French fries and cooking with oil on the range
September 11, 2008 1:25 PM   Subscribe

French fries on stove top because my oven is broken? I don't want to die.

I have maybe three cups of olive oil, though I'd prefer not to use too much of it. (Can I fry but not deeeep fry?) I have a bag of frozen french fries. I have a small-to-medium dutch oven with a lid. I have a stove top. I have a plastic spoon and hardwood spatula thingy.

I have a tendency to burn and maim myself in the kitchen. Please help me make this a happy story.

Do I need additional tools?

What is a reasonable sequence of steps to minimize spattering and potential for horrific accidents?

(google--skillet french fries, stove top french fries, range french fries+safety--was not too helpful, and had no tips to avoid oil splattered into my eyes and death)
posted by zeek321 to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't use olive oil to deep fry. Use a standard vegetable oil or peanut oil.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:35 PM on September 11, 2008

Don't use olive oil; bad flavor for french fries. Don't use plastic or wood; they'll melt or burn/scorch. Get a thermometer meant for deep frying. To avoid splattering, try placing a colander or similar tool with a screen-like face over the top of the pan.

I have a bag of frozen french fries.

Do you have an oven? You can probably bake the pre-cooked french fries...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2008

I'd recommend putting the still-frozen fries and a bit of oil (we're talking a couple of tablespoons here, nowhere near three cups) into a nonstick frying pan. Stir the fries with your wooden spatula-thingy to coat them evenly with the oil. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

When the fries are thawed and have begun to actually cook, turn up the heat to medium high and, if you like, add a bit more olive oil to increase flavor and crispy goodness. I'd also suggest a sprinkle of Italian seasoning or some freshly-ground black pepper.

(Damn it, now you've made me want fries.)
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 1:37 PM on September 11, 2008

Oh wait, the oven is broken. Nevermind.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:37 PM on September 11, 2008

You can cook them in about an inch of oil. (Yes, olive oil isn't the best choice but if it's all you have...)

Put the oil in the pan and put it over medium heat (not full power). Let it heat up for 5-10 min. Test the oil heat by putting in one fry. It should bubble pretty furiously, if it doesn't bubble immediately the oil is not hot enough.

Cook maybe a third of the fries at a time, just enough to have a single layer in the pot. A full bag will overwhelm the oil.

If the oil starts to smoke at all, turn the heat down a little bit. Have the lid at the ready in case of an oil fire.

As far as getting the the fries in there, you probably will have to dump and pray. Just dump them in at arm's length. You might want to put the designated amount in a bowl rather than pour from the bag since there's always some extra ice in the bag which will cause spattering. With the high sides of a dutch oven, you shouldn't get spattered too bad if you stand back.

Stir occasionally with the wood, not the plastic. Cook them until they get brown. If you feel the need to test one, fish it out with the spatula and let it sit for a minute before trying it or you will burn your mouth.
posted by cabingirl at 1:39 PM on September 11, 2008

Don't use olive oil for this. Go get some peanut, canola, or vegetable oil. To deep fry properly (this goes for anything you want to make, not just the fries), you'll need a candy thermometer or similar cooking thermometer to keep an eye on the oil's temperature. Heat the oil at medium until it gets to about 350-375 degrees (don't let the oil get hotter than 400 degrees). Frequent adjustment of the burner will probably be necessary once the oil is at its ideal temp and the fries are cooking. You may also need to get a splatter screen, although there probably won't be too much splatter to cause concern. I wouldn't recommend deep frying unless you can get the thermometer, especially if you're prone to cooking-related accidents.

If you can't get ahold of the extra materials, you could probably just heat the fries up without any oil on the stovetop, since that's what happens in the oven anyways.
posted by puritycontrol at 1:40 PM on September 11, 2008

Olive oil isn't a great oil for deep frying, as it has a low scorch point and also tends to impart its own flavor. Canola, peanut, or even vegetable oil are better, but if olive is what you got, then work with it. You can fry them in an inch or two of oil, in small batches. Heat oil over medium heat, test with a small piece of fry for temperature. When the test fry hits the oil, small bubbles should appear almost immediately. If they don't your oil isn't hot enough and your fries will be greasy. You can also use the end of a wooden chopstick to test to the same effect. Lower the fries in with your wooden spoon; don't dump them in. Fry until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels.

Two extra tips: consider wiping or slightly defrosting the fries before you fry. Any ice crystals or water on the fries will cause them to spatter. Consider getting a "spider" or slotted metal spoon to remove them from the oil. A plastic spoon or spatula is going to be harder to work with and won't leave as much oil behind. If you're going to burn yourself, it will probably be when you put the fries in or take them out, so try to have the right tool. You can also buy spatter screens that look like a big, circular wire mesh with a handle on one end, which you set over the pan in which you're cooking.
posted by ga$money at 1:43 PM on September 11, 2008

Do you absolutely have to have french fries or are you just hungry? If just hungry, put down a thin layer of oil, (about 3-4 tablespoons) in the heated pan (med to medium high). Put however many fries you want to eat. You can dice a small onion and sprinkle across the top, as well as sprinkle some salt, pepper, and paprika. Cover with the dutch oven lid. Cook without stirring or flipping for about 15 minutes. At 15min or so, flip the fries (the ones on the bottom should be a nice golden brown). Cook the other sides for about 5-10 minutes more until some the un-browned fries are browned to the color you like. There should be no oil left in the pan.

If you just want fries, do the same as above, but add a bit more oil. You don't need to have them floating in the oil to get them crispy.
posted by elle.jeezy at 1:43 PM on September 11, 2008

Olive oil is the wrong kind of oil - if it's extra-virgin or virgin, it will burn before it's hot enough to fry the fries. And if it's the expensive stuff, it's a waste to use it to deep-fry. Can you get to a store? A big thing of canola oil is only a couple dollars, and is much more suitable for deep-frying.

The deeper your pan is, the better. Do NOT use the plastic spoon in hot oil. You might want to grab a candy or cooking thermometer if you want to be precise, but it's not critical for frozen fries, which are pretty forgiving - try the bread cube trick instead. You could get a splatter screen if you wanted, but you don't need it.

The most important things to remember: Keep *all* water away from the oil, or you'll have a sputtering, foaming, very dangerous mess. This includes a just-rinsed spatula or other tool - dry everything before it touches oil. And don't drop things into the oil from any height - slide them in, off a plate.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:44 PM on September 11, 2008

Oh preview, how you have failed me.
posted by ga$money at 1:44 PM on September 11, 2008

Smoke points for cooking oil.
posted by grateful at 1:47 PM on September 11, 2008

If they're frozen french fries they're probably already mostly cooked. There's no reason to deep fry them. Do what others have said and just put a small bit of olive oil in a pan and heat them through. Stop calling them French fries and start referring to them as home fries and you'll feel better when you eat your mediocre dinner.

If you're going to run out to the store for ingredients you might as well just run out to McDonald's and get some tasty fries.
posted by bondcliff at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2008

Flagged as delicious
posted by acro at 1:52 PM on September 11, 2008

I do it alla time. Big frying pan. About 1/2 to 1 inch of oil. Medium high heat. Seasoning salt. Lay out one layer of fries, cover while cooking to prevent splattering. I use a pair of tongs (the good kind with the handle) to turn mine after one side is brown. Flipping with a spatula/egg turner splatters too much.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:55 PM on September 11, 2008

I had a roomate from Ireland who would cut up 4 potatoes a night and pan fry them every night using a bit of vegetable oil. He never died. Skinny as a rail too.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:41 PM on September 11, 2008

I survived. Burned some, some were undercooked. I need to use a thinner layer next time. It's hard to keep an eye on them because it did spatter when I took off the lid. Not bad for the first try.
posted by zeek321 at 4:34 PM on September 11, 2008

If I was doing this, I'd probably cook them on a low'ish heat until they'd defrosted and warmed through; followed by high heat until they'd browned.

Generally, with oven fries, they've already got quite a bit of fat (Mmm. It's what makes them Delicious!, and is why you can stick 'em in the oven rather than needing to cook them in more fat); so I'd probably use just enough olive oil to keep things from sticking.
posted by ambilevous at 5:46 AM on September 12, 2008

Alright, I did it again today with excellent results:

1. Heat up the oil in a *completely dry* dutch oven. Thin layer, less than a half inch. If it's not completely dry, that will be extremely dangerous. (I figured that out a long time ago.) The oil needs to be very hot, otherwise the fries soak it up and there's no more oil.

2. There does have to be some dump and pray, as cabingirl puts it above. Dump only enough from the bag to form a single layer in the oil. It will splatter and make lots of noise. It will be scary--stand far back and stand tall. It will get little stings on your hands and forearms... You can use the lid as a partial shield, but it makes it hard to control the bag. Spread the fries thin once you dump then.

3. When you lift the lid, that's prime splatter time because water has collected on the lid and it drips back in. Lift the lid slowly and carefully, let it do its splattery thing from the dislodged water. Then move the lid slightly to the side and then tilt the lid to let the rest of the water drip onto the range (not the burner) and not back into the dutch oven where it will cause more insane, dangerous splatter.

4. When you spatula out the fries, and before you add the next batch, that's when the oil starts popping dangerously again. Be careful. Start again at step 2.
posted by zeek321 at 10:31 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Use the plastic spoon you have to put the fries in the pan. Lift the lid towards you when you go to check the progress, too. Minimizes splatter on you! As previously mentioned, Splatter screens are a great idea. I get mine from the Dollar Tree.
posted by wikkidkiwi at 4:02 PM on September 14, 2008

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