French fries are prepared by first peeling and cutting the potato into even strips. These are then wiped off or soaked in cold water to remove the surface starch, and thoroughly dried. They may then be fried in one or two stages. Chefs generally agree that the two-bath technique produces better results.
In the two-stage or two-bath method, the first bath, sometimes called blanching, is in hot fat (around 160 °C / 320 °F) to cook them through. This may be done in advance. Then they are more briefly fried in very hot fat (190 °C / 375 °F) to crisp the exterior. They are then placed in a colander or on a cloth to drain, salted, and served. The exact times of the two baths depend on the size of the potatoes. For example, for 2–3mm strips, the first bath takes about 3 minutes, and the second bath takes only seconds.
Most French fries are produced from frozen potatoes which have been blanched or at least air-dried industrially. The usual fat for making French fries is vegetable oil. In the past, beef suet was recommended as superior, with vegetable shortening as an alternative. In fact, McDonald's used a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil until 1990, when they switched to vegetable oil with beef flavoring.
Thomas Jefferson had "potatoes served in the French manner" at a White House dinner in 1802.
The expression "French fried potatoes" first occurred in print in English in the 1856 work Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren:
French Fried Potatoes. – Cut new potatoes in thin slices, put them in boiling fat, and a little salt; fry both sides of a light golden brown colour; drain.
It is apparent that this account refers to thin, shallow-fried slices of potato – it is not clear where or when the now familiar deep-fried batons or fingers of potato were first prepared.
In the early 20th century, the term "French fried" was being used in the sense of "deep-fried" for foods like onion rings or chicken.
It is unlikely that "French fried" refers to frenching in the sense of julienning, which is not attested until after French fried potatoes. Previously, frenching referred only to trimming meat off the shanks of chops.
Some claim that fries originated in Belgium; there is an ongoing dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented, with both countries claiming ownership. From the Belgian standpoint the popularity of the term "French fries" is explained as a "French gastronomic hegemony" into which the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding coupled with a shared language and geographic proximity between the two countries.
Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claims that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley, in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium): "The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here." Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim, which, even if true, is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: "It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have dedicated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes. At most they were sautéed in a pan...".
Some people believe that the term "French fries" for deep fried potato batons was introduced when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I. The Belgians had previously been catering to the British soldiers' love of chips and continued to serve them to the Americans when they took over the western end of the front. The Americans supposedly took them to be French fried potatoes because they believed themselves to be in France, French being the local language and the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. At that time, the term "French fries" was growing in popularity – the term was already used in America as early as 1899 – although it isn't clear whether this referred to batons (chips) or slices of potato e.g. in an item in Good Housekeeping which specifically references "Kitchen Economy in France": "The perfection of French fries is due chiefly to the fact that plenty of fat is used".
"Pommes frites" or just "frites" (French), or "frieten" (Dutch) became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes, such as Moules-frites or Steak-frites.
In France and other French-speaking countries, fried potatoes are formally pommes de terre frites, but more commonly pommes frites, patates frites, or simply frites. The words aiguillettes or allumettes are used when the French fries are very small and thin.
One enduring origin story holds that French fries were invented by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789, just before the outbreak of the French Revolution. However, a reference exists in France from 1775 to "a few pieces of fried potato" and to "fried potatoes".
Eating potatoes for sustenance was promoted in France by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in particular. Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson: "Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches" ("Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices") in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson's hand (circa 1801–1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as "French fries" occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, a cookbook was published that used the term French fried potatoes.
Frites are the main ingredient in the Canadian/Québécois dish known (in both Canadian English and French) as poutine; a dish consisting of fried potatoes covered with cheese curds and gravy. Poutine has a growing number of variations but is generally considered to have been developed in rural Québec sometime in the 1950s, although precisely where in the province it first appeared is a matter of contention.
In Spain, fried potatoes are called patatas fritas or papas fritas. Another common form, involving larger irregular cuts, is patatas bravas. The potatoes are cut into big chunks, partially boiled and then fried. They are usually seasoned with a spicy tomato sauce, and the dish is one of the most preferred tapas by Spaniards.
Some speculate that fries may have been invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared from the New World colonies, and assume fries' first appearance to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, from which it spread to the rest of the country and then further away, to the "Spanish Netherlands", which became Belgium more than a century later.
Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila of Spain cooked the first French fries, and refers also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine as evidence.
The J. R. Simplot Company is credited with successfully commercializing French fries in frozen form during the 1940s. Subsequently, in 1967, Ray Kroc of McDonald's contracted the Simplot company to supply them with frozen fries, replacing fresh-cut potatoes as an ingredient.
In 2004, 29% of the United States' potato crop was used to make frozen fries – 90% consumed by the food services sector and 10% by retail. Meanwhile, in the UK, it is estimated that 80% of households buy frozen fries each year.
Fries are very popular in Belgium, where they are known as frieten (in Dutch) or frites (in French), and the Netherlands, where among the working classes they are known as patat in the north and, in the south, friet. In Belgium, fries are sold in shops called friteries (French), frietkot/frituur (Dutch), or Fritüre/Frittüre (German). They are served with a large variety of Belgian sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks. Traditionally fries are served in a cornet de frites (French), patatzak/frietzak/fritzak (Dutch/Flemish), or Frittentüte (German), a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a spoonful of sauce (often mayonnaise) on top. They may also be served with other traditional fast food items, such as frikandel, burgers, fishsticks, meatballs or croquette. In the Netherlands, fries are sold at snack bars and often served a sauce like Fritessaus or curry ketchup.
Friteries and other fast food establishments tend to offer a number of different sauces for the fries and meats. In addition to ketchup and mayonnaise, popular options include: aioli, sauce andalouse, sauce Americaine, Bicky Dressing (Gele Bicky-sauce), curry mayonnaise, mammoet-sauce, peanut sauce, samurai-sauce, sauce "Pickles", pepper-sauce, tartar sauce, zigeuner sauce, and À la zingara. These sauces are generally also available in supermarkets. In addition to this, hot sauces are sometimes offered by friteries, including hollandaise sauce, sauce provençale, Béarnaise sauce, or a splash of carbonade flamande stew from a constantly simmering pot, in the spirit of British chips and gravy.
The town of Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick, headquarters of McCain Foods, calls itself "the French fry capital of the world" and also hosts a museum about potatoes called "Potato World". It is also one of the world's largest manufacturers of frozen French fries and other potato specialties.
The thick-cut fries are called Pommes Pont-Neuf or simply pommes frites (about 10 mm); thinner variants are pommes allumettes (matchstick potatoes; about 7 mm), and pommes paille (potato straws; 3–4 mm). (Roughly 0.4, 0.3 and 0.15 inch respectively.) Pommes gaufrettes are waffle fries.
French fries migrated to the German-speaking countries during the 19th century. In Germany, where they are usually known by the French words pommes frites, or only Pommes or Fritten (derived from the French words but pronounced as German words). They are often served with mayonnaise, and are a popular walking snack offered by Schnellimbiss ("quick bite") kiosks. Since the advent of Currywurst in the 1950s, a paper tray of sausage (bratwurst or bockwurst) anointed with curry ketchup, laced with additional curry powder and a side of french fries, has become an immensely popular fast food meal.
In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the French name pommes frites is used for fries. They are the most common form of potatoes when served together with breaded plaice (or certain other low fat fishes). When pommes frites are served with fish, remoulade and a lemon slice, the plate represents the typical Danish version of fish and chips. Pommes frites are also served across Scandinavia as a small stand-alone dish with ketchup or mayonnaise. Fried sausage (same kind as for hot dogs), hamburgers, or schnitzels may be the meat portion of a dish which includes french fries. Some traditional restaurants (as opposed to fast food) may serve french fries. This may be as an accompaniment to an entrecote or other beef steak, together with bearnaise. Better restaurants tend to avoid serving french fries, with the possible exception of fish and chips.
The standard deep-fried cut potatoes in the United Kingdom are called chips, and are cut into pieces between 10 and 15 mm (0.39 and 0.59 in) wide. They are occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes (skins showing). Chips are often less crisp than the continental European "French fry", owing to their relatively high water content. British chips are not the same thing as potato chips (an American term); those are called "crisps" in Britain.
In the UK, chips are part of the popular, and now international, fast food dish fish and chips.
The first chips fried in the UK were sold by Mrs. 'Granny' Duce in one of the West Riding towns since 1854. A blue plaque in Oldham marks the origin of the fish-and-chip shop, and thus the start of the fast food industry in Britain. In Scotland, chips were first sold in Dundee: "in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy – the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city's Greenmarket".
In Ireland the first chip shop was "opened by Giuseppe Cervi", an Italian immigrant, "who arrived there in the 1880s".
Although French fries were a popular dish in most British commonwealth countries, the "thin style" French fries have been popularized worldwide in large part by the large American fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's.
Pre-made French fries have been available for home cooking since the 1960s, having been pre-fried (or sometimes baked), frozen and placed in a sealed plastic bag.
Some varieties of French fries that appeared later have been battered and breaded, and many fast food chains in the U.S. dust the potatoes with kashi, dextrin, and other flavor coatings for crispier fries with particular tastes. Results with batterings and breadings, followed by microwaving, have not achieved widespread critical acceptance. Oven-frying yields a dish quite different from deep-fried potatoes.
There are several variants of French fries. They include (in alphabetical order):Animal fries (In-N-Out Burger product) – fries covered with cheese, grilled onions, and In-N-Out's secret spread
Carne asada fries – fries covered with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream and cheese
Cheese fries – fries covered with cheese
Chile fries – (not to be confused with chili fries) fries topped with green chile peppers, common in the US state of New Mexico
Chili fries – (not to be confused with chile fries) fries covered with chili
Chili cheese fries – fries covered with chili and cheese
Crinkle-cut fries – also known as "wavy fries", they're cut in a corrugated fashion
Curly fries – characterized by their spring-like shape, cut from whole potatoes using a specialized spiral slicer.
Curry chips – fries covered in curry sauce, a popular item served by chip shops in Ireland
French fries sandwich
Home fries – fries cut into rough cubes instead of sticks
Oven fries – fries that are cooked in the oven as a final step in the preparation (having been coated with oil during preparation at the factory), often sold frozen
Potato waffles – potato formed into a lattice shape
Potato wedges – Thick-cut fries with the skin
Poutine – a dish consisting of fries topped with cheese curds and light brown gravy and principally associated with the Canadian province of Québec
Seasoned fries – coated with spices, or other ingredients, which include garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika, and salt
Shoestring fries – fries cut "as thin as a shoestring"
Steak fries – thick-cut fries
Sweet potato fries – fries made with sweet potatoes instead of traditional white potatoes
Triple Cooked Chips
Waffle fries – obtained by quarter-turning the potato before each next slide over a grater and deep-frying just once
Fries tend to be served with a variety of accompaniments, such as salt and vinegar (malt, balsamic or white), pepper, Cajun seasoning, grated cheese, melted cheese, mushy peas, heated curry sauce, curry ketchup (mildly spiced mix of the former), hot sauce, relish, mustard, mayonnaise, bearnaise sauce, tartar sauce, chili, tzatziki, feta cheese, garlic sauce, fry sauce, butter, sour cream, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, gravy, honey, aioli, brown sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, piccalilli, pickled cucumber, pickled gherkins, pickled onions or pickled eggs.
French fries primarily contain carbohydrates from the potato (mostly in the form of starch) and fat absorbed during the deep-frying process, as well as sodium depending upon the seasoning. For example, a large serving of French fries at McDonald's in the United States is 154 grams. Nearly all of the 500 calories per serving come from the 63 g of carbohydrates and the 25 g of fat, but a serving also contains 6 g of protein and 350 mg of sodium.
Expert testimonials:According to Jonathan Bonnet, MD, in a TIME magazine article, "fries are nutritionally unrecognizable from a spud" as they "involve frying, salting, and removing one of the healthiest parts of the potato: the skin, where many of the nutrients and fiber are found."
Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, calls French fries "...an extremely starchy vegetable dipped in a fryer that then loads on the unhealthy fat, and what you have left is a food that has no nutritional redeeming value in it at all."
David Katz, MD states that "French fries are often the super-fatty side dish to a burger—and both are often used as vehicles for things like sugar-laced ketchup and fatty mayo."
Frying French fries in beef tallow, lard, or other animal fats adds saturated fat to the diet. Replacing animal fats with tropical vegetable oils, such as palm oil, simply substitutes one saturated fat for another. Replacing animal fats with partially hydrogenated oil reduces cholesterol but adds trans fat, which has been shown to both raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Canola/Rapeseed oil, or sunflower-seed oil are also used, as are mixes of vegetable oils, but beef tallow is generally more popular, especially amongst fast food outlets that use communal oil baths. Accordingly, many restaurants now advertise their use of unsaturated oils; for example, both Five Guys and Chick-fil-A advertise that their fries are prepared with peanut oil.
French fries contain some of the highest levels of acrylamides of any foodstuff, and concerns have been raised about the impact of acrylamides on human health. According to the American Cancer Society, it is not clear as of 2013 whether acrylamide consumption affects people's risk of getting cancer.
A lower-fat method for producing a French fry-like product is to coat "Frenched" or wedge potatoes in oil and spices/flavoring before baking them. The heat will not be as high as when deep frying, and this also reduces acrylamides.
In June 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the advisement of a federal district judge from Beaumont, Texas, classified batter-coated French fries as a vegetable under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. This was primarily for trade reasons; French fries do not meet the standard to be listed as a processed food. This classification, referred to as the "French fry rule", was upheld in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit case Fleming Companies, Inc. v. USDA.
In the United States, in 2002, the McDonald's Corporation agreed to donate to Hindus and other groups to settle lawsuits filed against the chain for mislabeling French fries and hash browns as vegetarian, because beef extract was added in their production.