10 Tips to Make your Oven Fries Crispier

making sweet potato fries crispy

When I posted a recipe on spiced sweet potato fries, a lot of people commented about how their fries always get soggy and lack crispiness. While I gave one tip in this post, I thought it might be useful to talk about this in more detail. Why do fries get soggy and what can you do to prevent it? Below are 10 tips on how to make your fries (sweet potato or regular potato) crispier (without frying them!).

What makes fries crispy?

Moisture content

Water plays a big role in crispiness. It is hard for something to be crispy if it contains a lot of water. This is why many foods become crispier when dehydrated. Potatoes contain a lot of water, and generally, the more water evaporates during cooking, the crispier the fries get.

The browning reaction

Crispiness can also be produced by something that is called the “browning reaction”. If you have ever burnt anything, you know what I mean. While a little bit of browning is inevitable, it should be avoided as much as possible in cooking, since this generally means a lot of carcinogens are also present in the food. In the case of potatoes and other starchy foods (breads, cereal etc.) acrylamide forms.

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a chemical substance that forms in carbohydrate rich foods during high temperatures (above 250°F). It has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals and an epidemiological study has shown a potential link between acrylamide and breast cancer (while older studies did not show a connection). Eating a large amount of acrylamide also increases risk for heart disease. The foods highest in acrylamide are chips, french fries, coffee and toast. Cookies, cereals, bread, popcorn and crackers also contain acrylamide. Frying is the best way to create a lot of acrylamide. In order to reduce your intake, avoid heavy crisping and browning as much as possible in starchy foods.

Forming a crust

Another way to get crispy fries is by coating them in something that is crispy or gets crispy when cooked (without burning). Of course, the potato itself will still be soft, but there is a crust outside. This is essentially what happens during frying — you get a crispy crust of fat. But, there are other more healthful crusts that you can make.

Difference between sweet potatoes and regular potatoes

While there are many nutritional and (obviously) taste differences between them, they also differ considerably in water content. That is why sweet potato fries tend to be not as crispy as regular fries.

About the tips

All the tips below will work for both types, but a lot of them are probably not necessary for regular potato fries. Feel free to use as many tips as you want. It is not necessary to use them all.

1. Cut them into thin sticks or thin rounds

The smaller the sticks the easier it is for them to get crispy. The thinner something is the larger the surface area/volume ratio. Water needs to reach the surface in order to evaporate, so this means there is less overall water (less volume) but more area for water to evaporate (more surface area).

2. Dehydrate fries before cooking

Dehydrating literally means taking the moisture out of something. This seems like an obvious solution if we want to get crispier fries! If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator, you can put the fries in there for a couple of hours. Make sure they are not completely dry, since they will still lose water while in the oven. The oven can also function as a dehydrator if the temperature is kept low (120°-170°F). Make sure to follow tips 7 and 9 if you dehydrate them in the oven.

Another idea

Even though I have never tried it, I wonder if placing the fries in some rice over night would draw enough moisture to make a difference…

3. Soak them in water beforehand

This is a technique that works surprisingly well. You simply soak the potato fries in some water for 1-2 hours before baking them. Feel free to change the water half-way through. By soaking them, some of the starches leech out into the water. The starch in potatoes hinders moisture from escaping, which leaves more water in the potato. Make sure to rinse the potatoes well after soaking (to remove the starch) and pat them completely dry before cooking. If you don’t dry them well, you just add even more moisture.

Extra Health Benefit

Soaking potatoes before cooking them has been shown to reduce acrylamide formation. In one study, french fries that were previously soaked had up to 48% less acrylamide than fries that were not previously soaked. But in the study the fries were only lightly fried — not until they were brown.

4. Dip them in egg whites and flour

In order to create a crust, you can dip your fries in some egg whites and flour before baking. You will need about one egg white and one Tbsp of flour (wheat, brown rice, quinoa etc.) for two medium potatoes. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Coat the fries with the egg whites and slowly add the flour. Mix well, season and bake as usual. This really gives them a nice crust.

5. Use parchment paper

I have found that parchment paper works best as a surface if you want to make your fries crispy. I believe this is because water can penetrate through the fine pores of the paper, whereas foil or waxed surfaces are more impermeable.

6. Place them on the bottom rack

When you place them on the bottom rack, the surface of the baking tray heats up more than if placed in the middle. This way the potatoes brown better on the bottom. Also, the water vapor rises and if the potatoes are on the bottom the water can therefore “escape” better. Also make sure there is nothing on any of the upper racks (or water vapor stays low).

7. Make sure they are not crowded

This is probably one of the most common mistakes. Only place as many fries on a rack as can fit without touching. If you crowd them, there will be too much water vapor surrounding them (from all those fries!) and you essentially steam your fries. Steaming definitely does not make things crispy…

Did you know… ?

Smoking is also a major source of acrylamide. However, it gets easily overlooked because of all the other several thousand harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke…

8. Turn them half way through

This not only helps because it forces you to do tip 9, but by turning them, you make sure two sides get a little bit brown (this also creates flavor) while preventing one side from getting too brown (bitter). It also gives the other side a chance to let off some steam.

9. Open the door to the oven a couple of times

The reason why a dehydrator works is that there is a fan that constantly brings dry air in and removes the moist air. Depending on the oven, water vapor mostly stays inside the oven, again steaming the things you are baking. Opening the oven a couple of times (3-5) during baking lets the water escape.

10. Make them in the microwave

I have never tried making sweet potato fries in the microwave, but I have made sweet potato chips like this before. I have to warn you though… this is a little tricky and it is very easy to burn them. Trust me! I have a funny story about this, which I might share at a later time.

To make them in a microwave, place the fries on microwave safe paper. Make sure that there is only one layer of fries — don’t place them on top of each other. Set the microwave to high and zap them for three minutes. Watch them closely the entire time. If you want them crispier, add one minute at a time, watching them CLOSELY. Take them out when they start to get blistery or change color. Keep in mind that they tend to crisp up quite a bit more as they cool off.

Health Tip

A research team in Turkey found that precooking fries in the microwave also reduces acrylamide formation. The higher the level of the microwave the better (still don’t burn them!). This is probably because acrylamide takes some time to form, and zapping them in the microwave reduces overall cooking time.

I hope you found at least one or two tips that you want to try that don’t involve burning your fries to a crisp. Good luck in experimenting with your fries! And don’t worry if they are just not as crispy as you want them to be. They still taste great, don’t they?! Also, if it makes you feel any better, they are probably a bit healthier when they are not super crisp.

- Christina

Let me know…

Have you already tried any of the suggestions above? Did they work for you?

53 comments

  1. Karin says:

    I love making homemade sweetpotato fries. Your tips are great, thank you! I didn’t know anything about making fries crispier before.

  2. Jessica says:

    Really great post. I think i crowd my spf, I know I do. It’s funny that soaking in water would make them crispy, but I’m going to give it a try!

    • I always soak my regular potato fries. It is a little bit of a pain to dry them completely afterward, but so worth it!

      You should see how the water gets really starchy…

  3. Jo says:

    HF: I had a family birthday dinner and tricked them all with Weight Watcher roasted chicken and your awesome sweet potato fries. I LOVE THEM! They were quite limp, so I look forward to making them again. Thanks for the tips. Jo

    • You are welcome! So glad you loved them! Good thing they are even good when limp. I feel like I should have talked more about crispiness after I saw all the comments. I just can’t get all the information into one post.

      I think crowding is a major issue and the egg white tip works really well if you want them crispier. Good luck!

  4. Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing! I recently had some not so great batches of oven sweet fries, and I’ll definitely follow your tips next time!

    • Hi Erin! Thanks for stopping by and welcome!

      I just checked out your blog. I can’t agree with you more: Healthy food can be SOOO delicious! Thanks for spreading the message!

  5. Jenn says:

    Your a genius! <3

    The only thing I've tried is cutting them smaller.

  6. great advice! i will definitely try some of these techniques next time :)

  7. Awesome tips…#6 totally surprised me! This was great…thank you.

  8. You have no idea how much I appreciate this post!! My boyfriend and I love sweet potato fries but they are never crispy enough. This is really helpful I am going to try the tips, I will let u know how it goes :) Happy Tuesday!

    • I just made some regular oven fries and they were suuuper crispy. We soaked them for about an hour, changing the water once. We then rinsed the fries well and dried them with paper towels. THEN we actually blow dried them. They were dry as a fart (german idiom, not sure this works in English… )

      I think if you want them crispy I would definitely try the egg white! It works really well! Good luck!

  9. eatingRD says:

    those are great tips! I’d love to have a dehydrator to play with :) I LOVE sweet tater fries, they are way better than the regular ones for sure. I’ll have to try soaking them. I usually just crank up the heat high in the oven and make sure they don’t burn. I’ve also heard that pre-heating the pan first helps to sear the outside?

    • Yes, that would help with the searing, but searing makes them crispy with the browning reaction, which you want to keep to a minimum. And I think they generally get brown enough without having to worry about extra searing. But every oven is different. Placing them on the bottom rack might help if yours don’t even turn a little bit brown.

      When you soak them, make sure to dry them really well afterward. I use paper towels and then blow dry them with a hair drier. It’s pretty fun. haha You can also cut them in even smaller sticks after soaking, to get some extra moisture out.

      Hope it works for you! If not, try the egg white tip.

  10. Erica says:

    What a great post! I have soaked mine in water before and it does work super well! Love all of your tips and information!

    • Thank you Erica! Welcome!

      Yes, it does work well. I just made some fries yesterday and soaked them longer than I usually do… very crispy. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. Thanks so much for this information! Making sweet potato fries crispy is one of my biggest challenges. My mom and I have tried soaking them before but I don’t think that we dried them off too well afterwards and that is key. We were in a rush to eat them! haha. I’m going to email her this post…she’ll love it. Can’t wait to try some of the techniques!

    • You are probably right. Soaking them and not drying them would only make it worse. Try using a blow drier! It works really well!
      You could also cut them some more after they soaked. Then you get a lot of the moisture out that was in the middle of them.

      If you want a nice crispy crust, I would recommend the egg whites tip. Works really well.

  12. Really useful tips! I soak rice in water to get the starches out, but never thought about doing the same with potatoes. What a great idea.
    Also never thought of beating the egg whites when using them for coating. Or about soaking the fries in water before baking.
    This is super helpful. I will try these tips as soon I get a chance :-)
    Thanks!

  13. […] 10 Tips For Making Your Fries Crispier – Health Foodie […]

  14. Fantastic tips!! I always try not to open the oven when making baked goods so I don’t change the temperature, but I never thought about it being a GOOD thing! Definitely trying this next time! (Oh & know that soaking potatoes will leech out some of the nutrients too–like potassium, etc.)

    • Thank you so much Heather!

      Yes, you are right about the nutrient leeching. But a lot of people destroy more nutrients by cooking things for too long. And since the water is cold and you can soak them for only about 10-20 minutes, it is minimal. On the other hand the soaking helps with reducing acrylamide, so there is always a trade-off. It is just not realistic to always eat it the perfect way, and it is not necessary either. As long as you eat enough veggies during the rest of the day, that extra potassium would not have made a difference anyway.

  15. Carolin says:

    Yay thanks for the tips I will go at it soon! Haha I think you should share the chips in the microwave story ;)

  16. Sonny says:

    I have become more of a fan of sweet potato fries than regular fries in about the past year. I really wish restaurants would start offering them regularly, I only see them as a special here in Houston. They are better for you.. and I like the way they taste!
    -Sonny

  17. Amy says:

    I did 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, & 9 with white potato fries and they were still very limp. I’m not sure why. Now, with parchment paper, I’ve had NOTHING but bad luck out of it, with stuff I’m cooking on it sticking and such, so I went with a silpat…maybe that was my main mistake, but it seemed like it should be fine. Oh, well…guess I’ll stick with mac and cheese for my burger side dishes. haha! Thanks for the article, though…I’m sure it’s helpful for some, just not me.

    • Hi Amy,

      Sorry to hear about your bad luck with crispy fries. It could be the silpat, I only use parchment paper. Ovens are also very different and maybe they need more time? It is also super important to make them really thin and dry them completely after soaking. Just a little bit of water left and they get limp. Not sure how limp yours were, but maybe compared to super deep fried ones they always appear kind of limp. They definitely won’t have this super crunch, if you know what I mean. haha :)

      Thanks for stopping by and your feedback!

  18. Lisa says:

    I love sweet potato fries and have always soaked them in water ahead of time as that was in the recipe I was given. One question about this, however, does soaking them in water remove all of the good vitamins from them also?

    • Hi Lisa,

      When soaking potatoes, some water-soluble vitamins do indeed leach into the water. The longer you soak them, the more vitamins you lose. But it will be far from all the vitamins. Just soak them briefly, swirl them around and rinse until clear. On the other hand, you also lose starch, which is what you want.

  19. Brian says:

    I can’t believe you call yourself a “health foodie” and recommend using a microwave to cook anything. Nothing cooked in a microwave is healthy… appalling.

    • Ale (Aley) says:

      I agree with u Brian, entirely!!!!!! We eat organic, healthy and nutritious, we never fry, never grill, never BBQ and never microwave anything, we sold our “state of the art” microwave 10 years ago, when we discovered that studies were showing that the actual molecular structure of the food is altered and mutated, if u will, so I don’t think it’s wise to include the microwave tip, if u want to keep your site healthy and we seldom bake or toast for health reasons, as u described above, because of food forming carcinogenic chemicals when cooked to a golden or brown colour.
      The rest of the tips were all great, as I will try them myself to make some oven chips, so thank u very much for all the info, including the health info about the chemicals, but I thought the hair dryer tip was a bit out there, also because it sounds kind of yucky to bring a bathroom item I dry my hair with, often full of dust and hair particles, into my kitchen and start blowing it on my wet potatoes I have to eat! LOL

      • Thank you for your comment Aley, I am glad you found some of the tips useful.

        I just don’t believe in a black and white world. Nutrition has proven to be again and again not a black and white field. Like I said in the article, cooking the fries in the microwave produces less acrylamide than when you cook it in the oven for example. There are always trade offs. And I think people are scared by the word “mutate”. But molecules mutate all the time… or what would the purpose of ANY cooking be? Any cooking mutates chemicals in food, some in good ways (make them more bioavailable, more digestible, change harmful chemicals into non-harmful ones (like in foods that are only toxic in their raw form)… and you are going to create some harmful chemicals. It is a trade-off. I feel like it is dangerous to believe that there are perfectly clean foods and to cut out everything that is not “clean”. If you read enough research papers, you are eventually left with no foods that are safe to eat. I have been there… obsessing over how healthy our food is can become an unhealthy obsession and can take away from the quality of our life. Maybe you are different and it only affects you in positive ways, which I certainly hope. But in general, I don’t want people who might be more vulnerable to that to get into that mindset. Hope that makes sense.

    • Johnny says:

      Geez Brian! Get over yourself will ya! The author is on here having a go and helping people. Not everyone can sit around all day blowing on their food to heat it up.

    • Brian, I strongly believe that eating healthy is more than just consuming the perfect foods all the time. It is also about having a healthy attitude about it… meaning: not obsessing over it, worrying about everything and stressing yourself out by sticking to rigid rules. If you eat for health, I assume you care about your health in general, and eating right is just part of that. Your mind can make your body sick as well. Anger and frustration (what I am getting from your comment) in particular wrack havoc on your body. Maybe you should look into that.

      If you have any credible sources that explain why microwaving is terrible, I would love it if you could share it with us. That would actually help people to make their own informed decision whether the microwave is something they want to continue using.

  20. […] While seemingly counter-intuitive, soaking makes the fries more crisp when you bake them. Here is a great article on other tips for making your fries extra […]

  21. Dave says:

    I would suggest you fire your data department. If you chack only one of the “facts” mentioned above you will find that nearly all potatoes used to make French Fries, are Russet varieties available in grocery stores which have water content between 75 – 80%. One other fact overlooked/not mentioned is the amount of Acrylamide in coffee is higher per serving than either chips or fries. Please check you data before misleading the public. Thanks

    • Hi Dave,

      Fixed the misquoted water percentages for potatoes. You are right that coffee does indeed contain acrylamide and I mentioned that in my coffee post, but left it out in the little info box here. I disagree with the statement that coffee has more acrylamide however than Fries in general. It is highly dependent on how the coffee was prepared. According to several studies I read, most of the acrylamide in an average person’s diet comes from Fries and Chips (~ 45% of all acrylamide in the diet), while coffee only contributed ~ 12%. Of course, that does not say anything about acrylamide per serving necessarily. I will add coffee to the little list since it is a bigger contributor than bread.

      BTW, I think calling this misleading the public is being overly dramatic. If you are concerned with false information on the Internet I think your time is better spent educating the public yourself or going after some big time media outlets, rather than leaving “better-than-thou” comments on small blogs. If you are doing the former, then I thank you.

  22. Chewy potato fries says:

    Dear HF,

    I just made a batch of fries using some of the tips you’ve outlined above. I got a few crunchy fries, but most of the bunch turned out really chewy. I’m hoping you can help me narrow it down. I cut the SPs up into thin strips, microwaved them for about 4 minutes, dried them as best as I could with a paper towel, and then baked them on parchment paper at 400F. I made sure to spread the strips out onto one layer. The only variation I can think of was that I was using Japanese sweet potatoes. I’ve read that they are naturally drier and starchier. Have you ever had a batch come out chewy? Do you think it was just the variety of SP that I used?

    Thanks!

    • I think sweet potato fries will always have a bit of a “chewy” quality. Not sure if it is possible to get the same crispiness that you get when deep frying regular potatoes (maybe with some high tech equipment in a factory…). You could try to make a crust around them with egg whites/flour. That could possibly get them closer to the texture you like. In deep frying the crust comes from the fat. So you could also try to coat them with some oil. What probably happened with your fries is that a lot of the moisture did get out of the fries, but no crust formed (heat was too low…nothing there to form a crust (eg. oil). Think of how dried tomatoes are chewy… no moisture. Hope that helps!

  23. pam munitz says:

    I keep an old towel especially for drying the chips, once I have taken them from the water I place them on the towel as not over crowded as possible then roll the towel and press down hard, then leave them for 5-10mins.

  24. […] wasn’t strongly in favor of soaking, I’ve found it helps my fries crisp up better. This article explains the science, but to paraphrase, soaking them releases some of the potato’s starches, which hold in the […]

  25. sally says:

    My brother-in-law, a diabetic, had to go through dialysis. They recommended overnight soaking. I also do this. Fries are perfect.

  26. Michael says:

    Did you know that cooking food is a key difference between humans and animals? Did you also know that everyone is going to die! Like the great Bill Hicks once said, “just because you don’t smoke cigarettes doesn’t mean your not also going to die, you’ll just have never enjoyed them.” Any organic matter that you cook by extension of your argument becomes carcinogenic… lets all be paranoid about cooked food right? Instead of perpetuating these silly buzz food theories try using critical thinking next time when you wish to “school” your uninformed readers, there are numerous benefits to cooking your food… many of which are (or should be) quite obvious. Not only that but much more goes into getting cancers than just one cause, one of which being more primarily important is genetics and having a predisposition to those types of cancers. Cooked food is not poisonous in the way your trying to portray it as, I mean for christ’s sake, learn to live a little! I’ll take my chances with “browned” food because anyone living in a city will be exposed to more harmful carcinogens than cooked food. That being said, because I just can’t stand ignorance, these tips are useful.

  27. […] 3. How to make the best homemade french fries. […]

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