Are you tired of settling for average, store-bought french fries? Do you crave that glorious, golden-brown fry-vana that only homemade fries can offer? Well, you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll guide you through the realm of homemade french fry cookery, starting with a key decision: what oil should you use to fry your fries?
Smoke Point: A Matter of Safety and Flavor
Why is the choice of oil important? First and foremost, it’s a matter of safety. When oil reaches its smoke point, it can ignite and become dangerous. Additionally, once oil starts to smoke, it changes flavor and imparts those burnt flavors to your food.
When considering oil for frying, two factors come into play: smoke point and flavor profile.
The smoke point is the temperature at which a fat breaks down into gaseous products. Harold McGee, in his book “On Food and Cooking,” explains that the lower the free fatty acid content of the fat, the more stable it is, and the higher its smoke point.
To achieve crispy, delicious fries, we need an oil with a high smoke point, as we’ll be frying at around 375°F (191°C). Oils with low smoke points, such as regular salad oil, can become dangerous and start tasting bad at these high temperatures. Highly-flavored seed oils, like cold-pressed peanut oil, also won’t work well due to their lower smoke points.
While we want an oil with a high smoke point, we also want one that won’t taint the delicious taste of our fries. Refined peanut oil is the reigning champion in this category. Not only does it have a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the potatoey goodness, but it also has a high smoke point of 450°F (230°C).
Refined peanut oil is widely used in deep frying, both in home kitchens and in popular chains like Five Guys Burgers and Fries. French fries fried in this oil taste exactly like french fries should.
Testing the Oils: Beef Tallow vs. Peanut Oil
To settle the debate once and for all, we conducted a kitchen trial comparing the flavor and thermal properties of beef tallow and peanut oil. We wanted to determine if there were any culinary or physical reasons to choose one over the other.
In our experiment, we used two cast-iron pots of the same size. One was filled with rendered beef tallow, while the other contained an equal amount of peanut oil. Both pots were heated to 325°F (163°C), and equal weights of cut potatoes were added and cooked for 5 minutes.
After cooling for 10 minutes, the oils were reheated to 375°F (191°C), and the fries were cooked until golden brown and delicious. The fries were then strained, salted, and set out for tasting.
While the flavor of the beef tallow fries was somewhat better than the peanut oil fries, and the thermal capacity was slightly better as well, there was a dangerous possibility with the tallow. It foamed and bubbled so much that it threatened to overflow the pot, posing a fire hazard.
Due to this safety concern, we cannot recommend using beef tallow. Peanut oil, on the other hand, is readily available, easy to find, and safer to use.
Conclusion: High-Heat Peanut Oil Reigns Supreme
In conclusion, when frying your homemade french fries, it’s best to use high-heat peanut oil. It has a high smoke point, a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the fries, and is easily accessible.
For those interested in experimenting with flavor, you can try diluted beef tallow mixed with peanut oil. This combination offers the richness of tallow without the safety concerns, resulting in superior-tasting fries.
Remember, the key to perfect crispy homemade french fries is careful temperature control. Use a thermometer like the ChefAlarm, set to 375°F (191°C) with a low alarm of 350°F (177°C), and enjoy your deliciously golden and crisp fries!