Exploring the Relationship Between Starch, Sugar, and French Fries

Although French fries are a staple of many restaurants and fast-food places, making the perfect batch of fries involves more than just tossing a basket of sliced potatoes into boiling oil. Every part of the cooking process, including the type of potatoes used, can affect the results. Operators looking to upgrade their menus with the tastiest side dishes need to understand the science of the relationship between starch, sugar, and French fries.

Understanding the Role of Starch and Sugar

Most people know that potatoes are starchy vegetables, but the type and amount of starch can make a huge difference. For example, too little starch can lead to a limp, soggy French fry. Similarly, too much sugar can lead to browning and a burnt, acrid taste if cooked too long.

For these reasons, the most common potato variety used in a commercial fryer is the Russet. These light brown spuds are perfect for frying because they have the right combination of starch and sugar to create a delicious basket of golden fries. The high starch content ensures the outside is crispy while the inside is soft and creamy.

However, just because Russets are the most common option doesn’t mean other potatoes can’t work. For example, Kennebec potatoes have a similar starch/sugar ratio but are smaller, yielding fewer fries. Other varieties work well, too, but sometimes require some experimentation. 

Choosing the Perfect Potato Variety

In the United States, consumers have access to up to 200 unique varieties of potatoes, ranging from commonplace Russets to exotic purple potatoes. With so many options, it would seem that foodservice operators have their pick when determining the best way to upgrade their French fry offerings.

However, while the overall choice of potatoes is abundant, the number of varieties that work for frying is frighteningly small. As a rule, the harder the potato, the better it is for French fries. For example, fingerling or red potatoes are pretty soft, meaning they have less starch and more moisture. So, boiling them in hot oil turns them into a soggy, unappetizing mess.

But, one may ask, what about sweet potatoes?

Sweet potato fries are much more popular today than ever, but they require more diligence and skill to cook correctly. Because they’re not as starchy and have more sugar, there’s an extremely fine line between crispy and delicious and mushy and disastrous.

Another option to consider is blanching. Pre-blanched French fries are a staple of fast-casual restaurants because they’re ready to fry out of the freezer. Operators who want a more “hand-made” side dish must blanch their potatoes (no matter the variety) for perfect results.

Factors Influencing French Fry Quality

While using the right potato is the first step toward making high-quality French fries, there are other things to consider as well, like storage, size, and preparation methods.

For example, potatoes work best in a cool, dry environment. If the humidity is too high, the potatoes absorb too much moisture, leading to soggy fries and violently bubbling fryers. Similarly, if potatoes are stored too long before being cut, the starch can break down into sugar, making it harder to avoid browning each batch.

Large potatoes can yield more fries than smaller ones, so operators will spend less time slicing the fries. Another factor is the skin. Some customers prefer fries with skins, while many others don’t. Peeling the potatoes takes time and labor, so operators must factor that in when developing their fry menu.

Elevate Your French Fry Game With Pitco Fryers

The work that goes into hand-made fries is extensive. However, operators must consider one more factor: the type of fryer they use.

Pitco commercial fryers make frying as effortless and consistent as possible. Automation ensures that the oil is always filtered and topped off, meaning each batch of fries tastes as good as the first. Also, Pitco makes it easier to recycle the oil, helping operators maintain a steady and profitable bottom line.

With the right tools, insights, and techniques, French fries can become a main course, and Pitco fryers can help make that happen.

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Topics: French Fries