The Anatomy of a French Fry
"If you look at a perfect french fry, what you want is a nice, fluffy, potato-y interior, and a really crisp, almost shattering, almost thin glass-like crust on it. You want it to be super crisp, you want it to stay that way for a long time.”
Hungry? Then you might want to pay close attention to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He’s the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats and the writer behind The Food Lab, a column about using science and technology to advance the art of home cookery. When he’s not busting food myths or coming up with improvised cooking techniques, he’s hacking McDonald’s french fries.
In 2010, Kenji used his biochemistry training and a bit of social engineering to reverse engineer the recipe for thin and crisp fast food fries. And in an upcoming Spark interview, he shares his secrets with Nora. It turns out that hacking a perfect french fry all boils down to one word: pectin.
"[Pectin] is essentially like a cellular glue. It holds plant cells together. It’s what makes an apple crisp or makes it so a potato doesn’t fall apart. When you boil pectin it eventually breaks down. But the pH level, which is the acidity level of the medium you’re boiling in, can have a big effect on how fast that pectin breaks down. By lowering the pH of the cooking liquid—that is, by adding acid to it—you can actually inhibit the breakdown of pectin."
So what’s the key to keeping french fries crispy and intact? Take a moment to figure it out, but if your stomach can’t wait any longer then check out Kenji’s answer.
Keep your eyes and your Yukon Gold potatoes peeled for more from Kenji in the coming weeks.
(Photo credit: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt)