There is something about diner food, or even the suggestion of diner food, that seems to have magical powers over people. One morning a few months ago, I was watching Gilmore Girls and Lorelai and Rory ate some particularly delectable-looking burgers and fries at Luke’s Diner. That night, I was out with some friends and there were at least two of us who said that we’d been craving a big burger and homemade fries all day…and then we realized that we’d all watched Gilmore Girls that morning!

I have so many happy memories associated with food like this–stopping at a roadside diner after swimming all day with friends or family, lots of long summer days and breezy summer nights. Sure, Oven-Baked Fries or Sweet Potato Fries are super-tasty, but every once in awhile, you just need the real thing. And by “the real thing,” I’m not talking Wendy’s–not to diss the perky redhead or anything, but I had Wendy’s fries for the first time in a long time not too long ago an they were not worth the calories.

I do have a couple of tips/precautions, especially if you’re not using a deep fryer (which I don’t; I really don’t fry enough to make it worth it to me).

  • You’re only using a few ingredients, so make sure your potatoes are as fresh as possible; this isn’t the time for those semi-soft sprouters in the bottom of the vegetable drawer…
  • This is a great date-night activity because it helps to have an extra set of hands. It is not a great activity to involve your kids in (at least the frying part). If you do it with small kids around, make sure they can’t get to you while you’re cooking the fries.
  • Definitely wear closed-toe shoes; long sleeves aren’t a bad idea, either.
  • Have all your equipment ready before you start frying
  • Only use canola or peanut oil; they have the highest smoke point of all the oils. Canola oil is better for your heart, so that’s what I use.
  • This sounds like a no-brainer, but don’t touch anything straight out of the oil. When you’re working fast and it looks like you’re about to lose one of your precious little beauties, it might be tempting to grab the sucker before it falls on your (tennis shoe-clad, of course) foot. Just let it go…
  • Don’t be scared, just be careful. This is seriously such a fun thing to do, and as long as you follow the instructions and keep an eye on the temperature of the oil, you’ll be just fine. If you feel better about it, keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Diner-Style French Fries
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High-quality (like stainless steel or cast iron) 8-quart kettle or pot OR a deep fryer with adjustable temperature settings.
Candy thermometer (if not using a deep fryer)
2 paper towel-lined plates (plus extra paper towels)
A wide metal slotted spoon or spatula
A large mixing bowl of ice water
A very sharp chef’s knife


1 lb. Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled (try to keep them small enough to fit in the palm of your hand to make sure they’re easy to cut)
Freshly-ground pepper (optional)
48 oz. canola or peanut oil

Carefully cut potatoes vertically into 1/4″ slices.

Divide stack in half with the flat surface of the potato on the cutting board and carefully cut potatoes into 1/4″ fries (you may need to remove the round top slice and then cut that part later if you find it’s slipping while you’re trying to cut the potatoes).

Toss any pieces that are too skinny–they’ll just burn when you’re cooking–and trim down any extra-large pieces. Place cut potatoes into the bowl of ice water and repeat with remaining potatoes. When finished, pour the entire bottle of oil into the pot/kettle/deep fryer and bring to 325 (keep the candy thermometer in there the whole time) over medium-high heat. When the oil is about 310-315 degrees, drain the potatoes so they’ll be ready to go into the oil as soon as it’s hot enough.

When oil reaches 325, turn the heat all the way up to “high.” Place 1/2 of the potatoes into the hot oil and stir frequently for 5-6 minutes, or just until they’re starting to show signs of being cooked. Remove from the hot oil and drain on one of the paper towel-lined plates. They look a little grim. You may be doubting me. You may be doubting yourself. Fear not! We’re not done yet.

Bring the oil back to 325 and then fry the second batch of potatoes. You know the drill–stir frequently, remove after 5-6 minutes, drain on paper towels.

Now…this is where things get fun. Bring the oil up to 375. When you’re there, add the first batch of fries back to the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes. They’ll get brown and crispy fast, and they’ll continue to brown a little after you remove them from the oil, so as soon as they start getting brown enough, get them out of the oil and drain them on the paper towels. As soon as they’re out, give them a very liberal sprinkling of salt while they’re still very, very hot.

Bring the oil back to 375 and fry the second batch of fries, following the same directions. Who’s super excited? I’m super excited and these aren’t even on my (or my thighs’) radar right now…

Now…some of you may not be familiar with Utah-style fry sauce, but this is pretty much a must for hand-cut homemade fries. I know it’s not everybody’s thing, but if you’re not familiar with it, I think you should give it a shot and see what you think; my feelings won’t be hurt if you hate it. Wanna know how to make it?

Fry Sauce

1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip! Tried it once in a pinch and it was beyond horrible!)
2-3 tsp. chopped dill pickle

Combine and serve with homemade fries or onion rings.

Okay, I’m honestly not being a comment whore here, but I really am super curious–what do like on your fries? Is it a personal thing or a regional thing (or both)?



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