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My Home Fries are Terrible

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I've been trying to make good, crispy home fried potatoes for years, and they always turn out either too grasy or soggy. I've carefully followed numerous recipes, sometimes cut back on oil or butter, but the results just don't cut it.

This morning I followed a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, and finally got a nice, crispy outside, but the taters were still greasy and soggy.

Here's the recipe and technique I used. The only change was that I used a mixture of olive oil and butter in which to cook the potatoes. Any suggestions to get a less greasy and soggy result?

Test Kitchen Discoveries

Use medium-starch or waxy potatoes so that they retain their shape through cooking. Our favorites include Yukon Gold, all-purpose, and red potatoes.
Parcook the cubed potatoes--tossed with butter--in the microwave before frying them.
Sauté the onions separately and stir them into the potatoes just before serving. Cooking the onions with the potatoes detrimentally affects the crust.
For herb-flavored potatoes, add chopped fresh basil, parsley, thyme, and tarragon to the cooked potatoes. Dried herbs won’t taste nearly as good as fresh.

Although we prefer the sweetness of Yukon Gold potatoes, other medium-starch or waxy potatoes, such as all-purpose or red-skinned potatoes, can be substituted. If you want to spice things up, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (4 medium), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion , chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper

1. Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl, top with 1 tablespoon butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking bowl (without removing plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty, 9 to 12 minutes. Stir in onion, garlic salt, basil, parsley, thyme, tarragon, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve.

post #2 of 16
Maybe half the time I manage to get mine crisp all around. Those are the times I am patient -- letting a good crust form, the stirring the potatoes so that another side is in contact with the pan, then letting them sit, then stirring, then letting them sit, and so on. Also, I prefer to use a floury potato (baking potato) that I've parcooked. AND I cut the pieces a bit smaller, no bigger than 1/2 inch. Finally, I think it's important to serve them IMMEDIATEDLY.

As for greasy -- what's wrong with that? :lol:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #3 of 16
Wouldn't it be better to par cook them AFTER you've fried them golden brown & delicious? Also, wouldn't it be better to use cold spuds during the frying part?

My thoughts would be that high heat and cold spuds would create a great crispy crust with underdone insides. You can then finish them in either the oven or the microwave for soft fluffy insides.

Just my thoughts and I've not tried it yet so I don't know the answer.
post #4 of 16
Are you moving them too much? Overcrowding the pan?

You may want to try having one, even layer of potatoes and letting them sit there until golden brown and crispy. Turn them once. Cook them in a good amount of oil so they don't stick, and if needed drain them on a paper towel to reduce the oil when they come out of the skillet.

I also don't understand how the potatoes can be crispy but still soggy and greasy??? Try draining them, only advice I can give.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
I moved them not at all. They were in one layer and were flipped when the underside was brown and crispy. It's possible that they were too close together, although they were in one layer. Good point, though.

I wish i knew how/why the insides were soggy and mushy.

I'm on a quest to make home fries the way I like them. Any other suggestions would be most welcome.

post #6 of 16
Now I'm confused: was it one layer of potato cubes, and the inside of each of the cubes was mushy, or was it more like a pancake with a top and bottom crust but a mushy inside? Because if you do them as a pancake, and not move the potatoes except to flip the whole thing, of course the inside will be cooked and soft but not crisp! You do have to stir the cubes from time to time, but only after a crust has formed on a side of each cube. So that basically means flipping each cube around onto each of its six surfaces. You can do this even if there is more than one layer of potatoes, it just takes a little longer.

Rob P.: What did you mean by "par cook them AFTER you've fried them golden"? You do understand that "par cook" is short for "partially cook," right? You partially precook the potatoes so that they will be cooked through when you're done. Blanching french fries in oil is par cooking them -- so that when they got through the final frying, they will be cooked all the way through. Otherwise you'll you'll have crisp, brown potatoes that are still raw on the inside -- or cooked through on the inside but burnt on the outside. I mean, you probably could finish the potatoes in the oven, but it's difficult to do that without repeatedly stirring them, or burning them because you have the heat up so high.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #7 of 16
Ok, now I'm confused. Parcooking is partially cooking so if you fry them halfway first then you still have to partially or finish cook them afterwards. Right? So, are we talking semantics or am I mixed up? Most likely me 'cuz heating water is sometimes tough for me to do without burning something. (<-- not kidding.)

I do know that if I fry something and then bake it in the oven to finish cooking fully, the outside usually doesn't burn if the heat is kept low(er). I don't usually use high oven temps except for browning/broiling or baking when called for. Cubed potatoes shouldn't need more than 275-300 for 20 minutes or so to finish cooking them if the cubes are smallish. Do this on a sheet pan & stir a couple of times. Dead easy since this is how I roast veggies only with less heat and time.

I'm going to try this tonight and let you know how it works.
post #8 of 16
Normally I'd parboil the potatoes first, whole, that should cut down on the grease factor. (It really depends on how thick you cut the potatoes, if they are sliced thin enough, this can be done raw) Cool them, cut them, while getting a sheet pan hot in a hot oven, I'd say around 425 or 450. Toss the potatoes in oil and seasonings, and then put them on the hot pan (you want that SIZZLE noise!), shaking gently to evenly disperse the potatoes. Drop them in the oven, preferably on the bottom rack, cook until potatoes are browned, stirring them around for even browning.

Or, parboil them as above, cool, cut, and cook them in a cast-iron over the burner, stir only as needed, lest you break up the potatoes and that they get as much browning and crispiness as possible.

For both methods, let the potatoes brown and get that crispiness, don't stir them too much until they're ready to brown on the next side.

Like your recipe stated though, I would also add the onions and seasoning (except salt and pepper) at the end to prevent them from burning, at least in the second method, in the first method of roasting, the herbs can be added at the beginning. (You can also add herbs and fresh garlic to the water when you boil the potatoes, that adds really good flavor!!!)
post #9 of 16
I get perfect home fries every time, Shel; dry and tender on the inside, crisp and brown on the outside, and just a sheen of oilyness. All I can do is tell you how I do it---which is the method I learned from my father.

To begin with, start with baked potatoes. Cut them in small hunks.

Heat the pan, add a film of oil, and saute the onions until they just start turning translucent. If necessary, add a little more oil, and toss in the spuds. Salt and pepper them well. Let them cook until they start to brown and turn crisp, then flip. Continue like that until they're crisp on all sides; by which time the onions should be all but burned.

A note on cutting the spuds. Been my experience that if they're all the same size & shape they tend to stick to each other and not brown evenly. What I do is create pieces that are roughly the same size, but randomly cut. Yeah, I know that sounds contradictory. But try this: Quarter the cooked spud lengthwise. Then to a rough roll-cut. That should create the sort of pieces I mean.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #10 of 16
That sounds awesome, I'm gonna make that! what kinda potatoes do you use?
post #11 of 16
The method:

I peeled raw taters and split them lengthwise once down the center. I then sliced them into about 3/16" thick half-moon slices. Heat just enough canola oil in a skillet to cover the bottom of the pan and then toss in the spuds. Use a large pan; mine was 12". Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 (I had a roast in there so I was already hot).

I cooked for about 3 minutes on med high then flipped with a spatula and stirred/poked gently to separate the sticky ones. Cook for a bit more and then toss in onions and peppers. Stir once more to brown the ones you missed the first time. A minute or so more and then I put on a sheet pan. Season with S&P and slide into the oven.

I stirred twice in 20 mins while baking in which I used the spatula to flip the slices.

The results:

The potatos were brown and the onions/peppers caramelized nicely. The outside of the slices were soft not crisp like a frenchfry. The inside was fluffy. Not greasy but not crispy. No "bite" at all to the interior so they were fully cooked.

They were even better as leftovers for lunch today after the flavors matured.

I think that if I wanted "french fry" consistency I'd have to deep fry them. Otherwise, the method I used gave me results consistent with "home fries" I've had just about everywhere. I would think that "Potatos O'brien" would require starting with the cold baked potatos and then dicing & sauteing/frying them over high heat to quickly brown the outsides and give a crisp exterior(sounds yummy).
post #12 of 16
Whatever's available. Usually russets, because that's what I keep on hand as my standard potato.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #13 of 16
I have had some really great results starting with raw red skin-on potatos that are rough chopped. I use a half and half mixture of canola and extra virgin olive oil, onions and seasoning.

Start off with a hot pan preferably a non-stick 12" pan and add the onions. I like to use red or sweet onions once the onions start to go clear as mentioned above toss in the potatoes and add some salt and pepper. Instead of stirring I pick up the pan and angle it forward letting the food slide forward and then I flip the potatoes several times. I have found too much spatula or spoon use starts to leave "tool marks" on the potatoes and they stick or fall apart.

Once everything looks good and I have a good skin on the potatoes and carmelized onions I put the pan in the oven at 350 degrees on the lowest rack for about 10 minutes or so to finish them up. Pull them out and fork test and let go a few more minutes if necessary.

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox
post #14 of 16
Well, the ones I made last night were delicious and nicely browned, but not very crisp. But they were DELICIOUS, so I didn't mind. :lol:

I used:
  • Duck fat (so you know they would be delicious)
  • One small onion and a large shallot, diced fine
  • Sliced fennel bulb
  • Duck fat
  • Cold baked potatoes -- russets -- cut into even-size and -shaped pieces
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Duck fat
  • S&P

Melted duck fat in large saute pan. Sauteed onion and shallot until starting to brown. Added fennel and cooked until it started to soften. Removed from pan and set aside. Melted more duck fat, added potato cubes. Let sit over medium heat. Stirred. Let sit. Stirred. Let sit. etc. When almost ready to serve, added back the vegs, mixed in the thyme, seasoned, and served. (No I didn't really add even more duck fat. ;) ) Did I mention they were delicious? :lol:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #15 of 16
A dusting of paprika in the final minute or two of sauteeing adds a wonderful browned look and flavor. All the best greasy spoons breakfast places do it.
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
post #16 of 16

Sounds like overcrowded pan, too much stirring at the wrong times, wrong heat, too much oil...if going for cubes.  First, preheat the heck out of this pan.  Preferaby use well-seasoned cast iron.  This will require less oil and has a high heat retention.  Let the oil heat up all the way before you load the spuds in.  You want to get some searing effect or else the spuds will just soak up more oil as the oil heats heats up already loaded with spuds, and you wind up not frying them.


I would not parboil them.  They brown nicer and cook faster, but won't hold up well if you want crisp, thoroughly cooked cubes.  They'll turn to mush.  Any precooked spuds will stick together.  Cut into small cubes.  I would however, rinse the heck out of them to get that starch off, which slows the browning.  Wait until they are thoroughly dry, the excess water won't help you.  Only fill like 2/3 of the pan in a single layer. Give them space, spread them out.   This also stops the pan from losing too much heat, slowing the cooking process, and preventing a sear and allowing more oil to soak in.  I would coat the spuds with oil in a mixing bowl first, so all sides are coated, and use less in the pan.  There is a proper ratio of heat and time that thoroughly cooks, doesn't burn, crisps nicely and doesn't soak up tons of oil.  Play with it.  Cast iron has always worked the best.  Teflon inhibits the browning.  Stainless steel doesn't have the right heat retention and distribution.


You need space in the pan.  Steam that escapes from the spuds as they cook can deter browning and make them soggy.


I would suggest grapeseed oil.  It is lighter than olive or veggie oil, has a higher smoke point, and it's more neutral taste makes them taste and fell less greasy.  I love olive oil, but my HFs always seem heavier and greasier with it. 


Do not salt them til the end, they'll release water.  Hold off on seasoning them at all 'til the end. 

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