Steam Spuds Before Baking For The Crispiest Oven Fries

Craving a side of taters to pair with your juicy burger or sizzling steak? Although it can be hard to compete with the french fries from your favorite local bistro, whipping them up at home doesn't have to be as daunting as it sounds. You don't have to fire up the deep fryer and use a ton of cooking oil to achieve the perfect potato side dish. To avoid the extra tools, time, and cleanup, you can simply bake up a fresh batch of fries.

Now, we know what you're thinking: Baked fries often run the risk of either being too soft or too dry. But, don't worry, there's an easy trick to avoid overcooked or soggy spuds, and it's totally worth the extra step to get there. For crisp, restaurant-quality "frites" served straight out of the oven, all you have to do is steam your potatoes before baking them.

After cutting up your potatoes into thick wedges, thin sticks, or crinkle-cut batons, place your raw strips into a steamer basket above boiling water for up to 10 minutes, being careful not to steam them until they're completely soft or losing their shape. Then, gently toss them in some oil, place them on your baking sheet (remembering not to overcrowd them), and pop them into the oven. Once they're done, you should be left with perfectly golden fries that are crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside.

How a steam bath creates better baked fries

The secret is in the science. Similar to blanching, steaming your potatoes will draw out excess starch from their centers, which in turn forms a starchy coating on the outer surface of the strips. When combined with just a light layer of oil and, of course, plenty of heat, the starch will brown up and result in a wonderfully crispy crust on each piece without the need to soak it in a ton of fry oil. Meanwhile, the centers will remain nice and tender, sans any sogginess from seeping oil or dryness that results from overcooking.

On the one hand, the pre-steaming method closely mimics the process of deep frying, which naturally creates a barrier of steam that prevents oil from ruining the crispy crunch we're after. At the same time, the steam partially cooks the potatoes before they hit the oven, meaning that the surface and the center of each fry will bake to perfection at the same rate. (This is as opposed to baking the fries completely raw, which can all too easily lead to burnt-out exteriors and dried-out middles). So, the next time you make fries at home, try steaming your frites for a better bite — you'll be glad you did.