We Americans love our french fries. We adore them for their crunchy exterior, moist interior and golden brown color. Operators love them for their low food cost and ease of preparation. For these reasons, french fries are a side dish workhorse on most foodservice menus.
One common mistake operators make is purchasing the least expensive fries, assuming that low pound price translates into low cost per serving. However, the cost-per-pound is just one factor that influences profitability.
Think in servings-per-pound. There are differences in yield among french fry products. The primary factors affecting yield are grade, cut size, potato solids and length. A lower price fry on average will yield fewer servings per pound than a higher quality fry of the same cut. The additional servings on a higher quality fry will generate incremental revenues, exceeding any extra cost per serving.
High Solids/Low Moisture
Make sure the fries you buy are made from high solid/low moisture potato varieties (check with your supplier). Solids are communicated in percentages. For example, if a french fry has 31% solids, it means 31% of the product is potato and oil and 69% is water. As a rule, the best fries have solids contents of about 21%.
Why is this important? Because high solid french fries absorb less fat, have a consistent golden color when prepared, provide a more true potato taste, stay crisper and hotter longer and shrink less than low-solid versions. Also, high-solid french fries have had most of the water processed out of them. Excess water quickly breaks down fryer oil, resulting in high shortening usage and higher expense.
When selecting the french fry product that best suits your needs, consider these variables: shape, length, grade, thickness, skin on/off and flavoring and coatings.
Shape. Traditional french fry shapes include straight cut (also known as "regulars"), crinkle cut and shoestrings. These account for more than two-thirds of industry sales. Other popular shapes include "curlicues," rings and crisscuts, which have a waffle-like appearance. The latter products take up more space on a plate or in a portion pak.
Grade. Frozen french fries are available in two grade levels: U.S. Grade A (or U.S. Fancy) fries have these characteristics: good flavor and color (when baked or fried); are practically uniform in size and symmetry; are practically free of defects; and possess a good texture. U.S. Grade B (or U.S. Extra Standard) fries have reasonably good flavor and color, are reasonably uniform in size and symmetry, are reasonably free of defects and possess a reasonably good texture.
Fry length is not a determining factor of grade. When purchasing fries, focus first on the grade of the product and then specify the length you need. A good rule of thumb: a higher grade product requires fewer fries and less weight to create a serving than a lower grade fry.
Length. USDA specifications for length are: extra long (80% of individual pieces are more than two inches long and 30% are more than three inches long); long (70% are greater than two inches long and 15% greater than two inches); medium (50% are greater than two inches in length; and short (less than 50% are greater than two inches). Proprietary length fries with standards that often exceed those set by USDA are widely available.
Consistently long fries yield more servings per pound and provide better plate coverage. Longer fries also require less oil to fry than shorter ones.
Color. Frozen fries should have a bright white color.
Thickness. This is key because the thickness of your fries will affect preparation time, plate coverage and heat retention capabilities. Regular cuts are typically sold in 3Ú8-in. to 1Ú2-in. thickness; shoestrings from 3Ú16-in. to 5Ú16-in. thick; and crinkle cuts from 5Ú16-in. to 1Ú2-in. thick.
Skin on/off. Fries with skin on are vitamin-rich and offer a homemade or natural appearance.
Flavoring. Flavoring and seasoning levels vary and include "western," "fajita" and "cajun." An added benefit: offering seasoned fries can translate into savings through a reduction of condiment usage.
Coatings. Several years ago, french fry manufacturers introduced a clear, flavorless coating that is applied to fries to enhance heat retention in cooked product up to twice as long as non-coated fries. They are more expensive, but if you need to hold a batch of fries for several hours at a time, consider buying coated fries.
Storage and Handling
Frozen french fries are thin strips of relatively brittle material. When a case of fries is dropped from waist high, up to one-third of the contents can break. Broken fries mean decreased yield, so teach workers to handle cases with care.
Also, for best results, french fries should be stored at zero degrees until just before they are prepared. Partially thawed or "slacked" fries readily absorb extra fat, making them greasy. Carefully rotate french fry cases in your freezer using the first in, first out method. Fries stored too long can develop ice crystals and absorb off flavors. Store fries on floor racks away from walls, blowers and defrost trays. FM