"How do you feel about the fries at In-N-Out?" asks chef David LeFevre. We wrinkle our nose and wonder how such a good fast-food burger can be accompanied by such awful, soggy, lumpen fries. Fortunately, we're in good company. LeFevre, the longtime Water Grill chef who recently decamped to Manhattan Beach to launch his own restaurant, hates In-N-Out's fries as much as we do.
At his new eatery, M.B. Post, he has one cook whose sole job during dinner service is to churn out batch after batch of Fe Fi Fo Fum Fries. LeFevre does this, not just to insure the fries come out the way he wants but because they have become one of the most popular items since the restaurant opened in mid-April. These are Brobdingnagian steak fries, thick as a giant's finger and easily running eight inches long.
In-N-Out's fries are cut from real potatoes and made fresh. That's the good news. Unfortunately, they're fried only once, so they're still rife with moisture, which the begin exuding rapidly as soon as they leave the hot oil. Eat the fries immediately, and they're great. Three minutes out of the fryer, and they've already turned soggy.
All the best fries, LeFevre explains, are at fried at least two, maybe three times. At M.B. Post, the steak fries, are fried four times, at precise intervals in carefully syncopated 32-minute process. Even if you don't have an armada of deep-fryers at the ready, you can take LeFevre's technique to your kitchen and make the perfect steak fries: crisp and golden on the outside, fluffy as a pillow on the inside.
[NOTE: If you have not done any deep-frying, read up on all the proper safety measures and make sure you have the right equipment BEFORE you attempt this technique. Don't mess around with this stuff. Hot oil is dangerous!]
Start with raw potatoes. LeFevre prefers large ones.
Slice off a sliver on the flattest side of the potato (this is so you have less scrap).
Turn the potato on its flat side, cut it into three large sections.
Slice each section lengthwise into large steak fries. Remove any dark spots.
Soak them in cold water to get out the starch and make them more pieces.
Place the fries into a fryer basket. If you're doing this at home and don't have the benefit of a deep fryer, you can use a large, deep pot filled with oil and an inexpensive, round mesh fryer basket.
Have a timer or an iPhone at hand, and set it for 4 minutes. LeFevre says, "All the cooks in our kitchen use their iPhones. No one uses timers.") When the oil is heated to 275° (F), drop the in the fryer basket and keep it fully submerged in the oil for 4 minutes.
The first pass in the fryer is really just to blanche the fries and remove some of the moisture from them. "Blanching in water is sacrilege," LeFevre declares.
Remove the fries from the fryer, gently shake the basket to remove excess oil (be careful when you shake; they can break easily, especially as the frying process wears on) and let them rest for 4 minutes. You can place the fryer basket on a clean paper towel.
Now, you're going to repeat this process three more times: in the fryer for 4 minutes, rest for 4 minutes. Make sure to keep the oil temperature at 275° (F). The oil should bubble and roil when you dunk the fryer basket in it.
You should notice the fries getting browner after each 4-minute session in the fryer.
At M.B. Post, where they do anywhere from 30 to 50 orders in a night, one cook is constantly manning eight different fry baskets (four in oil, four at rest) at two fryers at any given time.
Make sure you DON'T hang the resting fry baskets above the cooking fry baskets because the steam coming off the baskets that are in oil will make the resting fries moist.
The fourth and final pass in the fryer is the trickiest. While the first three times, the fries are cooked precisely for four minutes. The last time, they may need to be cooked a bit longer to make sure
When they come out, they should look like this: golden brown with a crisp exterior.
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Separate the cooked fries immediately, so they don't stick together. Lay them out on a clean paper towel to soak up excess oil. At this point, you can sprinkle them with fleur de sel ("Don't skimp on this!" LeFevre says) and freshly ground black pepper, and be done with it.
Or you can get a little fancy like LeFevre does. He chops parsley and throws it onto the fries along with the salt and pepper. In addition to ketchup, he serves the fries with housemade fry sauce, a mix of mayo, chopped pickles, maybe cumin, paprika and some other spices. You can freestyle it. Throw a little freshly chopped garlic into some mayo, and voila. Use whatever herbs and spices you like.
Place the fries upright in a mug, bowl, jar or clean tin can.