22 June 2012

Making your own heat

Making French fries at home is nearly a requirement when you don't go out to restaurants very often. We were in the U.S. in May, and we ate in restaurants nearly every day. And most of the meals included French fries, unless we had a big salad for lunch. That's too many fries, of course, but you just have to have good fries a couple of times a month.

The stainless steel SEB FR404800 deep fat fryer

French fries, or frites (pommes frites, or pommes de terre frites) appear on menus nearly as often in France as in the U.S., of course. You might think they were invented in France, but according to most experts French fries are actually Belgian in origin.

The lid, with its built-in permanent filter, is dishwasher-safe...

I bought a new fryer recently. We already had one, a Kenwood model, but it was (and is) very hard to clean. It cooks potatoes just fine, but that's not enough. When I ordered it online from Darty years ago, it was advertised as having a bowl that could be removed for cleaning, but that was not true. Caveat emptor. I should have returned it, but it was too much trouble.

...as is the stainless fry basket.

The new fryer, a SEB model, comes completely apart, and all the pieces except the electric heating element/control panel can go through the dishwasher. It's all stainless steel — the old Kenwood fryer has a fixed aluminum bowl inside a plastic housing.

The heating element / control panel is removable too.

For many years, the most popular meal served in French restaurants was steak with French fries — the famous steak-frites. It probably still is, though the proliferation of fast-food restaurants has made the hamburger with fries a big competitor. Omelets, too, are often served with fries. Fish and chips — fried fish filets with French-fried potatoes — is common in Great Britain and most of the U.S., but you hardly ever see that combination in France.

The SEB fryer in all its disassembled glory

I won't use the new fryer to cook anything besides potatoes. I'll use frozen frites much of the time, but I'll start a new round of experiments with making fries using different varieties of fresh potatoes. I have chef Joël Rebuchon's book of recipes for cooking potatoes every way you can imagine (Le Meilleur et le plus simple de la pomme de terre), and I'll be working my way through that one again.


  1. It's the deep fried breaded camenbert that I wanted a fryer for. Didn't get one because of the cleaning afterwards, that kit looks super and we shall be interested to see how it performs and gets washed up!

  2. Ken, Have you heard of potato cakes or as they call them in QLD AUST, scallops. then the call scallops - tasmanian scallops.
    Anyway I reckon that fryer of yours is perfect for potato cakes - I'll send you some info on email.
    Two things I crave when we get home from France are meat pies and potato cakes with salt and vinegar.

  3. Lesley, I'll be sure to let you know. I went out and bought four liters of peanut oil this morning, so we'll try it out this weekend.

    Sue and Leon, I'd love to have the info and recipe for potato cakes. Rebuchon has many recipes for fried potatoes that I will be trying.

  4. What do you do with the used oil?

  5. Getting new kitchen equipment is exciting - I hope you're happy with it and it makes great frites !!

  6. Hi Carolyn, the filtered oil can be used and re-used for quite a while, if you're careful with it (store it at cold temperature, etc.). Then it just goes into the garbage. I don't think vegetable oil harms the environment too much.

    Jean, we hope so too...

  7. I believe Willie Nelson uses
    old cooking oil (processed
    somehow) to fuel his tour

  8. Wow, what a handy style of fryer! For similar reasons as yours, I was glad when they started making crockpots/slow cookers with a removable bowl-- they were so very hard to handle to clean before that.

    Ditto Carolyn's question about the oil-- but (having never, ever used a fryer in my life), how do you store the oil in between uses?

  9. We have come to love sweet potato fries. (My Southern roots are showing!) Many restaurants are serving them now, with various dipping sauces. We are trying to avoid fats, though, so I just make them in the oven at home with various spices or just a spritz of salt.They are even available pre-cut in the grocery freezer section, but I usually cut my own.

  10. Ken

    We had crispy french fries like this picture at MAG in Bethesda last month. They feel more like chips than fries -very crispy and I was told that they wash the 'julienned" slices in water to remove the starch and then they are double-fried before serving.


    It is supposedly their signature fries - too crispy when eating with a steak as far as I am concerned.

  11. Ken, Regarding the oil ... Mind you I don't want to teach any lessons, but being Belgian I know what I'm talking about ;)! You shouldn't use it more than 10 times. Even if you're filtering it. It really isn't good for you after that. The used oil/or solid fat if you're using that, needs to be taken to the container park - don't put it with the everyday garbage as it needs to be recycled as 'bio-diesel' aka organic fuel for cars and trucks!

  12. Don't know if you've investigated, but you can now buy ready to bake fries in most American markets. They're not bad. I prefer the sweet potato fries.

  13. I always thought double-frying was the key to heavenly frites. THe frozen ones you get in the US are already par-fried, so frying them instead of baking them in the oven gives you great results. Of course, baking yields a decent result and is kinder to the cholesterol.

  14. Thanks for all the comments. They sell those bake-in-the-oven fries here too. Frying is better, and double-frying freshly cut potatoes is the way to go.

    Martine, I agree with what you say about re-using oil a limited number of times. I'm not producing industrial, fast-food quantities of used oil, as you know. Filtering the oil and not letting it burn are important safeguards, and that's why an electric, temperature-controlled friteuse is well adapted to the task. As I said, I fry only potatoes in the oil that I re-use. Frying other foods "contaminates" the oil, giving it unwanted flavors.

    Susan, the oil I use is cholesterol-free, so that's not an important issue. It's just the calories... but with a balanced diet and some exercise, ça passe.

  15. Judy, the oil can be stored in the fryer itself, covered, in a cool place like a cellar. And with this fryer, the removable stainless steel bowl full of oil can be stored in the fridge.

  16. Your new fryer with all of it's removable parts seems to fit your needs, Ken. I have been "off" french fries and all fried foods for many years now with just a few weaknesses I must admit to!!!

    However, for a dinner party last weekend I made a Martha Stewart recipe for baked sweet potatoe fries in the oven, of course.

    Margaret - I would be most intrigued to learn about your recipe - did your fries come out crisp? Martha's recipe did have chili powder and sugar tossed on with coarse salt and pepper. Everybody raved but my daughter thought they would be better if crisp!

    Mary in Oregon

  17. Mary in Oregon, unless you have serious weight problems, I think it's a shame to completely deny yourself the pleasure of eating French-fried potatoes — at least once in a while.

    Anyway, I've had very good sweet potato fries in restaurants (and some not so good) but I haven't been successful in making crispy ones myself. Maybe it's time to try again. I bought a big sweet potato just yesterday. I think the sweet potato strips need to be dredged in flour or cornstarch before frying.

  18. I keep marvelous memories of the sweet potato chips we ate with Evelyn Lewis and their sweet friend in Washington at a great soul food restaurant :-) I think it was "Art and Soul" 415 New Jersey Avenue, NW
    Washington, D.C. 20001


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