Before I discovered cold oil fries in a largely random way, my whole household LOVED homemade french fries. But I rarely made them.
We have a deep fryer, which resides behind the pantry and is a royal pain in the ass to use (and clean). My son asked me to make fries a lot, and I basically stopped making them for two reasons:
- There really are no good air fryer fry methods. People try, but no one has really managed to get close to double fried real homemade fries, and;
- To reiterate, I really hate taking out the deep fryer. I also hate having to double fry french fries. I don’t mind the effort, but it’s suboptimal in a home kitchen. (As an aside, I am a bit paranoid deep frying aerolizes oil near my eyelashes and reduces their lifespan.)
Somehow, I’d never heard of the cold oil fries method until like, a week or two ago. It’s been extensively covered on sites like the Washington Post and Epicurious, but I remarkably never noticed any mention of it.
Another word about deep frying and air frying – I just don’t think air fryer fries are worth making or eating. People are scared of real fries absorbing oil, but I read on Serious Eats that they absorb very, very little because oil is hydrophobic or something. I’m off the clock, just look it up if it matters. Something like two tablespoons a batch.
A few Sundays ago, my son asked if I could make some fries. And once again, I could not bear to drag out the deep fryer, clear enough space for the whole production, add new oil, get rid of old oil, and fry them twice. (Incidentally, I’m making them right now and writing in the cook time.)
That said, I can’t even remember how I found the cold oil fries method. It’s possible I googled “easy french fries” or “can you fry fries once,” but I landed on about ten credible food sources all talking about the same exact cold oil fry once method.
Before I get to that, I will also add that I gave in and invested in a fry cutter after seeing one on YouTube. To my surprise, I found a largely decent one for $30 with a coupon, and it cuts well. Please read the instructions first. I did not, and it works better when you do.
- A bowl for soaking
- A pot or pan for frying (I use a wide enameled cast iron one, with medium high sides. Don’t use a stockpot.)
- Tongs or a Chinese spider/skimmer
- A cookie sheet or similar surface
- Paper towels to drain
- Sauce (if desired)
The Method (20-30 minutes, plus soaking time)
- Cut as many potatoes as you want into fry shapes (I did this by hand for years til last month, love the cutter);
- Submerge fries for at least an hour, in a big bowl, cover with a dishcloth or plate if one is handy;
- Dry fries (I just scoop them out onto a clean towel and rub them for a few seconds);
- Place fries in your frying pan, dish, or pot (it needs high sides)
- Cover fries with cold oil;
- Turn burner on “high”;
- Cook until fries are desired level of doneness — I like well done fries, my son likes them more golden;
- Carefully remove all fries from dish to lined baking sheet and blot;
- Salt copiously and immediately;
- Get a ramekin of fry sauce;
- Tell kids “the fries are done” and walk away;
- When oil cools, strain and store it for later fries.
General Cold Oil Fry Thoughts
When I found this method, I was skeptical. Avoiding the double frying mishegas seemed too good to be true — but they’ve worked every time (about 10 so far).
There’s some food science reason this negates the double frying usually done with fries, but again, I’m off the clock. From what I very vaguely recall, the cold oil works as the “first fry” as it heats, and then a “second fry” when it comes to temperature. You do not even need a thermometer like with double fried fries, this is lazy AF in the best way.
This is basically the french fry equivalent of no-knead bread. Like no-knead bread, you’d almost have to try to screw it up. And air fryer fries are the bread machine bread of the 2020s, don’t @ me.
Soak the fries, dry the fries. This is non-negotiable and water splatters oil.
Since discovering cold oil fries, I’ve made them two to three times a week. They’re awesome. Never had a problem and they come out consistently fantastic. You desperately need these in your life.