Flanders Week Special: How to make the perfect Belgian frites
A former pro turned frite master shares the perfect recipe for a taste of Belgium at home.
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If there’s one thing Belgium is known for it is
bike racing, chocolate, beer, no, for the purposes of this article, its frites! You may know them as french fries, a name given to the Belgian pomme frites by American soldiers in WWI, but they are very definitely Belgian and Belgians do them best. So with the Tour of Flanders only days away and CyclingTips on the ground, we decided to bring you the expert’s guide to making frites. We asked former pro Kevin Peeters, who established a successful frituur post-cycling career, for the secret to making the perfect frites fit for true Flandriens- Thank us on Sunday as you enjoy frites and Koppenberg from the comfort of your own sofa.
Peeters raced seven seasons in the pro peloton with the Landbouwkrediet and Vastgoedservice teams. Whitin two weeks of retiring in 2015, he had opened the Frituur De Smulhoek in Heist-op-den-Berg, south-east of Antwerp. Six years later in September 2021, Peeters sold De Smulkoek, but not before he gained a reputation as a skilled frituur. While he can look back on a strong palmarès, Peeters frites frying records are equally impressive with an all-time PB of 420kg of fries in one day and 320kg on a “normal Friday”. This guy knows his frites. As for the perfect frite? Peeters tells us not to overcomplicate it, “focus on the basics, these are the important things.”
The “basics”, as you might suspect, are the potatoes. “Good potatoes are essential, I always used ‘bintje'”, Peeters explains. Bintjes are a dutch potato variety, widely used in Europe. If you can’t find Bintjes in your local supermarket, TheSpruceEats.com suggests, “a starchy potato is best as it has a soft, dry texture, making it good for chips. Look for King Edward, Maris Piper, Romano, Désirée, or russet potatoes.”
Frites, fries, chips, whatever shape or size we like them, Peeters explains the true Belgian frite is long and thin. Rather precisely, he explains, “I prefered fries cut in 11mm sizes.”
Frites frying might not seem like a precision skill, but Peeters idea of “basics” is more complex than his modesty suggests. While many “how to cook chips” guides suggest using either vegetable or beef fat, the former Landbouwkrediet rider prefers a mix of both oils. “The fat or oil I use is a 50:50 mix of plantable and refined beef fat,” Peeters explained, “I choose this mix because it has a good taste and it’s good for your stomach. You don’t have the feeling you are still eating fries three hours later.” Frituur De Smulhoek changed its oil every day for the best results.
The right oil mix right is only part of the equation. The temperature is also crucial. Peeters, who counts many top tens in Belgian semi-classics amongst his best results, closely controls the temperature of the oil. The former frituur boss explains the fries must go through two fry cycles.
How to fry chips
First up is the “voorbakken” (pre-bake). Acknowledging we are frying from home, Peeters explained, “in my big frituur, I set the temperature on 142°C and put the potatoes in.” Peeters can’t give an exact cook time for this pre-bake, its a feeling he has, “the temperature goes down now and then its the difficult to know when the frites are ready. We don’t need to cook the fries fully. The fries are ready when you hold one in your finger and it feels like touching your lips.” Not many of us have 100°C+ lips though, so Peeters offers some clarification, “the frites should not be to hard, not to soft. You can hear it also when the fries is ready when you hear them ‘singing’.”
After the pre-bake, the fries need to rest for 20 minutes. This gives the frites a chance to cool down and time for the oil to reach maximum temperature. “I used 165 degrees because my fryer was strong enough. If you have a little fryer at home, you need to increase the temperature”, Peeters explains.
After that, it’s all about how you like your fries. As for Belgians, Peeters explains, “most like a crunch on the outside and potato “puree” on the inside.” The longer the frites fry, the crunchier they will be throughout, too long though, and the fries will burn. A little experimentation is needed here.
Some guides refer to par-boiling the potatoes and triple-fry cook cycle. Peeters in unconvinced, “if you boil them, then you have no taste on it” he scoffs at the suggestion of the par-boiling. As for more frying must make better chips, Peeters disagrees, “I think you have hard chips after three times.”
Peeters suggests it’s the potato selection, two-part cooking process, and attention to detail that sets Belgian frituurs apart from the rest of the chip planet. It’s a lot of work for the perfect frite. “Its not like racing that you have a hr of 170” Peeters explains of a day frying in the frituur, “but its very long days and always thinking and baking. It needs attention”.
There you have it. If you can’t make it to Flanders this weekend, you can bring a bit of Belgium to you as you enjoy De Ronde.