French fries

This article is about hot deep fried potato slices. See CHIPS (disambiguation) for other uses.
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French fries and a hamburger, a classic combination
French fries, or chips, are potatoes that have been cut and deep-fried (i.e., french-fried potatoes). Called 'french fries' in North America, the name is often shortened to just 'fries'. They are usually known as 'chips' in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Commonwealth, excluding Canada, "patatas fritas" in Spain, and "frites", "frieten" or "pommes frites" in Belgium, France and Germany. In the regions where the word "chips" is in more common usage, the term "french fries" is usually also understood; "chips" in these regions, however, usually refer to much thicker, and slightly less greasy, slices of potato than "french fries" (see fish and chips). Usually, the first f in french fries is not an uppercase f, since it does not refer to the nationality. French fries are distinct from potato chips (also called 'crisps').

The Belgians are noted for claiming that french fries are Belgian in origin, but have presented no absolute evidence; the French have also been cited as possible creators of the dish. The Spanish claim that the dish was invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared via the New World colonies, and then spread to Belgium which was then under Spanish rule. Whether or not french fries were invented in Belgium, they have become the national dish, and they are the "symbolic" creators, at least for the rest of Europe. French fries have gained international prominence perhaps partly due to their pre-eminence in fast-food menus, propagated by fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King (Hungry Jacks in Australia). This came about through the introduction of the frozen french fry invented by the J.R. Simplot Company in the early 1950's. Prior to the legendary hand shake deal between Ray Kroc of McDonald's and Jack Simplot of the J.R. Simplot Company, fries were hand cut and peeled in the back of McDonald's stores, but the advent of the frozen product dovetailed with Kroc's need for quick prep products and expansion of his new franchise across America. In America, french fries are typically served with hamburgers, a latter-day descendent of the French "steak-frites" combination. They are also often eaten with meat, fish, and vegetables or by themselves. They also make up half of the classic food combinations fish and chips and "moules-frites", a popular Belgian dish consisting of steamed mussels and french fries.

The largest producer of french fries in the world is McCain Foods Limited, a Canadian company in Florenceville, New Brunswick. Such is the popularity of french fries that McCain Foods Limited can produce potato products at the rate of more than 1,000,000 lb/h (125 kg/s) in its 30 potato processing plants on six continents around the world.


Origin of the name

The logical explanation of the origin of the North American name of the dish is that it derives from potatoes that have been "fried in the french manner". The English verb fry is ambiguous: it can refer to both to sauting and to deep-fat frying, while the French verb it derives from refers unambiguously to the latter.

Some feel that the word "french" in "french fries" is refers to the verb "to french", which means "to cut in thin lengthwise strips before cooking" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Ed.) On the other hand, "to french" is defined as "to prepare, as a chop, by partially cutting the meat from the shank and leaving bare the bone so as to fit it for convenient handling." (Oxford English Dictionary) in other dictionaries, seeming to suggest that the meaning of this process is not necessarily as set as it may appear. In addition, the verb "to french" did not start appearing until after "french fried potatoes" had appeared in the English-speaking world.

Many other widely disseminated legends for the origin of the name also exist.

By one account, the fried potatoes are called 'french fries' because they are commonly fried in the Belgo-French manner (that is to say, frying them twice with a small pause in the middle). This is plausible, and seems to suggest the word "french" implies the manner in which the food is fried.

Other accounts say that they were once called 'German fries' but the name was changed either for political reasons (Germany was once the enemy of the United States) or simple historical reasons (a traditional theory poses that it was in France during World War I that American soldiers first encountered the dish). This seems unlikely, as Germany was not as famous for its "french fries" as other European countries, in addition to the fact that German immigrants did not seem to bring the dish over to the United States.

Another claim is that the inclusion of the word "French" in the fried potatoes is most likely a confusion as to the nationality of those who introduced the food to American and Canadian soldiers in World War I. When American and Canadian soldiers were stationed in southern Belgium, where many major battles of World War I took place, they were served "pomme frites". Since the region of Belgium the soldiers were in was predominantly French-speaking, the soldiers brought the dish back to the United States as "french fries".


Many possible claims as to the origin of "french fries" exist.

Many attribute the dish to France, and offer as evidence a notation by President Jefferson. "Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices" are noted in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson's hand (circa 1801) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honor Julien. In addition, from 1813 ("The French Cook" by Louis Ude) on recipes for what can be described as "french fries" occur in popular American cookbooks. Recipes for fried potatoes in French cookbooks date back at least to Menon's "Les soupers de la cour" (1755). However, according to the Food Reference Web site, the first reference to French fried potatoes in English was in 1894 in O. Henry's Rolling Stones, "Our countries are great friends. We have given you Lafayette and French fried potatoes." In addition, when the controversy over Freedom Fries first began, the French embassy claimed that the food was actually Belgian.

Belgium itself also lays claim as the "origin" of French Fries, even though it acknowledges the possibility of the dish being from northern France. According to the popular Belgian belief, this recipe for potatoes was first used in the Meuse valley, between Dinant and Lige, Belgium. The poor inhabitants of this region had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals. (Belgian Federal Portal) In 1861, a Belgian entrepreneur named Frits is said to have opened a stand selling this product. He is also said to have given it its own name, frites, which is the french name for the dish in Belgium.

The Spanish claim for originating french fries credits the first appearance of the recipe to have been in Galicia, where it was used as an accompaniment for fish dishes, and from which it spread to the rest of the country and then to Belgium.


French fries have numerous variants, from "thick-cut" to "shoestring", "curly", and "waffle-cut". They can also be coated with breading and spices to create "seasoned fries", or cut thickly (often with the skin left on) to create "steak fries". Sometimes fries aren't fried at all, but cooked in the oven: these are often sold frozen, and are called "oven fries."

In Australia, Britain, Ireland, and many other countries, the term french fries is only used by fast-food restaurants serving narrow-cut (shoestring) fries prepared in the American style. Traditional chips in these countries are usually cut much thicker and cooked for a shorter period of time than American-style french fries, making them less crunchy on the outside and fluffier on the inside. This results in a relatively healthier dish as the area saturated with oil is much less. Chips form one half of the popular British takeaway dish fish and chips. In another example of two nations being divided by their common language, potato chips are called crisps in British English.

According to American culinary celebrity Alton Brown, Belgian pommes frites are usually fried in horse fat. However, he is mistaken, as traditionally, ox fat was used, although now nut oil is usually preferred for health reasons. Belgian fries must be fried twice, and are thicker than french fries, but thinner than British chips. Fries with Mayonnaise is actually the national dish of Belgium and Belgians are very fussy about how their fries are served. Even the smallest Belgian town has its own "frietkot" (a Flemish word literally meaning "fries shack" which has also been adopted by the French speaking part of the country in addition to the French "Friture"), the Belgian equivalent of the British "Fish & Chips", only that its main dish is... fries with mayonnaise. Belgians actually have their "Frites met/avec Mayonnaise" as a main dish, without any side orders.

In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the word chips is used for both forms of fried potato; although the phrase hot chips unambiguously refers to french fries or chips.

Three basic ways to cook them

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French fries cooking in the Jol Robuchon method
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French fries draining after cooking

Most home cooks who prepare french fries from potatoes that they have cut themselves cook them a single time in a generous amount of oil pre-heated to a temperature around 375°F (190°C) until they are golden and slightly crisp. Many restaurants, especially those reputed to have excellent french fries, cook them in two batches: the first at a temperature that varies from chef to chef but that is generally around 350°F (177°C), until the fries are nearly cooked but still limp and pale; the second, after the first batch has been removed from the oil and allowed to cool, at a higher temperature, generally around 375°F (190°C), until they are golden and crisp, which normally takes less than a minute. A third method, invented by the celebrated French chef Jol Robuchon for the home cook, is to put the sliced potatoes into a saucepan with just enough cold oil in it to cover the potatoes, then cook them over high heat until golden, stirring occasionally. Frozen french fries are widely available in supermarkets; it is not unheard of for them to be baked instead of fried.


French fries are almost always salted just after cooking for enhanced taste. They are then served with a variety of condiments, most notably ketchup, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, brown sauce, vinegar (especially malt vinegar) or gravy. In the Netherlands, peanut sauce is also popular (also called satay sauce, after the Indonesian meat sate on which the same sauce is used). The Dutch also use the word mayonnaise to refer to frietsaus (fries-sauce) a thicker, less acidic sauce made specially to accompany french fries. Another interesting combination is Patatje Oorlog (Dutch for: French Fries War), which is French Fries with a variety of sauces which can be regionally different in some regions oorlog means all sauces available will be put on there. One variant is mayonnaise, peanut sauce and raw onions. Another variant is mayonnaise, ketchup (or currysauce a spiced up ketchup variant not the same as the english one!),peanut sauce and raw onions. In Britain, particularly the North of England, curry sauce is available from chip shops.

In Utah, USA, and the surrounding area, French Fries are often served with Fry sauce, a mixture of spices, mayonnaise, and ketchup. In Quebec and New Brunswick, both in Canada, french fries are the main component of a dish called poutine: a mixture of french fries with fresh cheddar cheese curds, covered with hot gravy. In the United States, fries are sometimes coated with melted cheese, called cheese fries. Often this is in combination with chili. Other variations are cheese fries (fries covered with melted cheese usually Cheez-Whiz, mozzarella, or swiss cheese) or garlic and cheese fries (cheese with garlic mayonnaise).

Health aspects

French fries may contain a large amount of fat (usually saturated) from frying and from some condiments or topping and may be bad for the health of those who consume them regularly. Some researchers have also suggested that the high temperatures used for frying such dishes may have results harmful to health (see acrylamides.) In the United States about 1/4 of vegetables consumed are prepared as French Fries and are believed to contribute to an epidemic of obesity. Frying french fries in beef tallow, the traditional McDonald's recipe, produces a very tasty product but adds saturated fat to the diet. Replacing tallow with tropical oils such as palm oil simply substitutes one saturated fat for another. Replacing tallow with partially hydrogenated oil reduces cholesterol but adds trans fat. [1] (

United States political controversy

On March 11, 2003 the cafeteria menus in the three United States House of Representatives office buildings changed the name of french fries to freedom fries in a symbolic culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over that country's opposition to the United States government's position on Iraq. French toast was also changed to freedom toast. In response, the French embassy noted that french fries are Belgian. "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes," said Nathalie Loisau, an embassy spokeswoman.

Even though the name change started with private restaurants across the country and was later picked up by the House of Representatives, many French people considered the quick and highly visible reporting of the name change needlessly spiteful, and a media-driven attempt to direct Americans' attention away from the serious reasons for French opposition. See media manipulation and anti-French sentiment in the United States.

In June 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture, with the advisement of a federal district judge from Beaumont, Texas, classified batter-coated french fries as a vegetable under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. Although this move was mostly for trade reasons (french fries do not meet the standard to be listed as a "processed food"), this received significant media attention partially due to the documentary Super Size Me.

Chips in court

In 1994 the well-known owner of Stringfellows nightclub in London, Peter Stringfellow took exception to McCain Foods use of the name "Stringfellows" for a brand of long thin french fries and took them to court. He lost the case.

See also

External links


fr:Frite he:צ'יפס nl:Friet no:Pommes frites ja:フライドポテト pl:Frytki sv:Pommes frites


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