U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research July 2013


No doubt about it. Americans love French fries.

But fries soak up a lot of oil while they’re turning a perfect golden brown in the deep-fat fryer.

Agricultural Research Service scientist Zhongli Pan and colleagues have tackled the challenge of lowering some of the fat from this favorite side order without skimping on the fries’ delicious taste and texture or their pleasing appearance and aroma. Their idea? After potatoes are peeled and sliced into strips, and just before the raw strips are dunked in the fryer, prep them with 3 minutes of infrared (IR) heat—just like that created in home or commercial IR ovens or grills.

The IR prep “forms a nice, microscopic crust on the fries, which helps reduce oil uptake,” says Pan, an agricultural engineer at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California. His team has made hundreds of fries— about 20 pounds in all—to determine the best combination of IR heating times and intensities, and deep-frying times and temps, to produce appetizing fries with less oil.

In these experiments, Pan’s group used an IR unit with emitters that heated the top and underside of the fries, each a square-cut strip about 3/8-inch by 4 inches.

Fries that were prepped with 3 minutes of infrared at 120 kilowatts per square foot, then deep-fried at about 295˚F for 7 minutes, had about one-third (37.1 percent) less oil than fresh-cut fries that were not prepped with IR heat.

What’s more, an IR unit that heats all surfaces of the fries—not just the top and bottom—might lower the fries’ fat content even further, according to Pan.