What You Never Wanted to Know About French Fries
Let me say upfront, that this year has perplexed me in many ways! One of those ways has been … yes, you guessed it French fries. Closing our dining room and switching our model from in-person dining experiences to across the counter in a package has been full of learning! I have to take a step back and remind myself how much I love learning, even though it can sometimes be stressful and painful.
All of you know that food is perishable on its own. And much of our evolution has revolved around this notion (foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Food preservation continues to evolve as we learn more about ways to preserve food (& beverage) and the trade offs associated with some of those methods. There are natural ways to preserve food and there are methods that rely on chemicals and artificial ingredients for preservation. All methods have pros and cons, which I won’t delve into here.
Early on this year, our guests quickly identified a problem with our house made French fries. Long journeys in a box rendered our house fries limp, soggy, and a very different experience from what they were accustomed to when they are fresh out of the fryer in house.
At the time, having one or two other things to do I made the decision to offer a commercial French fry for carry out orders. This product traveled well, and was meant to be a temporary solution to our French fry dilemma. This decision has plagued me since I made it. It simply isn’t how I like to do business. Since we opened, I have strived to provide as natural and wholesome of food as possible. It turns out those commercial fries, while tasty, have 10 ingredients in them and then we add our own seasoning which takes us to 12 final ingredients (with some of them quite hard to pronounce). That isn’t my view of a “natural” product, and we sell A LOT of fries, so it is an important item at Engrained. Personally, and the staff agrees, I don’t think they are as good as our house made fries.
I have been studying and experimenting with the process of making French fries from scratch since college in 1999 when I started working at Murphy’s Pub in Champaign, IL where (at the time) we hand cut our fries. With an engineering degree in hand and much study and experimentation many years later, I can tell you with confidence French fries and food science are complicated.
Over the course of this year, we have worked to modify our internal process of making the house fries, and increased our quality control to create not only a more consistent product, but also one with a better shelf life. I have also received a lot of feedback from guests about preferring our house fries and being a little disappointed when they received the commercial fry with their takeout. For these reasons, I have made the decision to switch back to offering only our house French fries.
We have also discovered that for extended periods of time enclosed in our to go box, the fries will soften up a little. A quick reheat in the oven or toaster oven, will quickly bring them back to their near original glory!
I hope you enjoy our 5-ingredient house made French fry (potatoes, canola oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder).