The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Homemade French Fries

For a food that's technically only two ingredients, there's a lot that goes into making perfect French fries. You have to start with the right type of potato, use a neutral oil with a high smoke point, and make sure to cut all of the fries uniformly. Then there's the actual cooking process. You could go the traditional route and use a deep fryer; alternatively, you could opt for the air fryer instead, double fry them like Guy Fieri does, or simply stick them in the oven.

Any one of these approaches should yield equally delicious fries, so if you're finding that your fries are lacking in the crispiness department, it has less to do with the cooking method you choose and more to do with how you prep the potatoes before you fry them. You might assume that once you peel and slice your potatoes, they're ready to be fried, but there's another critical step in between. Forget to do this, and unfortunately, your fries probably won't crisp up the way you'd like.

Soaking your fries makes a big difference

Once your potatoes have been cut and rinsed, Food & Wine says they should be transferred into a bowl of cold water to be soaked overnight. This effectively eliminates the starch sitting on the surface of the raw potato, which would otherwise prevent the fries from crisping up. Without this layer of starch, the fries will get stuck together during the cooking process.

After an overnight soak, the potatoes are ready to be fried; however, Serious Eats recommends taking it a step further by partially cooking them in even more water before putting them in the fryer. They claim that this is one of McDonald's steps to creating perfectly crispy fries. This step rids the potatoes of simple sugars and, in turn, promotes better browning. In the process, the potatoes also develop pectin methylesterase, an enzyme that allows them to better withstand hot oil and hold their shape. Then when you finally do fry your fries, you can guarantee they'll be crispy and firm instead of limp and soggy.