History of French Fries
The French term 'frite' (passive past participle of frire) in 'pommes de terre frites' unambiguously
denotes deep frying, unlike the English 'fried', which may also refer to sautéing or pan-frying, so
'French fried' may simply mean 'deep-fried'. Thomas Jefferson at a White House dinner in 1802
served "potatoes served in the French manner". In the early 20th century, the term
"French fried" was being used for foods such as onion rings or chicken, apart from potatoes.
It is unlikely that 'French fried' refers to 'frenching' in the sense of "julienning" and is not
attested until after 'French fried potatoes'; previously, Frenching referred only to trimming the
meat off the shanks of chops.
The Belgian journalist Jo Gérard recounts that potatoes were 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."
Many Belgians believe that the term "French" was introduced when 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.
"Les frites" (French) or "Frieten" (Dutch) became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes.
The first chips fried in Britain were apparently on the site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market in 1860.
In Scotland, chips were first sold in Dundee, "...in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy –
the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city's Greenmarket."
Traditional "chips" in the United Kingdom and Ireland are usually cut much thicker, typically between
9.5–13 mm (⅜ - ½ inches) square in cross-section and cooked twice (although double frying is less
commonly practiced today), making them more crunchy on the outside and fluffier on the inside.
Since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. Thick-cut British chips are
occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes to enhance their flavor and nutrional content, and are not
necessarily served as crisp as the European French fry due to their higher relative water content.
Chips are part of the popular take-out dish fish and chips. In the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland,
and New Zealand, few towns are without a fish and chip shop. In these countries, the term
"French fries" refers to the narrow-cut (shoestring) fries that are served by American-based fast food
In France and French speaking Canada, fried potatoes are called "pommes de terres frites" ,
"pommes frites" or more simply (and commonly) "frites". Pomme frites are somewhat different than
American French fries in that they are often fried twice, use different oils to fry them, and also
different types of potatoes are used.
Eating potatoes was promoted in France by Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in
Many Americans attribute the dish to France 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")
in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson's hand (circa 1801-1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his
French chef, Honoré Julien. 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".
In Spain, fried potatoes are called "patatas fritas". Another common form in which the potatoes are cut into
irregular shapes and seasoned with a spicy tomato sauce, are called "patatas bravas".
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, which
became Belgium more than a century later.
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.
Although chips 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 such as McDonald's.
Pre-made French fries have been available for home cooking since the 1960s, usually having been pre-fried
(or sometimes baked), frozen and placed in a sealed plastic bag.
Later 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 batterings and breadings, followed by microwaving, have not achieved
widespread critical acceptance. Oven frying delivers a dish different from its traditionally fried
Animal fries (covered with cheese, grilled onions, and spread) from In-N-Out Burger's secret menu
There are variants such as "thick-cut fries", "steak fries", "shoestring fries", "jojo fries", "crinkle fries",
and "curly fries". Fries cut thickly with the skin left on are called potato wedges, and fries without the
potato skin are called "steak fries", essentially the American equivalent of the British "chip".
They can also be coated with breading, spices, or other ingredients, which include garlic powder,
onion powder, black pepper, paprika, and salt to create "seasoned fries", or cheese to create cheese fries,
or chili to create chili fries. 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". Some restaurants in the southern and northeastern United States,
particularly New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Louisiana, offer French fries made from sweet potatoes
instead of traditional potatoes.
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 fries" 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.
Jean Ceustermans, 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 an interview, Burger King president Donald Smith said that his chain's fries are sprayed with a sugar
Curly fries are a kind of French fry characterized by their unique spring-like shape. They are generally made
from whole potatoes that are cut using a specialised spiral slicer. They are also typically characterized by
the presence of additional seasonings (which give the fries a more orange appearance when compared to the
more yellow appearance of standard fries), although this is not always the case.
Sometimes they are packaged for preparation at home, often in frozen packs. In the US they can also be
found at a number of restaurants and fast food outlets like Arby's and Hardee's, where they are served
with condiments such as ketchup, cheese, fry sauce, or sweet chili sauce and sour cream.