I have long contended that potatoes, like eggs, are one of the most perfect foods. But for different reasons, of course.
My professed love for potatoes means I am always trying to find ways to prep them and cook them as quickly as possible. (It also means I often order good quality French fries with a great salad for dinner, but I digress…)
What if there were a way to achieve crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside French fries in less than a half an hour? If I told you that it was possible to pull this off without the mess or hassle of deep frying potatoes, would you believe me?
Well there is a way and, yes, it’s true. Enter the air fryer.
WHAT DO AIR-FRIED FRENCH FRIES TASTE LIKE?
The air fryer not going to give you the exact same results as that decadent deep frying—but it can come close. Given what it can accomplish, the results are more than acceptable. You’ll encounter a crispy exterior and fluffy interior with this particular recipe.
WHAT IS AN AIR FRYER?
Air fryers are small countertop appliances that basically operate akin to a convection oven—except in a smaller, more concentrated space. The one that I have been using is the Phillips Viva Air Fryer.
The air is circulated at a high temperature and in an even manner around the food, which makes the food cook more quickly than it otherwise would in a traditional oven and helps give foods a crispy exterior without extra oil or deep-frying.
Because of all these reasons, air fried French fries (say that three times fast) will taste a bit crispier than those you do in a conventional oven.
My model advised preheating; I simply set it to the desired cooking temperature, toggled the timer until it hit 10 to 15 minutes, and set about prepping the ingredients.
WHAT KIND OF POTATOES TO USE?
I tried this recipe a couple of times with both Russets and Yukon golds. Both turned out good quality fries, but the Russets are clearly the superior potato for frying, which is my direct opposite preference for roasting potatoes.
The interior of Russet potatoes turns just the way you want it—a bit fluffy and soft—whereas the exterior stays crispy.
And they’re the right size for fries, too. If you can select them individually rather than buying a bag, I’d recommend trying to find the longest ones you can—smaller, more round potatoes are going to make stubby fries that won’t permit a whole lot of interaction with ketchup or whatever you condiment of choice happens to be.
You could probably also use red potatoes, but they don’t tend to be long enough to turn them into the classic fry shape, so I skipped those for this recipe. (They also tend to be a little waxier, so I can’t vouch for the result.)
HOW TO PREP YOUR POTATOES
I did not peel the potatoes because I like the texture the skin offers, but you can peel them if you want. I also think they taste better with the skin on, and you lose some vitamins when you peel them.
I cut them into 1/2-inch or so wedges, maybe a little smaller or bigger, give or take 1/8 of an inch. Just know that the thinner you slice them the more quickly they will fry up—you might have to shave a couple minutes off the fry time if they are skinny.
WHY PRE-SOAK YOUR POTATOES
When you make traditional deep-fried French fries, it’s advisable to soak the potatoes ahead of time in cold water. Soaking the potatoes does something magical with the starches—it helps achieve the coveted French fry crispiness and prevents the fries from sticking together. This is what I did for the air fryer, too.
I soaked these potatoes for about an hour or so, but I’ve also soaked them for up to 24 hours with no ill effect. Just pat them completely dry before you prep them for the fryer. You can soak them in the fridge, in a bowl of water, all day while you are working.
I wouldn’t bother doing potatoes from the raw state, without soaking. It will take about a half an hour and the texture won’t be nearly as rewarding. They just don’t get very crispy without that cold soak.
WHAT KIND OF OIL TO USE?
I used a combination of expeller pressed canola and coconut oil, which I typically use for skillet cooking and roasting veggies. Any kind of vegetable oil would work.
Keep in mind that if you use olive oil (and please, save the extra virgin olive oil for your salad dressing), the potatoes will brown more quickly without necessarily being cooked all the way through. I did not enjoy that.
You only need about a tablespoon or so of oil, tossed to coat, in order to help crisp up the potatoes.