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This is what science is for

In “The Quest for French Fry Supremacy 2: Blanching Armageddon,” Dave Arnold of the French Culinary Institute writes:

Blanching fries does a lot for you – such as:

  • killing the enzymes that make the potatoes turn purpley-brown. Blanching is always necessary if the potatoes will be air-dried before frying.
  • gelatinizing the starch. During frying, pre-cooked fries form a crust faster than raw ones, and they can be cooked at higher oil temperatures than raw fries – which is easier for workflow.
  • pre-salting the interior of the fries. We blanched two batches of fries, one in boiling 3% salt water, one in boiling plain water. The plain-water fries tasted like crap next to the salt-water ones. All subsequent tests fries were blanched in a 3% salt solution.

It’s easy to think of science as just being good for building computers and the internet, extending average lifespans, giving us goretex, nylon and vulcanized rubber. Some people may worry that it’s in the weeds when worrying about string theory. But science is an approach to problems. The testing of ideas to see how well they work, rather than loving the idea.

And Dave Arnold, along with Harold McGee and others, and driving the intersection of science and cooking. And while they’re likely to skewer quite a few cows along the way, the results are worth it.

3 comments on "This is what science is for"

  • Adrian Lane says:

    I say you are encroaching on Mort’s corner. Tell us about the science behind aromatic bitters!

  • Nicko says:

    My only quibble with this would be using a 3% salt solution. While adding salt to blanching water is almost always a good thing there is nothing (OK, almost nothing) that I hate more than an over-salted French fry. 3% (which is basically a table-spoon of salt per quart of water) for 15 mins is going to give you a “salty” fry. While a salted fry is typically better than an unsalted fry, this is going to be way too salty for my taste. YMMV.

    • adam says:

      I suspect that external salt tastes different from blanched in salt.

      You should provide experimental evidence.

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