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For Restaurant-Quality French Fries, Start with Cold Oil

Make delectable fries (and brussels sprouts!) with half the usual amount of oil and without all the mess.

Published Mar. 3, 2021.

It’s been a year since I had french fries. To me, french fries are best when eaten at a restaurant, and I haven’t done that in, well, a year. In order to get my fry fix, I’m going to have to make them at home.

If I’m going to make my own fries, I want them to be restaurant-quality, and I want the cooking process to be as streamlined as possible. Enter: cold-start frying. This technique uses half the oil, skips the double frying, and still achieves crunchy fries with deep potato flavor. (It also minimizes mess and any scary splattering.)

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In cold-start frying, a deep pot filled with oil and vegetables (potatoes, brussels sprouts, or any nonbattered vegetable) is set over high heat; as the oil heats, the food slowly softens and cooks through, browning and crisping up at the end as the oil eventually reaches a boil. It requires less oil and little temperature monitoring. (Our all-time favorite deep pot is this 7¼ quart Dutch oven from Le Creuset.)

See the technique in action in this video for our Easier French Fries recipe.

If you’re worried about your food coming out greasier with this method, don’t be. Vegetables fried using the cold-start method spend more time in the oil than when using the more traditional frying method, but they don’t taste or feel greasy—and they’re actually lower in fat. As the vegetables cook, they lose surface moisture, which is replaced by oil. Because the cold start cooks them more gently, less moisture is lost, and less oil is absorbed during frying.

One note before you cold-fry: Don’t try this technique with anything with a coating or batter. Batters need to hit hot oil to set up, so the method won’t work with fried chicken or onion rings. (But hey, you can always order takeout for those.)

How to Fry French Fries Using the Cold-Start Method

See our full recipe for Easier French Fries.

  1. Cut 2½ pounds unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes into ¼ by ¼-inch sticks.
  2. Combine potatoes and 1½ quarts peanut oil in large Dutch oven. Place on stove, turn heat to high, and cook until oil reaches rolling boil, about 5 minutes.
  3. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes start to turn golden and exteriors are crisp, about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir potatoes with tongs and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, another 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer fries to paper towel–lined rimmed baking sheet to drain. Season with salt to taste, and serve.

How to Fry Brussels Sprouts Using the Cold-Start Method

See our full recipe for Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Dipping Sauce.

  1. Trim 2 pounds brussels sprouts and halve them through stem.
  2. Combine brussels sprouts and 1 quart vegetable oil in large Dutch oven. Place on stove and turn heat to high.
  3. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until brussels sprouts are dark brown throughout and crispy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Transfer sprouts to paper towel–lined rimmed baking sheet to drain. Roll gently so paper towels absorb excess oil. 
  5. Season with salt to taste, and serve.

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