If there is one food I am a real sucker for it is fried potatoes. It does not matter what kind – whether it’s tater tots, fries, chips, crisps, or hashbrowns, there is just something magical to me about crispy potatoes cooked in oil. I could seriously eat fried potatoes with every meal!
Even as one of my favorite foods, I rarely ever cook them at home because to truly make them, they need to be fried in oil. This takes a lot of oil, and frying in this method is not something I regularly do.
Today we’ll break down the process and theory for perfect fried patatas bravas. The best part is you’ll be able to use these methods to fry any of your favorite potato dishes.
What are Patatas Bravas?
Patatas bravas, sometimes also called papas bravas, are cubed white potatoes deep fried and served with a spicy sauce. Patatas bravas are a staple in Spanish Tapas restaurants and are commonly served with meats like chorizo or chistorra.
Fun Potato History
Potatoes are not native to Europe (neither are tomatoes or corn for that matter). Even though we associate potatoes with things like fish and chips, french friends, the Irish, and in our case patatas bravas potatoes didn’t make their way to the Old World until after Columbus.
Even after potatoes were introduced to Europe they were not widely eaten by people (again same with tomatoes), instead being used for animal feed. Luckily, someone stumbled onto the deliciousness that is the potato and several hundred years later here we are.
Our Approach to Deep Fried Potatoes
Whether you are making patatas bravas, papas bravas, french friends, or chips the approach will be the same.
Pick the Right Potatoes
As you may have noticed, we have lots of different kinds of potatoes. The main determining factors are size (fingerlings on the small size, russets on the large) and waxy to starchy (red potatoes being very waxy and russets being very starchy).
For fried potatoes, I highly recommend white, gold, or russet potatoes depending on how much fluff you want in each bite. Russet potatoes will get the most fluffiness when fried properly, but can also suffer from hollowing and oil saturation if cooked improperly.
Today, we’ll be using white potatoes for our fried patatas bravas recipe. They are basically in the middle between a Russet and a Red Potato and still are a decent size to work with (about as big as your fist).
Pick the Right Oil
You need an oil with a high smoke point (when oil burns). The best options are for this fried patatas bravas recipe are:
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Canola oil
Peanut oil tastes best but if you have people with allergies safflower or canola will work well.
Boil or Par Cook your Potatoes
The worst thing for fry lovers is a crispy fried outside and an undercooked center. If you’ve ever ordered steak fries and left with a massive feeling of disappointment, you know what I mean.
Here are some boiling tips:
- Salt the boiling water – this allows flavor penetration into the fry before frying
- Boiling will prevent browning due to oxidation
- (Optional) add baking soda to the boiling liquid. This lowers the pH and helps develop more texture before frying
This is the key when it comes to fried potatoes in restaurants. If you want to know why fries at your favorite restaurant taste so good and are so crisp it is likely because of the double fry.
If you love Five Guys or In-n-Out Fries then you don’t need to double fry but don’t be surprised when your fries go limp 5 minutes out of the oil.
Here are some frying tips:
- Your first fry should be at a lower temperature, such as 300-350°F. This is when the maillard reaction will kick in.
- Your second fry should be much higher, around 400°F.
Salt Immediately After the Second Fry
There is only one time to season fries and that is right after you pull them out of the second fry. You do not want to pollute your fry oil, and if you wait too long your seasonings won’t take.
Frying the Right Way
Deep frying food is neither the safest or healthiest form of cooking. It is important to take care in your prep and execution to minimize your risks. The number one mistake with deep frying is not using enough oil. You need a lot of oil to deep fry and as crazy as it sounds more oil makes for healthier frying.
To understand why more oil is healthier we need to go over the concept of specific heat. Specific heat as you may recall is the ability of things to store heat. The more of a substance there is the more heat it can store. This is why cast iron cookware or water stays warm for so long but aluminum baking sheets cool very quickly (all due to specific heat of water and iron being much higher than aluminum).
Okay, so how does this make fried foods healthier? When you deep fry food you see lots of bubbles in the oil. Those bubbles are caused by the conversion of water to steam in and on the surface of the food being fried. As you know, water and oil do not mix, so as long as you have bubbles coming out of the food, they are keeping oil from going into your food.
Let’s tie all of these elements together. The lower the oil level, the lower the heat capacity – this means when you add food in the temperature will drop faster and more dramatically. If the temperature goes down the amount of steam generating is lower too allowing more oil into your food.
Pairing Ideas for Patatas Bravas
When it comes to patatas bravas, garlic aioli is the #1 go-to sauce to pair them with. In our house, we don’t really keep mayo on hand, but we do always seem to have ranch dressing.
That said, a quick mix of ranch, garlic, shallots, and a little siracha makes a pretty decent alternative. Protein wise, chorizo is the best meat to use, but really anything that you’d eat french fries will pair well with this side dish.
For this fried patatas bravas recipe, the main tools you will need for frying are a large high sided heavy-bottomed pot. We’re using our pressure cooker but a dutch oven or cast iron pot will work well too.
You will also need an instant-read thermometer. I am using an oven probe, though a candy or fry thermometer is best if you have one.
Finally, you’ll need something to place and retrieve potatoes from the oil. A spider is best if you have one – we don’t, so we’re modifying by using a medium sieve and slotted spoon.
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 or 5 white potatoes, roughly the size of your hand
- 2-3 quarts peanut, safflower, or canola oil (The depth in the pot is more important than the amount - you should have enough to fill 2-3 inches).
- Salt to taste
- 1 bunch parsley
- Peel potatoes (optional)
- Add 3 quarts water to pot and set heat to high
- Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda to water
- Chop parsley and set aside
- Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces
- Bring water to boil
- Boil potatoes about 10 minutes (until fork soft - they should not fall apart but a fork should pass easily through them)
- Remove potatoes and set to on drying rack or paper towels to cool and dry
- Drain all water, clean pot, and dry completely
- Add oil to pot and bring up to 350°F (check temperature using your instant read thermometer every couple minutes - on our gas stove, a little above medium is 350°F)
- Fry potatoes 10 minutes in small batches (small batches means no overlap or stacking in the pot)
- Remove and set on side to cool and dry after each batch
- Turn heat up to medium high and let oil come up to 400°F
- Fry potatoes 5 minutes in small batches
- Set aside, salt, and let cool before serving