I want to make it clear that I love frying things. I love it. Doughnuts, chicken, onion rings, fries—I want them all deep-fried to golden perfection. Not baked. Not. Baked. Because let’s be real, baked versions of things that are supposed to be fried are rarely worth eating. Like, if I want a doughnut, I don’t want what amounts to a muffin baked in a ring mold. And if I want fried chicken, I don’t want it “oven-fried.” Just give me the real deal, or don’t give it to me at all.
All that said, I had a little change of heart a few weeks ago while making dinner. I had an unallocated potato that needed using, and decided to try to make oven fries with the main goal of them not just being fry-shaped roasted potatoes. I wanted crisp, golden, fluffy-centered fries, but without the pot of hot oil. It seemed like an impossible goal at the time.
I am here to tell you that I achieved this goal. I achieved it in style. And now I feel so silly for being so adamantly opposed to Oven Fries for upwards of a decade. I’m just opposed to lousy oven fries, ya know? But these are anything but lousy. They’re crispy, salty, and bear little resemblance to any roasted potatoes I’ve come across (though that is fundamentally what they are, of course).
The secret to great Oven Fries is treating them as much like regular fries as possible. This means using classic, starchy russet potatoes and starting with a soak in cold water. I add some salt and baking soda to the water to help pull all the starches in the sliced potatoes to their surfaces. This leads to crispy outsides and fluffy insides every time.
After soaking, make sure to pat your fries as dry as you can so they sear more than they steam. Toss them with about a tablespoon of oil per potato and a hefty pinch of salt, then spread them out on a couple of sheet pans and roast them high and fast, flipping when they’re golden on one side. Heads up that if you’re using dark (coated) pans, your fries will brown faster than they will on the aluminum pans I use.
When your Oven Fries are done, make sure to hit them with another big pinch of salt for a little extra punch (and crunch!). You can also dust them with a favorite spice blend or scatter some crispy garlic over the top—however you like your fries. I’m a no-frills fry kind of human, so all I need is a little side of ketchup.
Y’all, these are so good. Crispy, with soft centers and an irresistible golden brown color—not a masquerading plain roasted potato in the bunch. These are Oven Fries good enough to change even the staunchest fried food defender. Dare I say, they’re Oven Fries worth eating. Oven Fries…to love?
I’ll see myself out.
makes 2 large or 3-4 small servings
2 large russet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons neutral oil (I used canola)
ketchup (or other dipping sauce), for serving
Scrub potatoes, and peel if desired. Transfer them to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice potatoes into pieces approximately 1 centimeter thick.
Place all potato pieces in a medium mixing bowl, and add enough cold water to cover. For extra deep golden fries, add baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water. Let potato pieces soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the oven racks in central positions. Turn the oven to 450F.
Once 30 minutes have passed, drain water from potatoes. Dry potato pieces well with a clean kitchen towel.
Divide potatoes between two dry rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle each pan with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Season well with salt. Use your hands to toss all pieces to coat. Arrange potato pieces in a single layer with none touching each other.
Bake fries for 15 minutes. At this point, they should all be turning golden on the underside; if they’re not, let them bake another 5 minutes and check again. Use a spatula to flip them all over, then rearrange them into an even layer with none touching. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front. Bake 15-20 more minutes, or until golden to your liking.
Remove the fries from the oven and salt again, if desired.
Serve immediately with ketchup or other dipping sauce, if desired.