The key to great French fries, explained chef Gary Danko, is the temperature that the potato has been stored at before cooking. See, for good French fries, the potato should be starchy. The starch is what gives you that tender, soft interior. But the colder you store potatoes, the more the starches will convert into sugars. And when the potato is stored below 40°F, the starch will convert into sugar rapidly.
I learned that the best French fry places control the process of potato sourcing from field to store. Restaurants who depend on fries, like Five Guys and other burger joints, have whole teams of people who control the temperature and starch of their potato stock before they arrive in the stores.
What's the takeaway for the home cook? If you're hoping to make French fries (or any sort of fried potato dish) at home, then ask your grocer if he knows how the potatoes were stored. Better yet, buy your potatoes at the farmers' market, since the grower should have a good idea of where the spuds were kept. In a heated shed? Outside in freezing temperatures?
And then, of course, don't refrigerate your potatoes, since that will certainly push them below 40 degrees.
Do you ever make fries at home? Any other good tips for getting a good result?
Related: Recipe: Beer-Battered Cajun Fries
(Image: Nealey Dozier)