100 Techniques

Technique #65: Start with Cold Oil for Restaurant-Quality Frying

Seeking fantastic french fries? Use this unorthodox technique to achieve professional-level frying.

Published Aug. 28, 2023.

This is Technique #65 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master

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Crispy, salt-flecked, and delectable, deep-fried vegetables are hard to resist. Especially french fries: Having the ability to serve homemade fries with your burgers is a culinary coup. But this can be a challenge to pull off at home.

While everyone loves fried foods, cooking them is quite another story. Submerging food in large quantities of boiling-hot oil results in dangerous and messy splatters.

Plus, with typical recipes for french fries, you’re asked to deep-fry them twice: the first time at a lower temperature to evaporate some water and form a thin crust, and then a second time at a higher temperature to finish cooking and browning them. 

No wonder frozen bags of fries are so popular.

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Why Fry in Cold Oil?

But there is a way to make fantastic french fries from scratch without a double-fried kitchen disaster. Our nontraditional technique starts with cold oil; that is, oil straight from the cupboard. A deep pot, with oil and vegetables inside, 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. 

No Need to Presoak

This cooking method is much easier, requiring less oil and little temperature monitoring. And it minimizes mess and scary splattering. Another bonus with this technique is that, because you use low-starch Yukon Gold potatoes, it allows you to do away with presoaking the potatoes in water to remove excess starch. 

French fries that begin cooking in cold oil.
Drop your potatoes in cold oil. Amazing french fries await.

Fry More than Potatoes

This approach isn’t just for potatoes, though. Fried Brussels sprouts are (well, almost) as delicious as french fries. But with their high moisture content, they’re a prime candidate for throwing angry, splattery fits when submerged into hot frying oil. 

Sure enough, starting them in cold oil calms them right down. If you’ve ever roasted Brussels sprouts, you know they can handle a lot of color, so an extended frying time browns and crisps them up beautifully.

The Science of Cold-Start Frying

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 turn out greasier—they are actually lower in fat. As the veggies 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.

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Step by Step: How to Use the Cold-Start Method

Not only does this technique deliver restaurant-quality fries, it also requires less oil and little temperature monitoring. Rather than gingerly adding presoaked potatoes to boiling oil and flinching at any skin-burning splatter, you can easily heap your ingredients into the pot and start the burner. See our step-by-step guide below for more details.

Step 1: Chop 

Cut potatoes into 1⁄4-inch by 1⁄4-inch sticks.

Step 2: Add Ingredients to Oil 

Stir together potatoes and oil in large Dutch oven. Place on stove, turn heat to high, and cook until oil reaches rolling boil.

Step 3: Cook 

Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are starting to turn golden and exteriors are crisp.

Step 4: Stir 

Stir potatoes with tongs and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp.

Step 5: Drain and Season 

Transfer fries to paper bag to drain. Season with salt.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Now that you know the benefits to frying in cold oil, you can make these recipes that employ the technique. Avoid the mess, dangerous splatter and the need to continually monitor your stove, and end up with better homemade fries.


Easier French Fries

Classic crisp French fries with half the oil and no double-frying? We burned through 50-odd pounds of potatoes to land on an uncommonly easy approach.
Get the Recipe

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Dipping Sauce

Our easy frying method brings out the best in this underappreciated vegetable.
Get the Recipe

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