Posts Tagged ‘french fries’

Will a Bigger Potato Produce a Crispier French Fry?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Q. I have been using a 90 count russet burbank for my fries. They have not held their crispiness long enough for me to deliver a crispy fry at the table.  I spoke with my purveyor and they recommended I try a 60 count Idaho russet burbank.  I was surprised I had to buy such a large potato to accomplish this. I was thinking of cutting them in half before putting them through our cutter.  Can you confirm that a bigger potato will produce a crispier fry (with proper blanching at 325°F and re-frying at 350°F)?

A. The potato size won’t make a difference.  Each potato plant has about 8-12 potatoes on it, various sizes. There are several key factors in getting a crispy fry.  French fry machine temperatures, blanching/ finish frying and not overfilling baskets are some of the non-potato related things I always check first. Then there is the solids or starch content of the potato, the sugar accumulation (based on storing at temps above 40°F).   The following document might prove helpful in checking for possible issues.

Fresh Fries How-To

Fresh Fries How-To <click image to view>

French Fry Producer from the 1970’s

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Q. I would like to know how I can find a French fry producer who was in business back in 1970′s and 1980′s, who supplied French fries to eateries in Idaho. Can you please help me out?

A. All the major French fry processors in the United States were in business back then, Simplot and Ore-Ida were the largest in Idaho. Simplot invented the frozen fry and started up a plant in 1960 in Burley.

Hope this helps with your project. Several links appear below:




And contact info for the processers is here:

Idaho® Potato Processors


Ordering Fries on the Side

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Baked Idaho® Potato Fries and Dipping SaucesQ. Fries used to be the only side option with our bundled meals, but now we have many side dish options. I believe these extra options are the reason why our food costs have been climbing—fries were much more profitable than offering a side salad or fruit. How can I get my profits back up?

A. First of all, I am willing to bet that your counter cashiers and order takers are no longer scripted to influence or say… “Would you like fries with that” and probably even more importantly the signage on the menu boards now plays down photos of the fries and instead highlights all the other choices. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some would argue that offering healthier sides makes good nutritional sense. That doesn’t account for the popularity of potatoes, but it smacks your food cost percentages pretty hard.

Here are some suggestions… if you don’t offer a smaller size fry portion, consider it. But don’t just take away fries—add some fun dips or sauces for the fries. That way, the person receiving the fries can enjoy each bite just a little bit more and is likely to order them again the next time they come in. Flavored ketchup, salsa, chipotle mayo, or BBQ sauce add a tasty zip to the fries.

Starting a French Fry Restaurant

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Q. What kind of equipment do I need to start a small French fry restaurant?

A. Start out by going to this web site for tips on frying:

Then, my advice is to buy the best machinery you can afford, because if you do high volume you will need it. The biggest investment will be the fryer. Both electric and gas can work, but it depends on what is available for your space.To start out you could try purchasing a used fryer, but get a name brand like Frymaster or Pitco. There are several used fry machine dealers on the internet now and Ebay is also an option. While I don’t personally recommend one over the other, here is a site to get you started:

Capacity is important, but so is recovery time and the shorter the recovery time, the better you will be able to keep the oil at a consistent  temperature and increase your chances for a better fry. If you can finance a new fryer, even better. Just remember, staying in business means you have to break even as fast as possible, so don’t over invest in your first place. You can always upgrade later. But buying quality always pays off. Remember to get extra baskets and possibly a rack to have cut, blanched potatoes ready to go. A roll-around holder for the baskets can help.

As far as cutting the fries, my favorite hand cutter is one that is durable, won’t flex when used frequently and is easy to get replacement parts. An old reliable is the Keen Kutter. It runs about $300 and is money well spent. Vollrath also has a good one. If the cost is about $100 I can almost guarantee it won’t last and the blades will not stay sharp for very long.

You will also need all the usual kitchen equipment: three-compartment or double stainless steel sinks to wash and drain the potatoes. Rinse the cut potatoes and place into big tubs of water (or use plastic buckets that food such as pickles and mayo comes in). You HAVE to blanch the potatoes to get a decent final fry. I don’t know of any way around this. Then, you need to store the blanched potatoes, usually in plastic tubs, in refrigeration such as a walk-in or, if starting a restaurant on a small scale, a reach-in.

For peelers, Hobart has some of the traditional ones that grind off the skins, but they’re abrasive by nature and can bruise what is left of the spuds. Most restaurants leave the skin on as the best way to give a homemade appearance.

That pretty well sums up the equipment needed. I wish you the best of success in your venture. By the way, the best investment you could make is to volunteer to work at a place that does fresh cut fries for a couple of weeks to see and experience the steps firsthand.

Availability of Russet Burbanks

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Idaho Russet Burbank Potatoes, washed and ready to cut and fry

Q. I’ve found that when I make fresh-cut fries, Russet Burbanks seem to be the only potatoes that crisp up nicely. I’ve learned my lesson when I’ve used other Russets—the fries are extra soggy and my customers complain about them. Where can I find the famous Idaho® Russet Burbanks? Sometimes my foodservice distributor says they are out usually in July or August.

A. The Russet Burbank takes longer to mature, so this variety is not always available in the late summer or early fall from the major states that grow them. Among these three states—Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin—the largest volume of Russet Burbanks comes out of Idaho. This variety is also preferred by processors for their French fries, so you are competing with them when supplies are tight. However, we expect an ample amount of Burbanks this coming harvest, and typically they are shipped in quantity beginning in late September. Many operators actually prefer “old crop,” which sometimes has a little drier profile after being stored for almost a year. We also anticipate that old crop will carry through this season, so no potato gap is anticipated. Here is a chart by percentage of Russet Burbanks grown in Idaho, as they make up nearly 58% of our production. Keep in mind that Idaho harvests about 11 to 12 billion pounds of potatoes each year, nearly double that of Washington, our closest competitor.

So, What is Poutine?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Q. What is poutine? I see it popping up more and more on fast food and casual dining menus.

A. Poutine, or just plain old loaded fries, is a rapidly expanding trend. One reason is that the ingredients are tied to a specific region, such as Canadian poutine out of Quebec and Toronto. Another reason is that restaurants already have the fixin’s to put specially loaded fries on the menu. Give them a try yourself! Top fresh cut or crispy frozen French fries with dark brown gravy and cheese curds and you’re ready to taste the tradition whose followers are spreading across Canada and the U.S. It’s even spread to chains, including Wendy’s, Burger King, Smash Burger. Wendy’s marketing arm now has the link to the announcement that the hot and tasty poutine had become the national choice. Try this version with your customers before it spreads to your competition:

Yellow Finn Poutine from Village Whiskey, Chef Jose Garces, Philadelphia PA

Or this one from the Brown Hotel by Chef Laurent Geroli in Lousiville, Kentucky:

Among my favorite variations on the theme of poutine is this inspired dish, called Street-Car Idaho Fries:

And if you’d like to learn a little more about the process of making poutine (and how to pronounce it), check out this video from Average Betty:

Blanching French Fries

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Q. How do I blanch fries before frying them to make the best fresh cut fries?

A. First, cut and rinse the fries to get rid of any excess starch or sugar and then store them in water with some concentrated lemon juice (1 tablespoon to one gallon of water ratio). Drain the water, and then fry until the fries have a glazed look and are a little limp. How long it takes for the fries to become limp depends on the variety of the potato and cut of the fry. Pull the fries out and place uncovered in shallow bus tubs. Cool the fries to room temperature and then refrigerate. Put lids on the tubs until you are ready for the final frying.

Preparing the Perfect French Fries

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Q. I am in charge of preparing many orders of French fries for our local charity.  I’ve been told to blanch the fries in advance but that seems to be the only advice I get.  How long do I blanch?  Once blanched, I’m sure I drain but what then, Refrigerate, Freeze?  I am looking at maybe 15 to 30 servings per weekend event.

A. First, you should cut the fries and rinse them to get rid of any excess starch or sugar.  Then, store them in water with some concentrated lemon juice (1 tablespoon to one gallon ratio), drain and fry.  Be sure to pull them out once the fries have a glazed look and they are little limp (depends on the cut for how long it takes).  Then place them in bus tubs, not too deep, uncovered.  Cool to room temperature, then it’s ok to refrigerate. Put lids on the tubs until needed for final frying.

History of Idaho French Fries

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Q. Can you tell me about the history of French fries in Idaho?

A. French fries, though named for their country of origin, were transformed in the 1950s into the world-famous fries that put Idaho potatoes on the map. A couple of enterprising Idahoans discovered that Idaho potatoes were perfectly suited to create the ultimate French fry, so they set out to bring Idaho potatoes to kitchens across America. It wasn’t without some trial and error, though.

If you’ve tried to make French fries in your own kitchen at home, you may have discovered that you can’t turn fresh potatoes into the ones you find in the frozen aisle at your local grocery store. If you try to freeze fresh potatoes, they’ll eventually turn black. Many an unhappy cook has learned this lesson the hard way. In order to prevent potatoes from turning black, you need to place them in water with some lemon juice or vinegar added.  Then, you need to partially cook the potatoes, a process called blanching, before you freeze or refrigerate them. 

This was how the Simplot Company, founded in 1923 by a World War II veteran from a small town in Idaho named J.R. Simplot, revolutionized the frozen French fried potato industry. Ray Dunlap, a young chemist, figured out that by partially cooking the potatoes, they could then be air dried and frozen for frying later.

Line Flow vs. Extra-Long French Fries in Foodservice

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Q. What percentage of foodservice sales are line flow French fries versus premium extra-long or long fancy French fries?  Also, what is the percentage of private label vs. branded frozen fries for foodservice?

A. Unfortunately, these are statistics that I do not know.  Each processor keeps their own records and as far as I know it is not accumulated anywhere that an association or board has access to.

Unsubstantiated opinion… line flow far exceeds the volume of premium extra-long and long fancy French fries.  I’d be surprised if the top of the line fries had more than 10-15% of the business.  There just are not that many big potatoes under each plant when harvested to create a lot of long fries.  Bear in mind, that by far the majority of fries end up in foodservice (used to be about 85% versus retail) and that the largest users of frozen fries are McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.  Even Mc Donald’s specs don’t call for all long fries, even though they know that you can use the same amount of potatoes and long fries will look like a bigger portion.

And, I can’t really help with the private label versus branded.  However, the brands Simplot, McCain, and Lamb Weston dominate any fry production and the largest users of frozen fries are boxed under the labels of the operator companies… McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

The real issue operators need to be aware of when they try to cut costs and not use long or medium size fries is that the shorter pieces and often lower solids also mean more fry oil uptake.