Air Fryer French Fries

I recently broke down and bought an Air Fryer. I try not to buy into fads or gadgets, so before my purchase, I wanted to try one out. As luck would have it, I took a trip to Idaho to visit my mother-in-law. Because of wildfires and Covid, we spent most of the 5 days indoors with not much to do but cook, eat, and take lots of naps. The first day we went down to my brother-in-law’s house, which is just down the street. While poking around his kitchen, I saw an air fryer. Bingo! We took it with us back to mother-in-law’s house, and after a thorough cleaning (it hadn’t been used in a few years), we took it for a test spin.

The first test was French Fries. I didn’t remember to take a photo, but I did a quick search on how to do them, and then realized the air fryer we were using had a French Fry button, so we used that. They came out pretty well! The next experiment was Shrimp Po-Boys. I had recently seen a recipe that looked good on an episode of Cook’s Country. I don’t have a subscription, so instead of downloading the recipe, I had to watch the episode twice and write it down, but that works too! Of course, they deep fry the shrimp, but I thought it could work in the air fryer too. I was right! This was fairly easy, and made 6 sandwiches with the shrimp we had. 5 of us finished off all of them. The next test was Fish Tacos. This was a tricky one because you can’t really use a wet batter in an air fryer. After looking at a bunch of different recipes (some used a panko coating, which might be good, but is not a Baja Fish Taco) I settled on a combination of recipes (of course) and went with a flour, egg batter, the flour again method, much like the shrimp in the po-boys. The result was good, although I’d love to tweak it a bit in the future.

Fast forward to home. I decided that I didn’t want to buy a big, bulky air fryer that would take up too much counter space and only have one function. After all, the main reason I wanted one was because I dislike the mess that regular deep frying makes. That, and not having a way to reliably control the oil temperature and then having to get rid of used oil were all incentives. Plus I don’t really deep-fry all that often. So I decided on the Cuisinart Toaster Oven-Air Fryer combo. That would allow me to ditch my old Cuisinart Toaster, so counter space loss was minimal.

I’ve done a few experiments so far; some successful, some not so much. I made Swedish Meatballs, which I normally fry, and they came out fantastic! I’ve made loads of beautifully even toast.

But what about the fries, you ask? I’m getting to that. I usually make fries in the oven, and they are good, but I wanted to see if the air fryer would make them better. I found a recipe in the NY Times, which is usually a very reliable source. I followed the instructions, but with my thicker cut fries. The result was just ok. The recipe cooks the fries twice, and I think I just didn’t cook them long enough on the second go-round, since I was afraid of burning them. So I decided to do a test today, as I had some time and just happened to have three potatoes!

For the first test, I decided to go with the exact method in the NY Times recipe. I cut the potatoes very thin (¼”) on my mandolin. Then I soaked them for ½ hour, air fried them at 350F for 10 minutes, laid them out on a paper towel for ½ hour, then air fried them again at 400F for another 10 minutes. Pretty decent result, but these fries were just too skinny for my taste. They look really nice in the photo, but in reality, they were like shoestring fries.

I wanted to see if I could get a good result with just cooking the thicker fries with no soaking, and no double frying. So I went with 400F for 15 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through. Not bad at all. They were cooked all the way through, and had a nice color, but they could have been a bit crispier. Funny, with my usual thicker cut, I get 12 fries per potato, give or take 1 or 2. With the ¼” cut, I got probably around 30 fries. I didn’t count. And although it is still one potato, it just looks like so much more. I wonder if cutting them smaller would result in me eating fewer?

Now I was down to my last potato. I decided to try the soak, then double fry method, but with a thicker cut. Similar to what I did the other night, but really taking my time and letting them go till they were a deeper golden brown. The theory is that soaking in cold water, plus resting between cooking will make them crispier on the outside.

The result was a much, much better fry. I did the water soak for 30 minutes, then made sure to preheat the air fryer for a good 10 minutes; first fry at 350 for 10 minutes, rest on paper towel for 30 minutes, preheat the air fryer for another 10 minutes at 400, then fry for 12 minutes, flipping over after 5 minutes. Then I set them on a wire rack to make sure they didn’t steam, but had plenty of air circulation. This one was the clear winner! I do think that next time, I might try for somewhere in between the super thin ¼” fry, and my thick cut ½” fry. As always, the quest for perfection continues. Stay tuned…

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