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While making french fries earlier I began to wonder what would happen if I changed my process in a few ways.

My current method:

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into thin slices
  2. Pan fry until golden

Simple enough. But I was wondering what would happen if I did the following after my initial pan fry:

a. Cook fries in a pan with little or no oil

Or

b. Bake fries

  • It is hard to follow your question. As it reads why you pan fry until golden and cook in pan with little or not oil and bake? – paparazzo Nov 28 '16 at 20:55
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Adjustment A: You're not going to see much difference from this method, because there's not going to be much heat transfer. One of the key parts of frying is oil contact, because the oil transfers heat at a very quick rate, and gets into all the tiny surface nooks and crannies, so more of it gets cooked at the same rate. If you're just pan cooking without (or very little) oil, aside from a relatively tiny bit of radiant and convection heat the only cooking will happen where the surface directly contacts the pan.

Summary: You'll need to turn every french fry, to every side, and even then the cooking won't be as uniform as you'd like, even if you do it perfectly.

Adjustment B: Baking means your getting good convection, but that also means you may be drying out the fries a bit, especially after they've already been in oil and lost some moisture. Baking might be a better addition, but I'd avoid it as a last step. You'll also be letting your oil that's on the fries, soak in a bit more, so they may be dry... yet still greasy.

Summary: They'll end up like reheated fries because... that's pretty much what you're doing.

My suggestion: Boil or steam the fries (not too much!) to start the inside starches cooking and getting "fluffy". Let them dry and cool a bit. Then hit them with a shallow (or ideally deep) fry to crisp up the outsides, but not have to sit in the oil long enough to burn or soak up the oil. This also would work with prebaking for what it's worth, but you may still get the drying. Just depends on what you're going for.

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I would reverse those two steps -- bake first and then pan fry. By baking first the potato will cook through in the oven without necessarily crisping or burning, then the frying step will add the crunchiness and texture that you want on the outside when you're ready to serve.

Frying first would be the same as searing, which you would only do when you don't want the inside of the food to be cooked as high as the outside. Either one of two things would happen: a) the middle of the fry won't cook all the way through and you'll be left with raw potato on the inside and perfectly cooked on the outside, or b) you'll have to change your timing to leave the fries in the oven long enough to cook in the middle, but that will increase surface exposure to heat and you'll burn the fries.

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