have pitted 2 different methods of making french fries against each other in this special “fri-ence” episode of Twin Leeks. One is the traditional “double fry” method so popular in professional kitchens. Most serious home cooks are familiar with this, and it yields fantastic results. The other is what I’m calling the “cold start” method, brought to prominence by the famous Chef, Joel Robuchon. This method is totally unorthodox and defies the rules of conventional cooking, but intriguing.
First off, we need a potato. We need a high starch/high density potato, such as a russet. Russets are high in starch and they have “earthy” aromas desirable in french fries. When cooked, starch cells expand and explode into a fluffy soft texture. This is what I want happening on the inside of my french fry, and that is why I am reaching for potatoes high in starch. By contrast, waxy (low starch) potatoes become more solid and dense when they cook. Like all recipes I make, I like to consider what the end result should be. I want a crispy, salty, earthy, and soft on the interior french fry. So how do I get there?
I am going to start off with the traditional double fry method, and then move to the very bizarre “cold start” method. So, which method yields the best fry? Enough talk…time to get to it!
Like I mentioned before, the high starch russet is the ideal potato for this preparation. You’re going to want to cut the potatoes into approx 1/4 inch thick strips. They make slicers, with an attachment, that you can find in almost any store that sells cooking equipment, but I like to use a knife. To me, the knife gives the potatoes a homemade “rustic” look, and it’s kind of a pain to have to clean one of those slicers. The less dishes…the better.
Next, submerge the cut potatoes into some cold water. Soaking the potatoes in water helps draw the starch from the interior of the fry to the surface. This gives the fry a crispier exterior when the frying starts. If you want to take it further, you could add some salt to the water. Salt aids in this process.
Time to get the equipment together. I am using a stainless steel sauce pot. I am not a big fan of counter top deep fryers. They serve one purpose and they usually do not contain enough space for me. If I bought one, I know it would probably take up space on my counter and collect dust most of the time. I filled the pot a little more than halfway with canola oil (leaving a good 1 1/2 inches at the top to prevent a disaster from occurring). Attached to the side of the pot, I have a basic deep fry thermometer I purchased from Sur la Table. For the first fry you want to make sure the oil is set anywhere from 300-325 degrees fahrenheit.
Drain the potatoes and pat down really dry. Too much moisture might make the hot oil splatter. Getting popped by hot oil, I can tell you, isn’t any kind of fun. I’m not trying to scare you from deep frying in your own kitchen; if you take these basic precautions I have outlined, then you will be safe and free of hospital visits. Deep fry the potatoes at 325 degrees for approx 10 minutes, or until they just begin to brown around the edges, then drain on paper towels. The purpose of the first fry is too evaporate moisture from the interior of the fry. This makes for a crispier fry on the outside, and tender on the inside. If you were to skip the first fry and try to fry it all in one shebang, the results could leave you with a soft, soggy fry with a very thin crust.
Let the par fried potatoes hang out on the counter for a good hour or two. When it’s time to eat, crank the heat up to 375 degrees and dunk the fries in one last time. The second fry typically last from 2-3 minutes. The purpose here is to brown and create a crispy fry. Drain on some paper towels and give them a liberal dose of salt. Potatoes can take a lot of salt, so don’t be scared.
Next up, the cold start method! Repeat steps 1 and 2 above. This time we are going to add the fries to cold oil and then turn heat to medium high. It just doesn’t look natural, does it? They should be frying it hot oil, right? Well, wait. The low, gradual heat will cause the water to slowly evaporate from fry. The interior will have more time to cook without the outside becoming overdone. This fry usually takes anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes in my experience. Many recipes on the internet call for cooking the fries at 325 degrees for a little while and then cranking the heat up in the final minutes. I find this unnecessary. Crank the heat up to medium high and let it go. No need play with the temperature anymore.
Because the fries will spend a longer time in low to moderate heat, they will cook before they get crispy, thus becoming more delicate. So try to resist the urge to move them around or they could break into pieces. As the temperature of the oil rises the fries will become very crispy and golden on the outside. This is a very safe way of cooking. The oil never really splatters or fries up really hard- it sort of gently bubbles, like water.
The cold start fries developed a more golden color and a crispier texture (kind of felt like there was a little shell on the outside of the fry, which was interesting to eat). The double fries were not as crispy, but they were a little more moist and soft on the interior. Both had excellent flavor. Advantage: Even
It is not always practical to use the cold start method. For instance, if you are frying large quantities at your house, you simply don’t have all day to turn your oil off and on- letting it get cold and hot again. And most restaurants cannot use this method for the same reason. Before you count the cold start method out, hold on. It is much safer way to fry. It does not splatter and it does not smoke up. It does not leave an odor in your kitchen. Because the heat is gentle, the oil does not break down as fast and has a longer shelf life. Bottom line: If I were frying in a restaurant or another commercial kitchen, then the double fry would be my go to, but I if were frying at home, the cold start method would be the way to go. Since this website is primarily for home cooking…