Belgian Fries – the perfect side, period! Pillow soft and moist and deliciously crispy with a golden brown color and enhanced flavor from duck fat.
I coached basketball in Europe back in the day and during a day trip to Brussels had my first ever taste of Belgian fries. It was a beautiful thing, and I went into working the laws of attraction. I proceeded to eat them at every opportunity during the 8 hours of my visit. They stayed forever on my mind from that point on. I dreamed of future trips back to Belgium, as nothing I found back home in Texas could compare. At one point I actually contemplating retiring from fries altogether, but quickly came to my senses. That shit wasn’t happening.
A move to Chicago, particularly the North Side was a game changer. What would quickly become my favorite bar and restaurants, The Hopleaf Bar was a short drive or train ride from my house. The Hopleaf is a Belgian bar specializing in Belgium beers which I’m crazy passionate about. Even better they have the best bar food in the city, including, you guessed it, Belgian fries. My wife and I returned to Belgium this summer and I resorted to my old habits – making late night Belgian fries runs even in the rain.
Pre-trip I shared my excitement about getting my fries game on in Belgium. The two questions I got were – 1. Are Belgian fries different than McDonald’s French Fries 2. What makes Belgian fries so good? Note there was all sort of sarcasm in both questions, partly because I’m so over the top in these matters and there was undoubtedly some hate in the air given the kiddos would not be making the trip.
What makes Belgium Fries different than French Fries?
I grew up like most I assume thinking that fries originated in France given the term French fries. In reality the term is really an American one that originated in Belgium during World War I. Part of Belgium is French speaking and American GIs who were introduced to fried potatoes nicknamed the “French Fries.” The term is now ubiquitous with potatoes fried anyway but over time refer to McDonald’s style thin strips, likely frozen, fried and heavily salted and served with ketchup. For Belgian fries there are serious specific rules namely they are never frozen, freshly cut thick and cooked immediately. They are actually fried twice!
What makes Belgian Fries So Good?
Belgian fries have a distinctly unique strong potato taste. I know, you’d think all fried potatoes would have this quality, but think about the last batch of “French fries” you had and ask yourself if they tasted like potatoes. The thicker cut means more potato and the fact that they’re fresh preserves that potato flavor. Frying them twice (once to blanch and second for crispiness) gives you fries that are soft and moist on the inside with a delightful crispiness on the outside.
What’s up with mayo instead of Ketchup?
Most places in Belgium serve their fries with mayonnaise vs. the beloved ketchup. I personally go no sauce and a lil salt, but I’ve seen others go for a doctored up mayo or garlic aioli. Most of the places offer a multitude of flavored mayos, but feel free to use whatever your preference is. Hell I’m sure hot sauce aka “Black Man’s Ketchup” is good to go lol!
Why cook Fries in Duck Fat?
If you really want to take things up a notch flavor and color wise, go the duck fat fries route. Duck fat has mild but distinct flavor, and gives that nice golden browned to your fries. Duck fat fries plus Belgian technique is just flat out ridiculous! You’re basically creating the Frankenstein of fries. You get the moist pillow like center, tightly crisp exterior, plus that beautiful golden brown color and flavor on top of flavor from the silky smooth but super rich duck fat. If you’ve never had duck fat fries, it’s time to get some into your life. I buy duck fat from either my local butcher or farmer’s market vendor. Trust me its worth it to search around for it.
Belgian Fries Cooking Tips
- Choose older russet potatoes not young versions which don’t have sufficient enough amount of starch.
- Cut the potatoes into thicker cuts (1in thick). Note if you’re accustomed to cooking skinny fries, these will require slightly longer time to cook
- Fry the potatoes twice. The first time fry at a lower temperature to cook them through and makes them tender. The second time after they’ve cooled frying again turns them golden brown and deliciously crisp.
- Animal fat works best. I used duck fat. Typically in Belgium they use cow, ox, or even horse fat lord help me.
- Don’t put too many raw potatoes strips into the fryer for the first frying! The temperature of the oil will drop down dramatically, the water in the potatoes will not escape quickly enough and thus the result will be too greasy. For a perfect final result you need to pay close attention to the first frying. The second frying will not correct any mistakes made earlier.
- Don’t cover the potatoes to keep them hot as they will turn soft and limp.
Belgian Fries Cooked In Duck Fat
If you make these soft, crispy and delicious duck fat fries, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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For another tasty potato fries recipe try this Oven-roasted Purple Potato Fries.
- 3 to 4 cups oil for frying animal fat preferred or a combo vegetable oil + animal fat of choice
- 2 pounds russet potatoes peeled, rinsed and dried
- salt to taste
- Pour enough oil into a deep fryer to reach at least halfway up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 300°F.
- Cut the potatoes into sticks about an 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long. Use your judgment but you want long and thick.
- Rinse potatoes in several changes of cold water in bowl until water is clear. Drain in a colander and spread potatoes out in 1 layer on several layers of paper towels to drain, then pat dry.
- When the oil has reached the desired temperature, fry the potatoes in (3-4) batches for 3 to 4 minutes per batch. They should be lightly colored but not browned. Be sure to bring the temperature of the oil back to 300°F in between batches. Let cool and rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil to 350°F. Fry the potatoes in 1-cup batches until they are nicely browned and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on fresh paper towels or brown paper bags and place in a warmed serving bowl lined with more paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
After initial frying the fries can rest for several hours at room temperature until you are ready for the second frying.