Why It's A Mistake To Salt Homemade French Fries Too Early

French fries with salt and ketchup
French fries with salt and ketchup - Nitr/Shutterstock

When it comes to homemade french fries, timing is everything. Salt is one of the key things that make fries so tasty, but the effect can be lackluster if you don't understand how it functions, and adding salt at the wrong time is one of the most common mistakes everyone makes when making fries. While it's true that salt can enhance a dish's flavor when added at various stages of the cooking process, the oil used to deep fry french fries contradicts that theory. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when cooking with salt is adding it to hot oil. Salt can actually break down the oil and strip its reusability. To put a confusing science explanation simply, an ionic compound (like salt) ages oil by lowering the smoke point — which affects the taste of deep-fried food if lowered enough. Plus, salted oil makes everything taste entirely too salty.

Instead, the best time to salt deep-fried french fries is when they're cooked and hot, but there's also nothing wrong with waiting for individuals to salt their own fries. That way, there's no dietary conflict with added sodium. If you opt for the baking method rather than frying, the timing of salt is just as crucial. There are plenty of ways to mess up frozen fries in the oven or air-fryer, and homemade fries are no different. The same rules for the deep fryer apply to baking methods.

Read more: 16 Little-Known Facts About Salt

No One Likes A Mushy French Fry

hand sprinkling salt
hand sprinkling salt - Skynesher/Getty Images

Salting french fries too early increases their chances of getting limp and mushy, no matter the cooking method. Although soaking potatoes in salt water before cooking draws out and enhances their natural flavors, it's best to avoid the technique when making homemade fries. Due to osmosis, salt actually extracts moisture from inside the potatoes and leaves them limp. The moisture left on the outside of the potato can also impede the Maillard reaction necessary for a crisp golden exterior. For the best crispy results, consider any premature salting a major no-no (but soaking your fries in unsalted water before cooking can make them crispier).

Adding salt while the fries are still hot from cooking is the prime time, but it could also lead to a mistake if done incorrectly. While the salt might stick better to residual oil, the same issue with osmosis could encourage sogginess if the fries are still significantly wet. Always transfer fries to a dry paper towel to soak up some of the leftover oil before salting and your fries will remain crisp and you'll have fries your favorite fast-food joints would be proud of.

Read the original article on Mashed