French fries

French fries

French fries (North American English; sometimes not capitalized), chips (British English), fries, or French-fried potatoes (formal) are pieces of potato that have been deep-fried. A distinction is sometimes made between fries and chips, whereby North Americans refer to any pieces of fried potatoes as fries, while in the UK, long thin strips of potatoes are sometimes called fries to contrast them with the thickly cut strips, which are always referred to as chips. French fries are known as pommes frites in large parts of Europe (i.e. Germany, France, Sweden, etc).


The straightforward explanation of the term is that it means potatoes fried in the French sense of the verb "to cook", which can mean either sautéing or deep-grease frying, while its French origin, frire, unambiguously means deep-frying: frites being its past participle used with a plural feminine substantive, as in pommes de terre frites ("deep-fried potatoes"). Thomas Jefferson, famous for serving French dishes, wrote exactly the latter French expression. In the early 20th century, the term "French fried" was being used for foods such as onion rings or chicken, apart from potatoes.

The verb "to french", though not attested until after "French fried potatoes" had appeared , can refer to "julienning" of vegetables as is acknowledged by some dictionaries, while others only refer to trimming the meat off the shanks of chops. In the UK, "Frenched" lamb chops (particularly for serving as a 'rack of lamb') have the majority of the fat removed together with a small piece of fatty meat from between the ends of the chop bones, leaving mainly only the meat forming the "eye" of the chop attached.

Culinary origin


Belgians claim that "French" fries are in fact Belgian, but definitive evidence for the origin is difficult to present. Belgian historian Jo Gerard recounts that potatoes were already fried in 1680 in the Spanish Netherlands, in the area of "the Meuse valley between Dinant and Liège, Belgium. The poor inhabitants of this region allegedly had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals."

The Dutch concur with a Southern Netherlandish or Belgian origin when referring to Vlaamse frieten ('Flemish fries'). In 1857, the newspaper Courrier de Verviers devotes an article to Fritz (assumed pun with 'frites'), a Belgian entrepreneur selling French fries at fairs, calling them "le roi des pommes de terre frites" (The king of fried potatoes). In 1862, a stall selling French fried potatoes (see frietkot) called "Max en Fritz" was established near Het Steen in Antwerp.

A Belgian legend claims that the term "French" was introduced when British or American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them "French", as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. But the term "French fried potatoes" had been in use in America long before the Great War.

Whether or not Belgians invented them, "frites" became the national snack and a substantial part of both national dishes — making the Belgians their largest per capita consumers in Europe, and their "symbolic" creators.


Many Americans attribute the dish to France — although in France they are almost exclusively thought of as Belgian — and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. "Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches" ("Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings") are noted in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson's hand (circa 1801-1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. It is worth noting, though, that France had recently annexed what is now Belgium, and would retain control over it until the Congress of Vienna of 1815 brought it under Dutch control. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as French fries, occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, one of these mentions the term "French fried potatoes".

Recipes for fried potatoes (not clearly specified how) in French cookbooks date back at least to Menon's Les soupers de la cour (1755). It is true that eating potatoes was promoted in France by Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in particular. And the name of the dish in languages other than English does not refer to France; in French, they are simply called "pommes de terres frites" or, more commonly, simply "pommes frites" or 'frites'.


Some claim that the dish was invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared via the New World colonies, and assumes the first appearance to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, from which it spread to the rest of the country and further to the Spanish Netherlands, more than a century before Belgium was created there.

Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Friet-museum in Antwerp, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila fried the first chips, referring also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine.

Spreading popularity

United Kingdom

The first chip fried in Britain was apparently on the site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market in 1860. In Scotland, chips were first sold in Dundee, " the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy – the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket."

United States' world-wide influence

Although the thicker cut English style of fried potato was already a popular dish in most Commonwealth countries, the thin style of french fries has been popularized worldwide in part by U.S.-based fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King. This came about through the introduction of the frozen French fry invented by the J.R. Simplot Company of Idaho in the early 1950s. Before the handshake deal between Ray Kroc of McDonald's and Jack Simplot, potatoes were hand-cut and peeled in the restaurants, but Simplot's frozen product reduced preparation time and aided the expansion of the McDonald's franchise. One of the few fast-food chains that still prepares fresh potatoes on the premises is In-N-Out Burger. Others include Nathan's Famous, Five Guys, the Canadian chain Harvey's, and Penn Station.

Recent developments

Pre-made french fries have been available for home-cooking since the seventies, usually having been pre-fried (or sometimes baked), frozen and placed in a sealed plastic bag.

Newer varieties of French fries include those which have been battered and breaded, and many U.S. fast-food and casual food chains have turned to dusting with kashi, dextrin and flavors coating for crispier fries with particular tastes. Results with new batterings and breadings, followed by microwaving, remain sub-standard, though oven frying may deliver reasonable fries, albeit different from the traditionally fried item.


French fries have numerous variants, from "thick-cut fries" to "shoestring fries", "jojo fries", "crinkle fries", "curly fries" and many other names. They can also be coated with breading and spices, which include garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika and salt to create "seasoned fries", or cut thickly with the skin left on to create potato wedges, or without the skin to create "steak fries", essentially the American equivalent of the British "chip". Sometimes, French fries are cooked in the oven as a final step in the preparation (having been coated with oil during preparation at the factory): these are often sold frozen and are called "oven fries" or "oven chips".

In France, the thick-cut fries are called 'pommes Pont-Neuf' or simply 'pommes frites', about 10 mm; thinner variants are 'pommes allumettes' (matchstick potatoes), ±7 mm, and 'pommes pailles' (potato straws), 3-4 mm (roughly ⅜, ¼ and ⅛ inch respectively). The two-bath technique is standard (Bocuse). 'Pommes gaufrettes' or "waffle-cut potatoes" are not typical French fried potatoes, but actually crisps obtained by quarter turning the potato before each next slide over a grater and deep-frying just once.

A Belgian chef patented "steppegras" ('prairie grass'), his variety of extremely thin-cut French fried potatoes developed in 1968 while working in Germany. The name refers to a dish including its particular sauce, and to his restaurant.

In Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere, the term "French fries" was made popular by American fast-food franchises setting up restaurants and serving narrow-cut (shoestring) fries. Traditional "chips" in the United Kingdom and Ireland are usually cut much thicker, typically between ⅜ and ½ inches (9.5-13 mm) square in cross-section and cooked twice, making them less crunchy on the outside and fluffier on the inside. Since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. Chips are part of the popular take-away dish fish and chips. In Australia, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, few towns are without a chip shop (colloquially, a chippie/chippy/chipper).

In an interview, Burger King president Donald Smith said that his chain's fries are sprayed with a sugar solution shortly before being packaged and shipped to individual outlets. The sugar caramelizes in the cooking fat, producing the golden color customers expect. Without it, the fries would be nearly the same color outside as inside: pasty yellow. Smith believes that McDonald's also sugar-coats its fries. McDonalds was assumed to fry their fries for a total time of about 15 to 20 minutes, and with fries fried at least twice. The fries appear to contain beef lard, or shortening.

Food pairings

Besides being a popular snack in themselves, French fried potatoes as a side dish to specific food or an integral part of a named dish often typify a country:

  • In Belgium, steamed mussels: mosselen-friet (Dutch) or moules-frites (French), a popular summer dish when the mussels arrive, typically from Zeeland. Also biefstuk-friet or bifteck-frites (which may be served with beef or horse steak), with plainly seasoned fries or served with a Belgian sauce, and usually a simple salad. A quick and inexpensive traditional is a deep fried egg on top of a plate of chips.
  • In France, grilled steak: steak-frites.
  • In Spain, fried eggs: huevos con patatas.
  • In the United Kingdom, chips are a popular staple. Chip shops (or "chippies") commonly serve several dishes with chips such as cod (fish and chips) and battered sausage (sausage supper). British cafes, on the other hand, serve more traditional fare, such as fried eggs (double egg and chips).
  • In the United States, hamburgers: Burger and fries, and chilli and melted American cheese:Chilli cheese fries.
  • In Canada, gravy and cheese curd: poutine.
  • In Germany, sausage with curry-flavored ketchup: Currywurst.
  • In Norway, Finland and Sweden, kebab, hamburgers and sausages.
  • In Middle East, chips are served in pita bread with breaded chicken or falafel, along with cucumber and tomato, and condiments such as hummus, tahini, or tzatziki.
  • In Chile, chips are served with fried eggs, fried onions and a steak in a national dish called Bistec a lo pobre.


French fries are almost always salted just after cooking. They are then served with a variety of condiments, notably ketchup, curry, curry ketchup (mildly hot mix of the former), hot or chili sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, bearnaise sauce, tartar sauce, tzatziki, feta cheese, garlic sauce, fry sauce, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, gravy, brown sauce, vinegar (especially malt vinegar), lemon, piccalilli, pickled cucumber, gherkins, very small pickled onions, or honey.


Chips are sometimes eaten with traditional tomato sauce (rather than ketchup), but most often with salt and most shops offer a choice of plain or chicken salt (seasoned salt). When served at a chip shop, where a thicker cut of chip is traditionally served, vinegar is also offered as a traditional accompaniment. Many shops may also offer gravy. Potato wedges are also popular which consist of a quartered, often with the skin left on, seasoned fried potato. Potato wedges are commonly eaten with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream.


Even the smallest Belgian town has a frietkot (literally 'fries shack'). This Dutch language term also became adopted by the French-speaking part of the country in addition to the French friterie; an equivalent though slightly less colloquial Dutch form for such vending stall is frietkraam, while a frituur — from French friture — can as well be in a proper shop possibly furnished with tables. Traditionally, take-away chips were picked by the fingers out of a tip bag wrapped from a square paper, while walking on the streets. By the 1970s and 80s with several meat accompaniments gaining popularity, more practical open carton boxes became standard and tiny plastic forks available. One can order a small or large portion, often three or four sizes are priced.
Fries with mayonnaise is a fastfood classic in Belgium, often eaten without any side orders. The limited choice around 1960 between a pickled herring, a cold large meatball boulet or red-coloured garlic sausage cervela (both often served deep-fried later on), or a beef or (now rarely) horsemeat stew, became expanded by stoofvlees or stoofkarbonade and a wide variety of deep-fried meats as chicken legs, beef or pork sticks, minced beef and/or pork and/or chicken and/or turkey in all shapes (balls, sticks, sausages) mixed with a dosage of fat and condiments to one's preference, usually factory made. An example of an additional on-the-spot preparation is sometimes in Flanders called mammoet speciaal (mammoth special), a large frikandel (curryworst in Antwerp and Flemish Brabant) deep-fried and cut so as to put chopped onion in the V-shaped length and dressed with mayonnaise and (curry-)ketchup. The earliest of the current wide array of sauces, are mayonnaise, fritessaus or sauce pommes-frites ("fry sauce" in English—see the sections on France and the Netherlands) and a local pickle-sauce similar to piccalilli. Though Belgians do not sprinkle vinegar on fries, they may eat them with cold mussels out of the shells preserved in vinegar, entirely uncomparable to the national dish with freshly-boiled hot mussels served in the shells.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, chips are usually accompanied by salt and malt vinegar. Other types of vinegar (such as onion vinegar) are rarely used. The fondness for vinegar on chips has led to some outlets using spray misters, such as used for misting plants or spraying cleaning products, for the even distribution of vinegar to chips. In most of the UK, chicken nuggets and chips are popular with children. In England and Wales, gravy and curry sauce are available from some chip shops.

In Northern England, Scotland and South Wales, chips and gravy is a popular dish. In parts of England and Scotland, 'cheesy chips' or 'chips 'n cheese', chips with grated cheddar thickly sprinkled on can be found. In the United Kingdom, the term french fries refers exclusively to the long thin version served in fast food establishments. The most common accompaniment for chips in England is tomato ketchup. Meals served with chips are often accompanied by mushy peas or baked beans. In the Midlands and some Northern regions of England a takeaway of chips with either mushy peas or baked beans is called a "pea mix" or "bean mix" respectively.

In Edinburgh and Fife, a local speciality is to serve chips with salt and sauce (a mixture of brown sauce and vinegar). Often the vinegar is actually non-brewed condiment, a solution of acetic acid coloured with caramel. Fish and chips in parts of Scotland is more commonly called a 'fish supper'.

In the Isle of Man, chips are traditionally served with cheese and gravy.


In Ireland, chips are commonly served with salt and vinegar. Many outlets are Italian and there is a strong tradition of Italian chippies. Many outlets also serve chips with a sauce accompaniment, the most popular being curry sauce. For meals served with chips, coleslaw is often served. Fish and chips or kebab and chips are popular take-away meals. In Dublin, a serving of chips is often referred to as a single of chips, while Fish and chips is often referred to as "one-and-one". An increasingly popular choice is for the chips to be served with Garlic Mayo and Cheese.

In Irish, "chips" are called "sceallóga" (singular: "sceallóg").


In Bulgaria, a serving of fries can be ordered with a covering of sirene, a grated white brine cheese.


In Canada, French fries are the main component of a dish called 'poutine' french for "a mess": a mixture of French fries with fresh cheese curds (sometimes rasped cheese), covered with a hot gravy (usually), hot chicken sauce (much less common), or chicken BBQ sauce (rarely). This dish was invented in Pointe Gatineau, Quebec and its popularity has spread throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada. Not only now found at road-side chip stands but it is carried in national chains such as Harvey's and New York Fries as well as Canadian outlets of international franchises such as A&W, Burger King and Mc Donald's. (A similar variant, 'disco fries' is found in several New England cities.)

Throughout Canada, white vinegar is a popular condiment for French fries. No other country is known to so enjoy white vinegar (as opposed to malt or other vinegars) on its fries (although it is served as an accompaniment for Fish and Chips in Australia). Most major Canadian fast-food outlets provide white vinegar packets next to their ketchup packets in their stores, and many restaurants keep white vinegar on their tables. That is not to say that the use of malt vinegar is not common – particularly amongst those of English heritage. In most traditional 'fish & chips' shops in Canada, malt vinegar is more prevalent. However, ketchup and vinegar remain the most popular condiments used on French fries in Canada.

In Newfoundland, "chips, dressing and gravy" (sometimes referred to by outsiders as "Newfie fries") comprise French fries topped with "dressing" (turkey stuffing made with summer savoury) and gravy. Another variation consists of topping the French Fries with either ground beef, hot dogs, dressing and cheese and topped with gravy.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway

In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, fries are called pommes frites, literally meaning fried potatoes and pronounced "pom-frit," similarly to the original French pronunciation of pommes [de terre] frites. Pommes frites may be served with many different kinds of sauce or complements, especially ketchup or remoulade sauce, but other accompaniments are also common. Pommes frites are often ordered as a side dish to fast food like hamburgers or kebab or served as a dish together with varmkorv (hot-dogs) utan bröd (without bread).


In France a common dish is fries and a steak called a steak-frites (steak-fries). French fries are also popular alongside the sandwich grec, roasted or fried chicken, and hamburgers. The fries are often accompagnied by ketchup, mayonnaise, "ketchup-mayo" (a mixture of the two), dijon mustard, and sometimes a vaguely béarnaise-like sauce called "sauce pommes frites" (found also under the same name and with a similar form in French-speaking Belgium, and in Dutch-speaking Belgium and the Netherlands as fritessaus), which is available at local McDonald's restaurants and in bottled form in supermarkets.


In Germany, like in Scandinavia, fries are called pommes frites, accompaniments are usually limited to ketchup and mayonnaise. The two are often offered together, commonly called Pommes rot-weiß ("fries, red and white"). Although mustard may also be available at the same fast food stand to serve with Bratwurst, it is not considered a French fry condiment. Curry ketchup is a common condiment when the French fries are served with a Currywurst. Larger currywurst outlets offer a variety of atypical sauces, such as aioli, wasabi mayonnaise, and honey mustard.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, hot chips are usually served salted, and tomato sauce is a popular accompaniment. At fish & chip shops, where the chips are of a thicker cut, they are usually served with fried fish fillets, and without tomato sauce, though this is frequently available at an additional cost. United States-style takeaway outlets (such as McDonald's, Burger King) usually serve thin-cut chips (KFC is a notable exception), salted, with tomato sauce as an option. Pie carts and hot-food outlets at fairgrounds, stadiums and other events usually serve thick-cut chips in a large paper cup, invariably with tomato sauce drizzled over the chips. Malt vinegar is a traditional but increasingly rare accompaniment at fish & chip shops and pie carts, usually available from a bottle on the counter where customers help themselves to their own tastes.


In the Netherlands, fries are popular as fast food, served as patat (for the French patates frites) in vending points that often very similar to the ones in Belgium but called snackbars. Traditionally, fries are served with mayonnaise or a lower-fat version called fritessaus, although the latter is often also referred to as mayonnaise. This combination is usually called patat met (for literally "fries with"), as opposed to patat zonder ("fries without", without any sauce). Other popular sauces are satésaus (satay sauce, a peanut sauce that is also served with the Indonesian meat sate), ketchup, speciaal (special; a mixture of chopped onions, fritessaus, and ketchup). Another interesting combination is Patat Oorlog (Dutch for: French Fries War), which is French fries with a variety of sauces, a variety that differs from region to region, and even from one snackbar to another. While it sometimes means mayonnaise (or rather, fritessaus), peanut sauce and chopped raw onions, in other places it means the fries are accompanied with all condiments available. Dutch snackbars typically offer at least eight condiments or combinations of them (the condiments are never free in Dutch snackbars), but some serve up to forty different styles.

When taken as fast food, fries are often accompanied by other popular deep-fried fast foods such as the kroket and frikandel, but fries are also served as a side dish in regular restaurants. A well-made fries recipe would give the fries a fried fish and pastry-like fragrance. The texture of this fries indicates that it may have first been blanched before frying.


In the Philippines, they are often served with a sprinkling of powdered flavors, primarily cheese, sour cream or barbecue. In some fast food chains, these are topped with cheese sauce and minced bacon.


In Poland chips (fries) are a popular fast-food, with the Poles calling them "frytki". The usual elongated baton shape has always been the most popular, but other shapes like wedges or (more "traditional") potato slices are also a popular home dish. Another recipe mandated slicing the potatoes into rings, and then frying them, sometimes accompanied by onions. Fries are served with ketchup, mustard or garlic sauce.

United States

In the United States, by far the most popular condiment for fries is ketchup, so much so that consumption of restaurant fries drives ketchup sales. Occasionally mustard is used, and malt vinegar mainly available at restaurants which serve fish and chips. Fries are sometimes coated with melted cheese, called cheese fries. This can be in combination with chili, making chili cheese fries. A staple at many sports bars is fries with bleu cheese dressing as a dip, or sometimes ranch dressing.

Steak fries are thicker-cut fries, often with the skins intact (they are also sometimes known as Texas[-style] fries in this form). They are often coated with spices or marinaded before cooking. They may be fried or baked in the oven.


In Vietnam, restaurants are usually found serving fries with sugar over a dollop of soft butter.

Health aspects

French fries can contain a large amount of fat (usually saturated) or oils from frying. Some researchers have suggested that the high temperatures used for frying such dishes may have results harmful to health (see acrylamides). In the United States about ¼ of vegetables consumed are prepared as French fries and are proposed to contribute to widespread obesity. Frying French fries in beef tallow, adds saturated fat to the diet. Replacing tallow with tropical oils such as palm oil simply substitutes one saturated fat for another. Replacing tallow with partially hydrogenated oil reduces cholesterol but adds trans fat, which has been shown to both raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Many restaurants now advertise their use of unsaturated oils. Five Guys, for example, advertises their fries are prepared in peanut oil.

Legal issues

In 1994, the well-known owner of Stringfellows nightclub in London, Peter Stringfellow, took exception to McCain Foods' use of the name "Stringfellows" for a brand of long thin French fries and took them to court. He lost the case (Stringfellows v McCain Food (GB) Ltd (1994)) on the basis that there was no connection in the public mind between the two uses of the name, and therefore McCain's product would not have caused the nightclub to lose any sales.

In New Zealand in 1995 some branches of the local fast food chain Georgie Pie took to calling their French fries "Kiwi Fries", in opposition to the French resumption of nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

In early 2003 some members of the U.S. congress proposed calling French fries Freedom Fries in response to France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq. By 2006 the menu at the House restaurant had reverted to calling them French fries.

In June 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture, with the advisement of a federal district judge from Beaumont, Texas, classified batter-coated French fries as a vegetable under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. Although this move was mostly for trade reasons (French fries do not meet the standard to be listed as a "processed food"), this received significant media attention partially due to the documentary Super Size Me.

See also



External links

Search another word or see French frieson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature