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Credit: Photo: Brian Splawn | Food Stylist: Meghan Splawn

The Best Method for Reheating Leftover French Fries

updated Sep 13, 2022
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Crispy, salty french fries have been one of the takeout staples getting my family through the year — so much so, that we’ve had more than a few instances of over-ordering. French fries have a very short half-life; as soon as they get cold, they lose their crispy exterior and become soggy and sad. Leftover french fries are often even sadder.

While you can totally turn leftovers into a different meal (say, a french fry frittata) just reheating your french fries in the microwave won’t make the fries crispy again. Instead, we put four popular methods for reheating french fries, each promising crunchy revival, to the test. From these tests we found the ultimate winner — one that makes your cold, limp fries taste just fried again (yes, really!).

Credit: Photo: Brian Splawn | Food Stylist: Meghan Splawn | Design: The Kitchn

How We Tested the Methods for Reheating French Fries

In order to test and taste all four methods side by side on the same day, we had to dutifully over-order french fries — and it only felt right to order them from Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Any Five Guys fan will tell you that this chain is notorious for over-serving on the fries. Their peanut oil-fried fries are golden and crisp, thin but not too thin — so a near-perfect fry. We stored the french fries directly in their serving cup and bag in the fridge overnight to ensure that they were all equally soggy (and because who is moving their fries to a storage container, anyway?). Then we set about testing the methods that were suggested from our team of editors.

Credit: Photo: Brian Splawn | Food Stylist: Meghan Splawn

Reheating Method: Toasted Under the Broiler 

  • Timing: 10 minutes, including preheating the broiler
  • Rating: 3/10

Broiler cooking is its own kind of wonderful. It browns cheese, makes for crisp cookies and more, which is why it made sense as a suggested method for reviving fries. The downward heat of a broiler would crisp the fries pretty quickly too.

This method was suggested by Kitchn team member Andrea Kaufman for its ease and speed, but Life Hacker goes into detail about the best way to broil day-old fries: Put them as close to broiler as possible, using foil to line the pan and prop them up, and broil one side before flipping. To ensure that the fries would be golden and warmed through at the same time, we tried this with the broiler on the lowest setting, preheating for five minutes and then broiling for about four minutes.

The resulting fries were very crispy but cooked unevenly — some thicker (reader: taller and closer to the broiler) fries burned, and the thinner tips and ends of most fries neared burning. A shorter broiler time would have left me with crisp-on-the-outside, cold-on-the-inside fries! While this method might work better if the fries had time to come to room temperature or for a larger batch of fries, it was my least favorite of the four methods I tried.

Credit: Photo: Brian Splawn | Foodstylist: Meghan Splawn

Reheating Method: Pan-Fried

  • Timing: 15 minutes
  • Rating: 7/10

Not too long ago, I wrote a story titled “We’re Begging — Please Stop Microwaving Your Leftover Fries,” where I laid out tips for quickly pan frying french fries to make them hot and crisp again. The idea is simple and doesn’t require a deep-fry, or really even that much oil: Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat; pour in a few tablespoons of oil; add your sad fries; cook, flipping once; and have happy fries again!

While I’d still rate this method pretty high, it wasn’t my favorite technique, which surprised me. For one, this method takes longer than I remembered and limits the volume of fries to your pan size. The fries turn out beautifully crisp but a little greasy — as you might expect from double-frying your already-oil-slicked fries. While it wasn’t the winning method, this still works well in a pinch.

Credit: Photo: Brian Splawn | Food Stylist: Meghan Splawn

Reheating Method: Oven-Roasted

  • Timing: 25 minutes, including preheating time
  • Rating: 8/10

Oven-roasting fries to revitalize them is exactly as it sounds: Crank your oven to 425°F, spread the fries out on a baking sheet, and let them get roasty-toasty. Similar to the broiler tip above, Food Network Kitchen suggests putting them on a layer of crinkled foil before roasting (or a cooling rack) so that they crisp on all sides.

While this method took longer than the other methods, it was well worth it and probably the most universally available option. You have to wait for the oven to preheat, but the resulting french fries are super crisp and crunchy outside, while being incredibly fluffy inside. With a little extra sprinkle of salt, they taste almost as good as fresh fries!

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Reheating Method: Air Fryer

  • Timing: 8 minutes, including preheating time
  • Rating: 10/10

The air fryer seems like the very obvious answer for reheating fries (after all, it fries food with very little additional oil!). I followed Project Meal Plan’s instructions for air frying the french fries. You preheat the air fryer to a relatively low temperature, 350°F, for just a few minutes and then add the french fries in an even layer and cook them for just 3 to 5 minutes.

The leftover french fries tasted as good as fresh, while retaining a thinner crisp exterior than the oven-roasted fries. Of course, this method limits you to the size of your air fryer, but it requires about the same effort as microwaving fries without any of the sad sogginess.

Final Takeaways

As an avid air fryer user, this device will be my go-to method. I realize not everyone has the space (or desire) to own one, so my secondary recommendation is to roast your leftover fries in a hot oven. You deserve crispy, toasty fries (even the next day) and preheating your air fryer or your oven will all but guarantee it.