Knife Skills: How to Cut French Fries

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats Video]

Before frying homemade French fries, you need to cut the potatoes. And before cutting them, you need to buy the potatoes. Here’s everything you need to know.

Shopping

For the crispest, fluffiest fries, select large russet potatoes that feel firm to the touch, with no surface discoloration. Store the potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated space.

If you're the type who prefers creamier fries, Yukon Golds are your best bet. Don't expect them to crisp up quite as well, though.

Cutting the Fries

Raw potato sticks for French fries, soaking in a tub of cold water

There are a few ways to cut potatoes for French fries. The first step is to peel the potatoes. Use whatever peeler you like, but we’re big believers in Y-peelers with carbon steel blades—once you get used to their action, you’ll never want to use another type again. They’re sharp, easy to control, and fast.

Keep the peeled potatoes submerged in cold water to prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown while you peel the rest.

Method 1: Using a Knife (Hardest)

Process photos of cutting potato sticks for French fries with only a knife: slicing slabs, cutting slabs into sticks, finished sticks

If all you have is a knife, you can cut potatoes into French fry–shaped sticks, but it’s more difficult to get each fry to an even shape and thickness. If your knife skills are somewhat lacking, you’re likely to get uneven cuts, and wonky fries will be the result. With practice, though, you can get near-perfect results.

To do it, start by cutting a slice off the side of the potato to make a flat, stable base. Turn the potato onto this base so that it won’t roll around while you do the rest of your cutting.

Next, slice the potato lengthwise into even slabs. How thick you make these slabs will determine the thickness of your fries; a quarter inch is one of the most popular sizes, but you can go thicker or thinner depending on your preference. No matter what, you want to be consistent—uneven slices will lead to uneven fries.

Now stack those slabs, making sure their flat edges are aligned. Cross-cut them lengthwise into sticks, making sure to maintain the same thickness as before. If you cut each slab a quarter inch thick, this cut should also be a quarter inch thick, to give the fry even dimensions.

Once again, keep your cut fries in cold water until you’re ready to cook them, to avoid oxidation and browning.

Method 2: Using a Basic Mandoline-Style Slicer (Easier)

Process photos of cutting potato sticks for French fries with a basic slicer and knife: cutting even slabs on slicer, cutting slabs into sticks with a knife, finished sticks

If you have a basic mandoline-type slicer, you can use it to make your first series of cuts, creating potato slabs of an even thickness. Once you’ve cut the slabs, simply stack them as before and use a knife to cross-cut them into sticks.

Using the slicer helps significantly to reduce uneven cuts, so even though you’re using a knife to make the cross-cuts, you’ve at least guaranteed uniformity on one dimension of the fry, which is better than nothing.

Method 3: Using a Mandoline With Cross-Cutting Teeth (Easiest)

Process photos of cutting potato sticks for French fries using a fully equipped slicer: cutting even sticks on slicer using cross-cutting teeth, finished sticks

If you have a mandoline that’s fully equipped with cross-cutting teeth, the easiest option is to use those teeth. Simply choose the slice width and tooth spacing that you’d like, and push the peeled potatoes through. In the video and photos here, I have the slice width set to a quarter inch, and I’m using cross-cutting teeth that are also a quarter inch apart.

A tray of golden, crispy French fries

The results will be even French fries, every time.