Snack Time

Homemade Trials: French Fries

Last week, instead of a poll I asked you all what I should do a homemade trials on last Friday and the resounding word was to try out French Fries!

I’m happy to oblige and I knew this would be a tough one!

As always I did my best make a level playing field homemade version and then compared my version and a few store-bought varieties in the areas of TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and TASTE.

Let’s see how I did!

My Version

For my version, I wanted to make baked fries instead of actual deep-fried french fries because all of the store-bought version involved baking.

It’s not even really worth posting this recipe for baked french fries because it’s so straightforward. Basically I just peeled and sliced up a few potatoes and then gave them a quick rinse in cold water.

potatosoak_550

A quick soak.

Then dry the fries really well and toss them with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper.

You’ll have to bake these for close to 30 minutes, stirring them occasionally, until they are crispy and browned.

Laid out.

Laid out.

Okay… let’s talk about…

The Competition

I chose two varieties of frozen fries to do a comparison here. Cascadian Farms and Ore-Ida. Both are pretty common and available in most grocery stores.

The competition.

The competition.

Let’s see how the breakdown went!

Time

The two frozen varieties were a complete tie on this, but the homemade version lagged by about 10 minutes. I’ll also say that I didn’t quite agree with the recommended cooking times on either of the frozen fries. I wanted them much crispier and ended up baking them for an extra 7-8 minutes.

Still though… the frozen varieties were noticeably faster than the homemade version!

Cost

Screen shot 2014-07-02 at 7.51.23 AM

 

It turns out potatoes are cheap!

The homemade variety pretty easily won on cost. You are paying a lot for convenience in the case of frozen french fries!

Nutrition

nutritionbreakdown

There is a few subtle differences here on nutrition, but to be honest, I think this is mostly a tie with one exception. The Ore-Ida version has substantially more sodium than either the CF brand or the homemade recipe (I sprinkled on a good dash of kosher salt in my seasoning). If you’re worried about your salt intake, you may want to tread lightly there!

But, even with that said, there isn’t a lot to differentiate these items. If I had to pick a true winner, the CF brand is fairly healthy, but it’s subtle and all of these are basically just made of the same thing.

Taste

bakedfries_550

This is where I get to eat a big slice of humble pie!

My homemade version was absolutely not the best. Betsy and I both agreed that the Ore-Ida version was hands down the tastiest and crispiest fry. (It’s the one in the back in the above picture).

I think part of this is because I’m fairly sure they flash fry their fries before freezing them so they get really crispy. While you could do this at home, I think it’s unrealistic to do that regularly which is why I didn’t for the comparison recipe.

It did make a noticeable difference though and they were just simply much tastier than my version!

Conclusion

Well, I think I lost this one!

The only category I solidly won was the cost category and really that would only factor in if you were eating fries every day (which I wouldn’t recommend).

Here’s what I will say. I’ve made a ton of fries in my day and if you happen to have a frier setup (like for a deep fry party maybe), then by all means make fresh french fries! They are delicious.

But, for everyday meals, the frozen ones are just fine! Nutritionally, you are talking about basically the same thing and they have really mastered the flash fry/freezing process so I don’t feel bad about recommending it to those interested!

That said, if anyone disagrees (or has a killer baked french fry method that you think could compete) leave a comment!

16 comments on “Homemade Trials: French Fries

  1. Thanks Nick! I have really always wondered if I was really missing out with the convenience factor.

    Keep up the good work. Really love the Homemade Trials. Especially with the various categories that go just beyond taste.

    1. Thanks Josh! I really like working on the posts also. :) Feel free to comment or email if you have any ideas for future posts.

  2. Nick, I have been making oven fries for 20 years. The key to them is a hot oven and not to crowd the pan. Soak them in cold water, drain and pat dry. I end up using typically 2 cookie sheets ( as opposed to 4 when the kids were still home) for fries for the two of us. Very little oil is needed and they do take longer to cook, and need to be turned at the halfway point, but it is worth the effort as we can have fries without the deep frying aspect. Hope that this helps when you decide to make them again.
    Susan

    1. Thanks Susan. I’m definitely going to try to improve on my homemade version. That said, I still feel confident saying that for a majority of people the frozen variety aren’t a terrible choice even if they cost a bit more.

  3. I saw a show where they were making the Arby’s fries and they do flash fry them. They also soak the cut potatoes for longer before cooking to get more of the starch out. I made my own by frying for a short time in low heat to cook the insides but then cranking up the heat and cooking a short time on a higher heat and they were delicious. I’m sure if you do something similarly with baking, it would come out closer to the store brand (or at least make them tastier!).

    1. Interesting idea Brandy! I’ve tried the double-fry method also and it works like a charm but never thought about trying that with baking… makes total sense though!

      1. I wonder if you could do the pre-fry step in bulk, then freeze to bake later? You’d basically be making your own frozen fries. I don’t know how par-cooked potatoes would freeze, though I’d think it should be fine. But it might be a lot of extra work for not so much payoff, though. Hmmm.

        1. Hey Kris! I think it would work, but I sort of agree that it might not be worth the work. You’d have to be careful to let the potatoes dry before freezing so they didn’t stick together. It would be quite a process, but yes… i think you could basically make your own freezer fries… I think most people’s time is probably better spent though. :)

  4. Hi friend — have you figured out yet a good method for homemade sweet potato fries? I remember you trying to get it right in DC — and they’re my new obsession. I just found out you can get them at the drive-thru at Carl’s Jr. out here and I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve stopped by there since we moved. :)

    1. Short answer: no. As far as I can tell there’s no consistent way to bake sweet potatoes and make them decent. If you FRY them, then you’ll have great results, but baking is impossible.
      Check out the great baked fry experiment for my complete analysis, but I’ve never had great luck without a ton of work. Some people are fine with baking sweet potatoes but I just want mine super-crispy so the frier is the only answer. :)

  5. Just read about baked oven fries on Annie’s Eats, and she swears by the Cook’s Illustrated method. They soak them for 30 minutes, put oil, salt and pepper in the pan, and cover with foil for the first 5 minutes. Give it a try if you’re up for different methods :)

    1. Oh great Diana! Thanks for the tip. I’ll definitely check out the CI method. I generally have really good results with their stuff.

  6. Good one Nick. I love French fries and was wondering how they compared. How about homemade tater tots? Have you ever made them??

    1. Hey karen! I have actually made them from scratch (Post here). They are some work, but super delicious. Probably good for special occasions but I wouldn’t make them every day for sure.

Leave a Comment