Q: I have problems with homemade French fries being flimsy and not crispy when I prepare them in my deep fryer. Kim Anderson, Lakeland, FL
A: Generally, when you're frying anything, the most important thing to be aware of is the oil temperature. If the oil's too hot, then the fries will burn on the outside before cooking through on the inside; if it's too cold, they'll absorb too much oil and get soggy, not crispy.
To get that fluffy-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside texture in your fries, you have a couple of options. First, you could cut the fries extra-thinly (like shoestring fries), so there's less inside to worry about. Or, if you have your heart set on thicker fries, the best way to cook them is Belgian-style: meaning twice-fried. First fry them at a lower temperature (about 325 degrees F) to cook the insides; then fry them at a higher temperature (about 375 degrees F) to crisp up the outsides. This also gives you the cook-ahead advantage blanched (meaning once-cooked) fries can be held for up to a day and fried up when you're ready to serve them.
When you fry, be sure not to crowd the oil the more food you add to the oil, the lower the temperature gets cook in small batches. And, of course, for safety's sake, never fill the pot more than halfway.
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