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Start with cold oil for crisper, golden french fries you’ll crave

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post/Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Cold-Fried French Fries
Active time:20 mins
Total time:30 mins
Servings:2 to 4
Active time:20 mins
Total time:30 mins
Servings:2 to 4

Brace yourself. I’m about to share two very controversial opinions:

  1. The best time to deep fry at home is in the spring, when you can open your windows for fresh air, and it’s not too cold or too hot.
  2. You should have french fries for dinner at least once a year.

I generally loathe deep frying. It’s messy, it smells up the house and there’s a lot of hot oil involved that, once it’s been used a few times, needs to be dealt with.

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Still, deep-fried food is irresistible: the paper-thin shell of a perfectly fried puri, the craggy crust on fried chicken, light-as-air tempura vegetables, sorullitos and alcapurrias, tender, chewy and crispy all at once. I love it unabashedly.

Tonight, let’s go back to basics. Let’s make french fries.

How to make crispy air-fryer fries with no fuss and very little muss

This recipe employs the cold-fry method. Here’s how it works: Cut potatoes into tidy sticks. Rinse them under cold water, and then dry them very well. Place them in a large pot over a burner turned to high. Add enough high-smoke-point oil to cover. Fry until they’re brown and crisp. Drain, sprinkle with fine sea salt and eat!

If this method sounds like nonsense, I promise you, it’s not. In his 1997 book “The Man Who Ate Everything,” Jeffrey Steingarten credits the French chef Joël Robuchon with inventing something similar. Steingarten’s reporting on Robuchon’s methods helped spur the well-loved double-fry technique.

When followed exactly, the double-fry method — in which you deep fry cut potato sticks in oil twice, once at around 325 degrees, then again at around 350 to 425 degrees — reliably produces remarkably crisp, well-browned french fries.

How to make oven-baked fries

Unfortunately, when I’m craving french fries, I want them as quickly as possible, and I don’t want to spend hours in front of boiling grease. The idea of watching a thermometer in a hot pot of oil, frying a pile of potato sticks once, draining and then frying them all again, cooling in between, adjusting the heat to maintain the right temperature … It’s just far too much trouble for me. If you love doing it that way, by all means, continue! But this is how my parents made french fries at home when I was growing up, and it’s how I do it, too. Give it a try, why don’t you?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a plate of french fries with ketchup or mustard or mayonnaise or vinegar or Thousand Island dressing splattered over the top or on the side for dipping. But if you want to round out the meal, what about some pan-fried fish? A green salad? A simple steak? Or roasted chicken? You could make a rough poutine, with gravy and cheese. You could disco the fries, or top them with melty cheese. You could eat them outside in the spring breeze or on your kitchen counter with a glass of wine or in bed. Have them however you like — you deserve it.

If you’ve got an air-fryer, try this recipe for even quicker crispy fries.

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  • 1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed (or peeled, if desired)
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) grapeseed, peanut or canola oil, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

Step 1

Using a sharp knife, cut the potatoes into 1/4- or 1/3-inch-thick sticks, 2- to 4-inches long. Transfer to a colander and rinse well under cold running water. Drain, and then dry the potatoes very well with a clean tea towel.

Step 2

Line a plate or small, rimmed baking sheet tray with paper towels or a clean paper bag.

Step 3

In a 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over high heat, combine the potatoes and oil. The oil should cover the potatoes by 1 inch; if it doesn’t, add more oil.

Step 4

Cook the potatoes, undisturbed, until the oil starts to sizzle, about 8 to 10 minutes. During this time, the oil will reach around 225 degrees. Using a spider or tongs, stir the potatoes gently, to ensure they aren’t sticking together. Continue cooking until the potatoes turn golden brown and appear crisp, another 10 to 15 minutes. The oil should reach 325 degrees; if the potatoes appear to be cooking too quickly or become dark brown, lower the heat slightly. The total cooking time will depend on the width of your potatoes.

Step 5

Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the fries to a lined plate to drain. Avoid stacking hot fries, as this will cause them to steam and become soggy. While hot, sprinkle the fries with salt, and serve.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (about 1 cup), based on 4

Calories: 244; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 302 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 2 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza and Ann Maloney; email questions to

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Catch up on this week’s Eat Voraciously newsletter recipes:

Monday: Lemon Butter Pasta

Tuesday: Pan-fried Tofu With Bean Sprouts

Wednesday: Masala Omelet

The Eat Voraciously newsletter recipe archives