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Frozen fries, the final showdown


Fat Guy
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On the "Why does anybody buy . . ." topic, frozen fries were called out as a culinary mockery. I think that issue is rich enough that it deserves further examination.

Having never conducted actual side-by-side tastings, I'm agnostic on this issue. On the one hand, I recognize that fresh products are better than frozen products in most cases. On the other hand, there are noteworthy instances in which frozen products are superior.

When it comes to fries, none other than the great chef Thomas Keller advocates frozen. Awhile back, when he was outed by Grub Street for using frozen fries at Bouchon, Keller said the following:

One of the top reasons Bouchon uses frozen French Fries is consistency. The quality of the frozen fries we use, and that of frozen fries in general today, is very good. We use fries which are 100% potato, which do not contain additives. The consistency in these fries is often better than that of fresh potatoes.

I take a comment like that seriously. What do you all think?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ore-ida extra crispy steak fries are secretly laced with crack. At least, that is the only explanation I can come up with for my unholy addiction to them. When making homemade fries I follow the Cook's Illustrated technique of removing a lot of the starch from the potatoes, then adding some back on in the form of cornstarch. Crispy and wonderful, but I think that Ore-Ida still has me beat. Still working at that...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Well - first is it a fair question? I might want 2lbs of fries - what sort of power would that buy me with let's say Sysco to ensure that they were properly and consistently prepared, stored, and transported. The frozen fries available to me come from the freezer case in the supermarket where lord only knows what happens to them!

I have never eaten at Bouchon and I am never likely to do so, consequently I have no way way of judging the quality of the fries.

I cannot imagine that frozen fries are much of a compromise for Thomas - he's too picky from all accounts so I am guessing his frozen fries measure up to his exacting standards.

Nothing I can buy measures up to the ones I make myself and I would dearly love to have a bag of frozen ones available. I am not opposed by any means to frozen fries just to the quality of the ones I can buy.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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Well - first is it a fair question?  I might want 2lbs of fries - what sort of power would that buy me with let's say Sysco to ensure that they were properly and consistently prepared, stored, and transported.  The frozen fries available to me come from the freezer case in the supermarket where lord only knows what happens to them! 

I have never eaten at Bouchon and I am never likely to do so, consequently I have no way way of judging the quality of the fries.

I cannot imagine that frozen fries are much of a compromise for Thomas - he's too picky from all accounts so I am guessing his frozen fries measure up to his exacting standards.

Nothing I can buy measures up to the ones I make myself and I would dearly love to have a bag of frozen ones available.  I am not opposed by any means to frozen fries just to the quality of the ones I can buy.

Yeah, what she said ^^^. Exactly.

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Are we talking about frozen fries that you bake or fry in oil, because, to me those are two different subjects. Baked fries are generally very nasty, I think. Off flavors, textures, very dry, etc. The Alexia fries are the only baked ones that I've ever tasted that I'd make and eat again.

On the other hand, I actually quite like the frozen fries that I pan fry. I don't want anything fancy on them - no seasoning and certainly no coating. I usually by just the standard ones - not steak fries or shoestrings, but something in between (of course every so often, I succumb to the siren song of the trashy crinkle cut :wub: ) - Giant grocery stores used to sell a house brand basic and cheap frozen fry that was wonderful - don't know if they still do. Lots of salt and some vinegar or ketchup from a squirty bottle and I am happy.

Kim

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I unlike Keller have never found a frozen fry that equaled the ones I make ...the time and effort saved for me a home cook is not worth the trade off in flavor..

but then I am known for my crispy on the outside..sotf on the inside fries!

it does not take that much time to cut up potatoes and if you are going to deep fry the potatoes anyway I dont see the advantage to opening a package vs cutting up your own ...

this is a "home" kitchen however where when I make fries it is for my family and friends who look foward to and appreciate the end result ...

if we ate them every day or if I was mass producing them for a restaurant ..I might be tempted to try frozen ones...

but for my home ..nothing will do but the whole potato

there is something about the texture and flavor of prefrozen even the "all natural" potatoes ....it is just not the same to me and mine I guess

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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One of the top reasons Bouchon uses frozen French Fries is consistency. The quality of the frozen fries we use, and that of frozen fries in general today, is very good. We use fries which are 100% potato, which do not contain additives. The consistency in these fries is often better than that of fresh potatoes.

...I feel like such a tool. I had Bouchon's fries and loved them. Obvioulsy, I was blinded by the apparent "Kelleritus" that I contracted while eating there. I thought they were great. I guess Tony Bourdain like them too (see No Reservations: Las Vegas). That makes me feel a little less insecure...a little.

On that note though, I've made Les Halles's fries from Tony's cookbook and they were unbelievably great.

What'dya do? :wacko:

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I'd say commercial frozen fries can come close, but not equal fries made from whole potatoes. I've used both in restaurants in the past - but then, I don't know which fry Keller uses.

Locally, Sysco has a frozen fry that's not available to all it's customers, but is made or brought in for certain customer/s. Perhaps they're a different animal than the ones available for the masses.

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Frozen fries are more consistent, on the whole. They crisp better, you don't have to hover over a line cook to watch them wash out enough starch, blanch them at the correct temperature and time, etc. Sugar content varies throughout the year in potatoes, i.e., starch, therefore you will have a different product as the months pass. I have always cut and blanched fries in the restaurants I work in, but it is a monitoring game throughout the months. However, I am not opposed to frozen, and I can back this up with the flavor of McDonald's fries from the beef fat days. The frying medium and temperature of the French Fry is almost as important as the fry itself.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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...do not contain additives.

There exists a frozen french fry product without bisulfites added for color retention?

If so, would be nice if it was available to regular consumers.

I have done both frozen and twice-fried fresh many many times, never simultaneous like as a taste test, but had good results both ways. Far better results with fresh farmer's market potatoes for fresh, and restaurant-supply frozen for frozen, than the supermarket equivalent for either. Much easier to get a consistent result with the frozen, that's for sure.

Perversely what got me thinking about frozen fries as a possibility for home use at all, having never used them, was reading Fast Food Nation when it came out, the description of the tons of freshly harvested potatoes processed immediately into frozen McDonald's product.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Are we talking about frozen fries that you bake or fry in oil, because, to me those are two different subjects.  Baked fries are generally very nasty, I think.  Off flavors, textures, very dry, etc.  The Alexia fries are the only baked ones that I've ever tasted that I'd make and eat again. 

On the other hand, I actually quite like the frozen fries that I pan fry.  I don't want anything fancy on them - no seasoning and certainly no coating.  I usually by just the standard ones - not steak fries or shoestrings, but something in between (of course every so often, I succumb to the siren song of the trashy crinkle cut  :wub: ) - Giant grocery stores used to sell a house brand basic and cheap frozen fry that was wonderful - don't know if they still do.  Lots of salt and some vinegar or ketchup from a squirty bottle and I am happy.

Kim

I'm with you Kim; I love the Giant brand trashy krinkle cut. :wub: I double cook them: med-high heat at first and then crank it up to get them golden brown and crispy, garnish as you do, and then devour!

Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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...do not contain additives.

There exists a frozen french fry product without bisulfites added for color retention?

The organic brands seem to use citric acid for this purpose.

When Keller says "We use fries which are 100% potato, which do not contain additives," he is almost surely being inexact. If they're a premium product the ingredients list is probably something like "Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes, Organic Sunflower and/or Safflower Oil, Sea Salt, Citric Acid." (That's the ingredients list from the Alexia brand.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ore-ida extra crispy steak fries are secretly laced with crack. At least, that is the only explanation I can come up with for my unholy addiction to them. When making homemade fries I follow the Cook's Illustrated technique of removing a lot of the starch from the potatoes, then adding some back on in the form of cornstarch. Crispy and wonderful, but I think that Ore-Ida still has me beat. Still working at that...

thanks i will buy a bag (aka sack bitday gbalert! haha)

of these sounds well....

good!

s

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I've been going to the Bouchon in Yountville a few times a year for the past few years. So I'm not a regular or anything, but I've eaten a lot of their fries. And yes, they're good, but I don't know if they're the best fries I've ever had. I wouldn't say that they were especially memorable. But if the implications for the home cook are that if we want really good fries at home, we too might as well use frozen fries because the fries Thomas Keller uses are really good and consistent, I would say that would only make sense if we had access to the same quality of fries that he does. There's probably a way I could get my hands on a box of SYSCO fries (if that's what he uses), but realistically, people are going to buy what they can find at the grocery store, especially for something as cheap as potatoes. If regular frozen grocery store fries aren't as good as what he uses, and aren't as good as fresh, then no, it's not a waste of time to cut potatoes for fresh fries.

I would also say that in a home kitchen, dealing with the potatoes is not the most labor-intensive part. You're not going to make that many fries; just a few batches, and that's it for the night. Dealing with the oil is the far bigger chore, and frozen fries don't help you with that. In a commercial kitchen, I'm sure it's the other way around. The oil is always going, and they have a system for filtering or disposing of it. The labor would all be in the prepping of the high volume of potatoes.

Also, I have to wonder why, if Keller is so pleased with the quality of frozen fries, he bothered including a recipe for frites in his book, Bouchon. One certainly gets the impression from reading the recipe that the restaurant uses fresh cut potatoes. The recipe certainly does not read: "1) open box, 2) toss in Frialator." In any case, when I made the fries from that recipe, they turned out well, and in fact, I think I liked them more than I liked the frites I've eaten at Bouchon.

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The real reason Keller uses them is probably the second reason quoted in the Grub Street article... capacity, which is another way of saying 'cost'. Peeling, chipping and blanching 200lbs of spuds a day takes a lot of labour. And labour, especially in union hotels in Las Vegas, costs money.

Sysco fries are not simply frozen spuds, they're pre-blanched. http://www.sysco.com/products/productpage....&ctID=36&ptID=1

This means they can be cooked by a monkey, and they go frozen from the 40lb plastic-lined box into the deep fryer, and then onto your $30 plate. Just like at TGIMcFunsters, other than the $30.

That's not a product I associate with fine dining. You already eat Sysco fries everywhere; they supply their products to 400,000 outlets ranging from prisons to, well, Bouchon.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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All the frozen fries I've ever seen have been blanched. I'm not sure there's such a thing as non-blanched frozen fries. Or maybe there is.

Why are people assuming Sysco fries are better than supermarket fries? Since when is Sysco so great? I've seen several high-end natural/organic brands of frozen fries at regular stores. In particular, the Cascadian and Alexia brands should be pretty widely available.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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All the frozen fries I've ever seen have been blanched. I'm not sure there's such a thing as non-blanched frozen fries. Or maybe there is.

Why are people assuming Sysco fries are better than supermarket fries? Since when is Sysco so great? I've seen several high-end natural/organic brands of frozen fries at regular stores. In particular, the Cascadian and Alexia brands should be pretty widely available.

I suppose because it's been hinted (but not proven) that Keller uses the Sysco fries.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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The supermarket frozen fries I have tried haven't tasted good, have had a strong bitterness that is either unfreshness or something added in processing.

Haven't looked for organic brands, but the citric acid idea is worrisome, if the taste survives the frying. Because taste is the most important thing.

The self-brand ones from Smart & Final, a self-serve restaurant supply-lite place, are worlds better, really good, in fact, and are what I use when using frozen. One doesn't always want a 5-lb. bag, the smallest unit available, but somehow one manages. I just looked up their color-retention additive: Sodium pyrophospate.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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That's not a product I associate with fine dining. You already eat Sysco fries everywhere; they supply their products to 400,000 outlets ranging from prisons to, well, Bouchon.

Of course, Sysco sells more than one type of fry, and not all of them are available to every customer.

For restaurants (at least here), the price of raw potatoes fluctuates. The cases of frozen product from Sysco (or wherever) stay relatively stable.

For home, if I'm going to the trouble of frying them, I'm going to use fresh potatoes and double-fry them.

PS: I have a few bags of sysco fries in my freezer at home. They're well aged, but I should try a side-by-side taste test.

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Ore-ida extra crispy steak fries are secretly laced with crack. At least, that is the only explanation I can come up with for my unholy addiction to them. When making homemade fries I follow the Cook's Illustrated technique of removing a lot of the starch from the potatoes, then adding some back on in the form of cornstarch. Crispy and wonderful, but I think that Ore-Ida still has me beat. Still working at that...

thanks i will buy a bag (aka sack bitday gbalert! haha)

of these sounds well....

good!

s

:smile: Apparently I am missing something, or am simply completely lacking as a foodie. I think making good fries at home is a lot of work -- just cutting up a potato and double-frying it does not a good fry make. Hence, my near-complete reliance on frozen, additive-laden, non-Keller-approved grocery store fries. I simply have not been able to replicate the required ultra-crisp exterior/soft interior, well-balanced flavor that I desire. My homemade fries have always turned out too greasy, too soft, to bland, too inadequate... ack! I am jealous of the collection of fry-mavens here - maybe someday I too can join your ranks!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I always have a bag of frozen french fries in the freezer. Not for making french fries, but for dicing and adding to scrambled eggs, along with tomatoes, onions and chiles for breakfast burritos/tacos.

So, like most things, sometimes.....

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Slightly OT, but I've had great success with the method described in one of Steingarten's books (and anecdotally attributed to one of the great french three star chefs as his "home fries" recipe): No blanching, no double frying. Instead start the fries in room temperature oil and crank the heat to max. Once the oil reaches a certain temperature, the fries are done.

The idea is that the gradual heat increase first cooks the potatos and then crisps them.

Has worked like a charm for me (soft inside, very crisp outside, nice color), but I'm not a frequent maker of fries so I don't have much in the way of comparision. Also, I have a gas range so I can crank up the heat pretty high.

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Slightly OT, but I've had great success with the method described in one of Steingarten's books (and anecdotally attributed to one of the great french three star chefs as his "home fries" recipe): No blanching, no double frying. Instead start the fries in room temperature oil and crank the heat to max. Once the oil reaches a certain temperature, the fries are done.

The idea is that the gradual heat increase first cooks the potatos and then crisps them.

Has worked like a charm for me (soft inside, very crisp outside, nice color), but I'm not a frequent maker of fries so I don't have much in the way of comparision. Also, I have a gas range so I can crank up the heat pretty high.

Interesting. Do they not soak up a lot of oil as they come to temperature? What sort of potatoes are you using - baking or boiling? This sounds so wrong that if I had potatoes in the house I would just have to try it! :shock: But it obviously works for you! Thanks for sharing.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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My mother uses a related method to good effect. The absorption problem isn't significant when you're talking about solid pieces of potato. If you have something that's breaded, shredded, etc., then this method will be a disaster. But for plain potatoes it works. Probably worth its own topic if we don't have one already.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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