Q. With the rising cost of frozen French fries we are exploring doing more potatoes from scratch, your thoughts? At our school we have moved more towards using fresh potatoes, any tips on washing them?
A. Ah, the perils of trying to do things from scratch… the old fashioned way. One operator told me recently, “Way too much of my menu was outsourced. I wanted to get back to basics”. Interestingly, I have two different opinions on doing this…
When it comes to French fries, hash browns, and scalloped potatoes I think it’s pretty hard to beat the skills of having the volume, consistency in shape and color and flavor and texture of frozen or dehydrated potatoes. Personally, I would make the proteins (pork, beef, chicken, and fish) from scratch and save the labor costs on side preparation. It comes down to “what can I charge if I make this from scratch instead of buying it already cut up. If it’s the same, you probably won’t save that much.
Unless fries are in the name of your place, or part of the overall concept you may be better off to just pay the few cents extra for the increase, rather than switch the labor over to hand cutting fries, blanching, etc. Do you make your own bread for sandwiches? Same general principal.
With mashed potatoes, I could go either way. The dehydrated potatoes available today are amazing. Frozen mashed are also wonderful, but typically two to three times more expensive per ounce. What I would do if using convenience potatoes is buy the basic brands and then fold in spices or flavorings. If looking for distinctive potatoes that your competitor down the street may not have or be able to easily duplicate, fresh is the way to go. If you are mostly trying to save money be sure to pencil out all the costs before making the switch to fresh.
As far as washing potatoes… They are washed when sorted for shipping. However the water may still contain some sand that dries on the potatoes or any deep eyes may still have some soil. So, do wash them in cold clear water. Soaps or antiseptic sprays are not necessary. Wash before service, too much in advance and the potatoes may start to turn moldy or have a musty smell.