The burger's best buddies are workhorses in the kitchen. Here are the basic specs.
It's estimated that Americans eat about 2 millions of tons of French fries each year. The popularity of French fries is hardly a mystery: People love fries inside and out: the salty, crunchy exterior and the fluffy, moist interior. They go great next to a burger and they also do very well dressed up: think white truffle oil, Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh herbs.
Operators love fries, too: they have a relatively low food cost and are easy to prepare. Think of them as a foodservice menu workhorse. Here are some French fry facts, plus tips on how to avoid missteps when purchasing.
One common mistake operators make is purchasing the least expensive fries, assuming that low pound price translates into low cost per serving. It turns out that cost-per-pound is just one factor that influences profitability.
Think in servings-per-pound (i.e. short fries tend to pack more tightly into serving containers). 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 solid 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.
Traditional French fry shapes include straight cut (also known as “regulars”), crinkle cut and shoestrings. 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 pack.
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.
USDA specifications for length are: extra long (80% of individual pieces are more than 2" long and 30% are more than 3" long); long (70% are more than 2" long and 15% are longer than 2"); medium (50% are more than 2"); and short (less than 50% are longer than 2"). Proprietary length fries with standards that often exceed those set by the USDA are widely available.
Consistently long fries yield more servings per pound and provide better plate coverage.
Frozen fries should have a bright white color.
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 3/8" to ½" thickness; shoestrings from 3/16" to 5/16" thick; and crinkle cuts from 5/16" to ½" thick.
Fries with skin on are vitamin rich and look natural.
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.
A few 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.