Pommes frites are potatoes that have been sliced into sticks or wedges and then deep fried to become crispy and golden brown on the outside, while remaining soft and warm on the inside. Referred to in the United States (US) and some other regions as “French fries,” they are a staple of many different culinary regions and have become especially popular in the US when served with hamburgers or hot dogs. Pommes frites are typically made using russet or Idaho potatoes and many modern frying methods recommend a double-frying technique.
The French term for potato is pomme de terre meaning literally “apple of the earth,” while frites means “fried,” making the name pommes frites simply mean “fried potatoes.” Potatoes are typically washed and can be peeled, though many times the peel is left on the potatoes for added texture and color. There are a number of different ways a potato can be cut before frying, though sticks, wedges, waffle cuts using a mandolin, and round slices are all fairly common. A large fryer can make the process much easier, though a pot can be used but should not be filled with oil more than half way.
Pommes frites are typically fried in vegetable oil or peanut oil, and the initial frying should be done at about 325° F (162.8° C) for only a few minutes. They should be fried until they are soft and a little golden, but not browned. The potatoes should be fried in small batches to not overcrowd the oil and reduce the temperature too much, and the oil should be allowed to return to 325° F (162.8° C) between each batch.
After this initial frying the potatoes can be refrigerated for several hours until ready to serve or the second frying can be done immediately. In either case, the oil should be brought up to 375° F (190.6° C) and the par-fried potatoes should be brought to room temperature if refrigerated. Once the oil reaches the proper temperature, the potatoes should be fried again in small batches just as before. This should be done for several minutes, until the pommes frites are golden brown and crispy on the outside.
By using a double-frying method, the pommes frites will have a crispy exterior while staying soft but properly cooked in the center. A single fry can make this balance difficult to achieve. The pommes frites can then be sprinkled with some salt, kosher or sea salt is often recommended, and eaten plain or served with a condiment such as ketchup, oil and vinegar, or mayonnaise.