Thomas Jefferson served as the third US president, extended the country’s territory, and authored the Declaration of Independence. But his lasting impact on American society goes beyond politics. He is credited with introducing French fries after his stint as Minister to France. The tasty snack remains a global favorite, cut in all shapes and sizes and topped with imaginative condiments. But while the 19th century President had his potato chips prepared by his cook, serving the market demand today requires specialized French fry processing equipment.
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Use a steam peeling machine to skin potatoes
French fries demand 100% skinned potatoes, but the peeling process risks lowering the yield if the peeling machine cuts too deep into the flesh.
Use a steam system to loosen the tuber’s skin before peeling it away. De-stoned potatoes are sprayed with water and subjected to high-pressure steam. As soon as the steam is released, the water molecules expand and separate the peel from the flesh. The potatoes are then conveyed through a series of dry brushes that scrub them off the skin.
Make the cut with the right knife block system
Long strips, thick slices, or chunky wedges, the cut is a signature of the French fry. So, a critical step in the processing line is homogeneous cutting.
Cutting machines use sorting tubes to arrange the individual potatoes in a precise position. The potatoes then slide into the cutter head, where a knife block system cuts them down into accurate shapes and sizes.
Potato blanchers are fundamental French fry processing equipment
Potatoes carry enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of the cells. This activity not only degrades the product quickly but also causes enzymatic browning. Blanching has stood the test of time as an effective method for inactivating enzymes.
Blanching machines specialized for French fries boil the potatoes in water at around 95°C for a maximum of 4 minutes before quickly cooling them down.
Inactivate the enzymes to preserve the potatoes for longer
Blanching potatoes does more than denature their enzymes. The high temperature causes the starch in potatoes to swell and gelatinize. Meanwhile, the process also leaches out excess starches that impede cooking.
Since the surface of the potato is subjected to heat more directly, the outside of the chip forms a firmer gelatinization. This prepares the strip to produce a crispy exterior and a soft interior as they move through the French fry processing equipment.
Limit oxidation by coating a binding solution onto the French fries
One of the biggest challenges in food manufacturing is controlling free metal ions that produce oxidation and reduce shelf life.
Coat the potato strips in a sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) solution to bind the ions and avoid discoloration and rancidity. The coating is performed in a dipping station where the potatoes are sprayed using a volumetric dosing system.
Remove moisture from the chips to allow oil absorption
The vital process for potato chips is, of course, the frying step. As the dry potato strips are immersed in hot oil, they release moisture and absorb the lipids that develop the classic texture of fries.
Higher temperatures reduce more moisture, but the impact beyond the industry standard of 180°C is negligible. The strips must not be completely dry, however. Moisture produces fracture force that gives the fries their bite.
Fry the chips a second time to cook the crust
Potato chips go through two rounds of frying: a partial fry and a finish. The first treatment reduces retained moisture and cooks the interior. The finish fry cycle is shorter and cooks the surface of the individual strips.
After the two cycles are completed, most of the oil content accumulates in a thin crust of about 1 mm, forming the crunchy exterior and soft interior.
Keep a short oil turnover rate in the fryer system
The French fry is nothing without the oil, but maintaining oil quality is a challenge, particularly for continuous processes. A short turnover rate keeps the oil fresh for longer, contributing to lower volume requirements.
The oil turnover rate refers to the time it takes for the stainless steel pans to be replenished with the starting quantity of oil.
Freeze the potatoes as quickly as possible
Remove the excess oil covering the fries in a de-fatter. The vibrating tray shakes the unabsorbed oil off the strips and recovers it for new frying cycles.
The chips are now ready for freezing. Bring their temperature down in a cooling chamber, then freeze to a temperature of -12°C. The power of the freezing tunnel is essential because a shorter freezing time retains the organoleptic profile of the freshly fried chip.