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What Are the Best Potatoes for French Fries?

All potatoes are not equal – some make better French fries than others. So, what are the best potatoes for French fries?

The best potatoes for french fries are russet potatoes, also known as Idaho potatoes due to the high starch and low moisture content. And the Russet Burbank potato is the best type of russet for fries.

However, the Maris Piper potato also makes outstanding fries and is the UK’s top potato for what they call chips (French Fries).

But there’s more to know about potatoes and french fries than just that, so let’s keep going!

So in this article, we’ll take a look at the best AND worst kinds of potatoes to use for fries. After all, the russet isn’t the only one that will work. But we’ll also look at the best type for an air fryer, and whether soaking is necessary before frying.

But using the right oil matters almost as much as the right potato!

Click here to read my complete guide to the very best fryer oil for french fries! I get into the best options, how often to change the oil, and how to know, if you aren’t sure, if your oil has gone rancid.

So let’s dive in!

What type of russet potato is best for french fries?

Russet Burbank potatoes are the best variety of russet for French fries. They are denser, higher in starch and lower in moisture than other types resulting in a firmer, crispier fry.

These potatoes have the following characteristics:

Balanced solid-water ratio 

Russet potatoes have a high starch content, which makes fries crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are also tasty and have a striking golden color.

A perfect shape

Good fries have that attractive shoestring shape. When making your French fries at home, using the large and oval Russet potatoes will make slicing a lot easier. The balanced solid-moisture level in Russet potatoes also makes them retain their shape in the hot oil.

Waxy types like the red and the new potatoes have lots of moisture. This additional moisture makes them hollow out during frying because the water evaporates.

Great nutritional value

Russet potatoes are rich in iron, protein, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. And as a tuber crop, they have one of the highest levels of antioxidants and fiber, especially in the peel.

A floury-fluffy and texture

Floury-fluffy potatoes make perfect crispy fries. Russet varieties meet this characteristic but are outdone by the Maris Piper, an Irish potato that is hard to find in the US. It is considered the UK’s number one potato for best French fries.

If you can’t find any of the Russet varieties mentioned earlier, you can replace them with Katahdin potatoes.

What are the Best Potatoes for French Fries in an Air Fryer?

Quick answer: Russets!

Simply because Russet potatoes have a balanced solid-water ratio, using them in an air fryer gives you the best quality of fries.

An air fryer can deliver your fries with the least amount of fat in a short time. The amount of oil absorbed by your fries is minimal because Russet fries are dense.

Also, a tablespoon of olive oil is enough to allow the air fryer to pass hot air down and around your fries, leaving them crispy and golden.

There are two other reasons why Russets should be your choice of potatoes when you use an air fryer.

  • They cook quickly. Russet potatoes do not accumulate extra sugar during storage, as is the case with high-moisture potatoes. This relative lack of sugar makes them a perfect choice for a quick meal.
  • Russets will maintain their shape and crispiness under the extreme temperatures of an air fryer. This is because they are high-starch potatoes. Potatoes with high moisture do not pass the extreme heat test and will turn into a mushy paste under such heat.

When making fries in an air fryer, a single layer of potato on the basket will give the best results. Stacking potatoes makes them stick to each other, which compromises their crispiness.

Besides, you will need to turn them more than once, and that requires more cooking time.

If you don’t own an air fryer but have been curious about whether they are worth it, I have a recent article that covers all the pros and cons. What really surprised me was just how crispy I could get fries with virtually no oil!

Just click the link to read that on my site.

Are Yukon Gold potatoes good for frying?

As a general rule Yukon Gold potatoes are OK but not ideal for frying. They are higher in moisture, lower in starch, and waxier than russet potatoes, which are best for frying. Yukon Gold potatoes may result in a mushier fry that lacks the crispness most people desire.

So they’re better than new potatoes or fingerlings, but not nearly as good as almost every type of russet.

So if you’re dying for fries and that’s all you’ve got; go for it. You may want to double-fry them though to try and get them a little crisper. But see how they seem when you fry them the first time.

Do Some Potatoes Make Crispier Fries than Others?

Varieties of potatoes that are lower in moisture and higher in starch will generally get better results when fried. Additionally, waxy potatoes such as fingerlings, new potatoes, or red potatoes will give you soggy fries. They also absorb more oil, which makes them taste bad.

The secret to crispy fries is in the starch-moisture ratio. That is why potato wizards will differentiate between waxy and high-starch options.

High-starch potatoes make crispy fries. But if the starch exceeds normal limits, your fries can become hard and crunchy. So, balance is the magic word.

Aside from the type of potatoes, there are a few other factors can determine how crispy your fries get.

These factors include:

1. The type and age of the frying oil 

Older oil bonds better with your potato strips and makes them crispier. As a rule of thumb, you can reuse oil three to four times, which equals approximately 6 hours of frying.

There’s a condition to the rule, though. When reusing oil, you should filter it to remove potato particles and store it in an airtight jar.

If you’ve wondered how often you should be changing the oil in your deep fryer, you’re not alone!

In a recent article, I cover everything you need to know about when and how to change the oil in your deep fryer. I even cover the one sure-fire way to tell your oil is bad even if it’s not that old.

Just click the link to read it now on my site.

When the oil is heated, it breaks down. 

The type of oil you use is important, as different types of oil have different smoke points. If you use oil that has a low smoke point, it will break down faster, and your fries will not give you the kind of crisp you want.

Oil with a high smoke point breaks down slowly and gives you a crispier quality.

Experts advise using refined peanut oil for crispier fries. Canola, safflower, corn, sunflower, and vegetable oils are also a good option.

In a recent article, I break down my take on the best oil to fry frozen french fries in (yes, they work great in a deep fryer!). What was most interesting is how much better refined oils work than unrefined.

Just click that link to see it on my site.

2. The number of times you fry your potatoes

The double frying method of making French fries is also known to make them crispier.

The procedure involves frying your potatoes for a minute at around 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit and leaving them to cool. This initial step pre-cooks the inside and forms a protective crust on the surface.

Once cooled, the potatoes are deep-fried a second time for five minutes at similar temperatures until they have that golden and crispy finish.

Insider Tip: if you like In-n-Out Burger, ask for your fries to be double-fried. It’s one of the many options on their secret menu.

I mentioned changing the oil above. But many wonder just how long you can leave the oil in your fryer before you need to change it. After, all, if we changed it every time, it would get expensive.

You might be surprised to know you can leave it up to 1 month in your fryer. But before you go and do that, check out a recent article I wrote which tells you exactly HOW to do that.

But I also cover the 1 thing you must NOT do, and how to extend the life of your oil even longer. Just click that link to read it on my website.

3. Dried and frozen potatoes

If you are making fries from frozen potatoes, you should cook them straight from the wrapping that preserved them in the freezer. It seems that the drying and freezing process makes your fries crispy and golden, which is a well-kept secret of the fast-food restaurants.

Dehydrating and freezing low-moisture potatoes balances the starch levels by converting the sugar in potatoes to starch. This fact is especially true of the first crop of the season, which tends to contain higher levels of sugar.

Using frozen potatoes will also save you the trouble of peeling and slicing, especially if you have to do that manually.

Should I soak my potatoes before frying?

High-starch potatoes such as Russet, Idaho, and Yukon gold potatoes do benefit from soaking before frying to prevent over-cooked or burnt fries and provide the perfect level of crispiness.

As long as soaking does not upset the starch-moisture balance in your potatoes, it is considered a great way to pre-empt burnt and unattractive fries.

Potatoes release some of the sugars and starch when you chop them.

If you dip them into hot oil with the extra sugar and starch on the surface, the sugar caramelizes and burns before the interior cooks. This burning of the sugar ensures that your fries will have an unattractive color and an acrid taste.

Another risk with dipping potatoes into hot oil without soaking or rinsing them is that the extra starch on the surface can easily fall off and dirty the oil.

One last reason for soaking potatoes is to contain the levels of acrylamide.

Acrylamide levels increase when potatoes are exposed to light or heat, turning them green. When you’re deep-frying, you can detect high levels of this substance by looking for dark rather than golden yellow fries.

Acrylamide is harmful to health if consumed in high quantities. It is advisable to peel off all the green part of a potato before cooking it.

Final thoughts

In this article, we took an in-depth look into the world of potatoes and french fries.

We explored all the different types of potatoes used for fries and what makes some better than others. But we also covered a lot of related questions too.

Here are the key takeaways from this article:

  • Russet potatoes are the best potatoes for making French fries. There are many different types of Russet potatoes ‒ all of them will make solid fries. Maris Piper or Katahdin potatoes are also a solid replacement.
  • The best potatoes for French fries in an air fryer are also Russet potatoes. You can use any frying method to make great Russet-based French fries ‒ air fryers are no exception.
  • Certain types of potato will make crispier fries than others. If you want crispy fries, go for a high-starch potato.
  • High-starch potatoes should be soaked before frying. If you don’t soak your high-starch potatoes, your fries will be brown and taste somewhat burnt.

A lot of people think they’ll be healthier with frozen fries. But are those already fried when you buy them?

Click here to read my comprehensive guide to frozen fries, whether they have already been fried, and if there is any health benefit over frying them yourself.

Jeff Campbell