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How to Improve My Frozen Fries

Q:

Can you give me some tips to fix the fry problem at my burger joint? I use the same frozen potato supplier, the same vegetable oil, the same dedicated potato fryer and yet I still get complaints. What’s up with that? Every time I work the line the potatoes seem to be just fine. The customer complaints are in order of issues that come up frequently: fries are too soggy, fries are too dark, fries from one batch are both dark and light, and fries are little bitty pieces.

A:

Wow, where to start? Let’s address the DARK FRIES issue first:
The most common problem typically is that someone turned up the temperature on the fryer during a busy period and did not turn it back down (which by the way doesn’t solve the issue during peak periods either). So check the oil temp reading (and confirm with a thermometer in case the fryer is not calibrated correctly).

Another issue, very common, is that the fries were thawed before cooking. Ideally the fries should stay frozen before going into the fry baskets and immediately being plunged into the oil.

FRIES TOO SOGGY:
Your idea of a half full basket and the next person’s interpretation can be very different. To improve consistency and isolate this problem, weigh the amount of potatoes added to the baskets, not just a visual check. Watch a pizza chain or a sandwich chain weigh their ingredients, especially the meats and cheese going on a final product. They do it for a lower food cost but also for consistency.

Only prep as close to what is needed at a time, but also don’t fill the containers till the orders come in. Package as needed as fries cool off quickly and no one likes limp or soggy fries.

Is the fryer oil temperature being allowed to recover before dumping in another batch? This is critical during the busy shifts, which is when I am guessing you are getting your complaints about sogginess.

Is your policy one basket at a time? Dropping two baskets at once is sure to drive down the oil temperatures, making the fries absorb too much and turning limp or soggy.

Is someone leaving uncooked fries in the baskets right over the fryer (causing the fries to thaw and be steamed before cooking).

FRIES DARK AND LIGHT (same batch):
The most common thing that can cause this in the unit is not giving the fries a shake after about 30 seconds in the fryer. This will re-distribute the potatoes and let the oil circulate to cook each fry evenly. The proper procedure is to lift the basket out of the oil and give it a shake before putting back into the oil. If you started with frozen fries in the basket, think in terms of the outside getting cooked way before the center ice mass is cooked, so this method breaks up that cold center.

FRIES ARE ITTY BITTY PIECES:
There are several reasons why this happens. Handling the boxes of fries roughly, a drop from three feet will shatter the frozen fries which may not show till unloaded into the fryer, breaking into smaller pieces. A clue… check the ends of the fries to see if they are just short (smooth cuts) where it will appear that both ends of a fry are cooked equally with the rest of the fry or do you see fractured and jagged edges (broken). Are the fries being tossed or broken when handled in the frying process?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FRIES THAT ARE LIMP OR HAVE LOTS OF BITS IN AN ORDER:
It takes more limp fries to fill a bag or cup. Same thing with bits and pieces versus long fries. Both these issues cost you money with a larger portion than planned, more oil consumption, and more fry usage.

Hope some of these tips help improve the quality of your French fries!