French fries get a bad rap. And it has little to do with what they are. It's how you prepare them that makes the difference. Removing the skin, frying them up and adding salt negates the health benefits offered by whole potatoes. However, if you make air fryer french fries, you can maintain those healthy aspects and eat fries without the guilt. Here's how you can do that.
Potatoes are an incredible source of nutrition. They are packed with vitamin C and vitamin B6. They have more potassium than a banana, and they are a source of calcium, magnesium and folate. Eating a whole potato (including the skin) can help prevent disease, lower blood pressure and aid in digestive health.
Unfortunately, when you remove the skin, submerge and saturate a potato in hot fat, and coat it in salt, it increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more.
If you choose to air fry french fries (from scratch), and you do not remove the skin or add salt, however, you are maintaining the good aspects of a whole potato. This makes your favorite comfort food a good source of nutrition. It also gives you that highly desirable crispy exterior filled with a fluffy interior. And you can air-fry french fries in a fraction of the time it takes to bake a potato in the oven.
When you make french fries, the type of potato you use is critical to having good results. For instance, sweet potato fries sound delicious, but they can be challenging to make in an air fryer because they have a tendency to steam when cooked. This can leave you with soggy fries. You can combat that by only placing one layer of sweet potato fries on your crisper tray and leaving space around them for the air to circulate. But that means you can't make very many at once.
Two better options are Yukon Gold potatoes and russet potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes are semi-starchy and semi-waxy. This means they develop a good crisp but maintain a buttery soft interior that is highly desirable for french fries. If you want fries like you get in a restaurant, however, go for russet potatoes. They have a high amount of starch and little moisture, so they fry up in an air fryer to a nice, crispy texture. Just be careful not to overcook.
Making french fries is not as difficult as you might imagine. You don't want to peel them, so you just need to wash, cut, season and cook. This means your list of tools and ingredients does not have to be extensive.
Potatoes need to be washed before cooking. You can do this by simply running them under water and gently scrubbing without any type of soap. You must do this, even if you are peeling your potatoes — which we do not recommend because the skin has a great deal of nutrients.
After rinsing, you can cut the potatoes into whatever shape you desire, whether it's wedges or julienne. If you are not the most skilled with a knife, a french fry cutter greatly simplifies the task.
Soaking your cut fries in cold or ice water is an essential step. This removes excess starches and sugars, keeps the fries from discoloring before cooking and helps them crisp better. Do this for roughly 30 minutes; then pat them dry. Soaking for longer periods of time doesn't adversely affect the outcome, but if you don't soak long enough, your fries won't crisp as expected.
The best time to season french fries when air-frying is after you lightly coat the fries with oil. This allows the seasoning to stick better and be cooked into your fries for a deeper flavor.
Air fryers are like ovens in that you must preheat them to produce the best results. For most recipes, you will set the temperature to 400 degrees. However, depending on the thickness of your cut and how many fries you make per batch, the cooking time may vary. Setting your timer for 20 minutes and checking on the fries as they cook is a wise strategy for the first time. Additionally, the better the air can circulate around the fries, the better they will cook. To get the best fries, you may need to cook less per batch and make more batches. For example, if your fries aren't coming out as crisp as expected, consider cooking smaller portions.
One benefit of using an air fryer is your french fries are cooked and seasoned at the same time. You don't need to add any seasoning after they come out of the appliance. If you'd like to add grated cheese or serve with a dipping sauce, such as ketchup, ranch dressing or honey mustard, that can give the fries an extra boost of flavor.
The only downside of french fries is they don't have an exciting flavor on their own. If you want to add a little pizzazz to your fries, here are a dozen seasonings to consider. If you want to get creative, mix and match.
If you make too many french fries — is that even possible? — the good news is they are easy to store. All you have to do is place them in an airtight container, seal it up and stick them in the refrigerator. As long as you eat them within about three days, you'll be happy.
If you don't think three days will be enough time, you can store french fries in the freezer. The best practice is to freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet before transferring them into an airtight, freezer-safe container. This method helps prevent your french fries from sticking together when you freeze them.
Reheating fries can be tricky. It’s possible to warm them up and revive them, but often that leaves the fries a little soggy. Ideally, you want to reheat them the same way you cooked them. Place them in the air fryer, leaving room for air to circulate, set the temperature to 400 and heat. Since you are only reheating, depending on the size and efficiency of your air fryer, this should only take three to five minutes. The results will not only be warm, but they will once again be crisp. Just be careful not to overheat them because it won't take the fries long to go from perfectly crisp to burnt.
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.