crispy yellow potato french fries on a plate with tomato sauce

Best potatoes for French fries: which variety?

French fries are one of my favourite foods and something I’ve come to make regularly at home. Restaurant portion sizes sometimes just don’t cut it and not everyone feels comfortable asking for six sides of fries with nothing else. Before you try making your own, make sure you have the best potatoes for French fries and brush up on some cooking tips. 

When I started making french fries at home I didn’t think much about what potato to use or how to fry them. I followed what my parents always did, which was to use any potato we had and just put them into hot frying oil. 

All potatoes are not the same

With time, I came to understand that not all potatoes work the same for making french fries, and the way you fry them really makes a difference. So if you want to make the perfect french fry that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, make sure to keep reading. 

To make restaurant-quality french fries at home you’ll need large potatoes (we’ll get more into this below), oil, a deep fryer or a pot, and salt or any other spices you want to add. With these simple ingredients, you can make this essential comfort food from the comfort of your kitchen. 

I doubt you’ll be able to make it through this article without craving a huge plate of fries. So, cancel whatever plans you had this evening and have a french fry-making party to show off your new culinary skills. 

Which varieties are the best potatoes for French fries?

If you live in North America the best potato varieties for french fries are Russet potatoes, specifically Russet Burbank. If you live in Europe you may refer to French Fries as skinny chips, and the variety Maris Piper will be one of the best potatoes to use.

Maris Piper potatoes are more commonly available in Europe but hard to find in the United States, making Russets the go-to fry option. Russet potatoes are considered the ‘standard’ potato and are widely available. 

Maris piper potatoes -best potatoes for french fries
Maris Piper potatoes are great for making French fries

If your supermarket doesn’t have Russet or Maris Piper potatoes, you can also use other starchy potato varieties. Some examples of this include King Edward potatoes, Gold Rush potatoes, and Sweet Jewel fingerling potatoes. 

Floury potatoes, that fall between starchy and waxy can also be used. The most known variety of floury potatoes that can be used for french fries is Yukon Gold. 

Best potatoes for French fries 

The best variety of Russet potatoes for french fries is the Russet Burbank. Among the Russet potatoes (best starch-to-water ratio for fries) the best-shaped variety is the Russet Burbank. 

Russet Burbank is the best potato for french fries
Russet Burbank is one of the best potatoes for French fries

Another benefit of Russet Burbank potatoes is that they are quite large, allowing you to cut them into long fries. I also like to leave the skins on my fries and find that Russet Burbank skins give the crispiest texture. 

What makes perfect French fries? 

What makes specific potato varieties perfect for french fries is their high starch and low water content. The starch is what makes the potatoes crispy on the outside. While low water content means the potato slices won’t become hollow as the water evaporates. 

Essentially, there are three types of potatoes each with different starch-to-water ratios. Waxy, floury, and starchy potatoes.

Waxy potatoes are what people use for boiling, baking, and roasting. They have low starch and high moisture content which allows them to retain their shape when cooked. They typically have thin skins, and creamy insides, and are typically small. Fingerling potatoes are a great example of a waxy variety. 

Floury potatoes are the in-between potatoes that can be used for everything. They fall between waxy and starchy potatoes and although not the best, they are perfectly good for frying. 

Starch content

Starchy potatoes have a high starch and low water content. The high starch content means they can get very crispy but it also means they lose their shape easily. They have thicker skins and are usually larger. 

When making french fries, I like to select the biggest Russet potatoes and leave the skins on to fry. Choosing to leave the skins on not only cuts a lot of the prep work but also gives the fries an earthy flavour. I think the skin on Russets also gives the fries an extra crunch. 

Besides potato variety and the presence of the skin, the oil you choose will also affect the overall taste. Choose a cooking oil that has a high smoking point and neutral taste. 

Cooking oil

Peanut oil, vegetable oil, or vegetable oil works the best. Olive oil is not recommended because it will leave a strong flavour on the fries and has a much lower smoking point. In order to get crispy, fries need to be cooked in oil with a high smoking point. 

olive oil being poured out of a bottle into a glass bowl
Olive oil is not good for cooking French fries as it has a very strong flavour.

Another surprising detail many people don’t know about making french fries is that used oil works best. How’s that? Oil that has broken down a bit through previous cooking will bond more easily with the potatoes. 

When the oil has an easier time bonding to the outside of the fry, it will make crispier fries. It also helps to not have to buy so much oil. French fry oil can be reused up to eight times! Just try and filter it through a strainer between uses. 

How should I store potatoes for French fries?

When you’re preparing your potatoes to make French fries, make sure to store the potatoes above 8°C. When the potatoes go below this temperature the starch converts to sugar which turns the fries black. 

Black, sweet-tasting fries are far from ideal and are easily preventable. Just monitor the temperature with a kitchen thermometer. 

Why do people put fries into water?

Putting the cut fries into water draws out the starch in the potato to the surface. In essence, soaking the potato slices in water is a key secret behind getting crispy fries.  

You can either soak your cut potatoes for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours, depending on what makes sense for you. Some people place the bowl in the fridge to keep it cool or add a teaspoon of vinegar to keep the potatoes from oxidizing. 

Should I dry the water from French fries before cooking?

Yes, excess water will cause the fries to get soggy while they cook. Don’t spoil all your hard work and make sure to dry the fries after soaking. I like to first use a kitchen towel to remove the excess water and then pat them down with paper towels to dry off the rest. 

From a safety point of view, it’s also important to dry the fries before cooking because the oil will react violently and splash much more. Inserting wet french fries in hot oil increases your chances of the oil bubbling over and can start a grease fire. Avoid this mess by simply drying your fries with a cloth and paper towels before cooking. 

How many times should I cook fries? 

Twice! I know, it seems like an extra step, but it makes all the difference. Cooking fries twice means that they will have crispy outsides and fluffy insides. 

The first time you cook the fries, heat the oil to 165°C and then cook the fries for about three minutes. Cooking them at a medium temperature will cook the potatoes all the way through. You should be able to easily cut them in half with a spoon at this point. 

Place the fries on a paper towel and continue giving the first fry treatment to the rest of your cut potatoes. Once they’ve all gone through an initial fry at 165°C you can raise the temperature and fry them a second time. 

For the second round of frying, bring the temperature up to 180°C and let the fries cook for a final couple of minutes. This second round at a higher temperature will brown and crisp up the outsides. 

Two rounds of frying might sound more complicated than necessary but trust me, it’s way worth it. Just make sure to cut enough fries because they’re so good you’ll be hungry for a second batch. 

Having a good fryer with a built-in thermostat for safety like this one from Hamilton Beach is a must!

Final Thoughts..

Amazing, restaurant-quality French fries are completely doable to make at home. Following some simple tips makes a huge difference when it comes to the final product. 

French fries inside a paper cone sitting on a plate with salt and seasoning on them
Restaurant-quality fries are completely doable at home – with practice, you will make them even tastier than bought ones.

To get the perfect fry that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside make sure to choose the right potato variety, soak them and dry them before cooking, and use the double-fry method. 

Take your fries to the next level by adding dried herbs like oregano and rosemary, garlic powder, grated cheese, truffle oil, vinegar, or anything else that sounds appetizing. 

By following these simple tricks and seasoning to taste, you’ll never need to order takeout again.